The Lie of Being Strong

Given all of the recent news, I thought I might actually write down something I have had numerous conversations with people about, both online and off. This idea that someone is seen as being strong. We throw it around as a compliment of sorts, to act as an uplifting comment to someone dealing with something we haven’t personally dealt with. Depression, illness, death, you name it. We like to tell people we don’t know how they do it, and that they are being so strong.

Here’s the problem, it doesn’t help. In fact, I’d argue it only makes things worse. It invalidates the very real hardship someone is experiencing. The idea of being strong makes it seem as though they aren’t actually dealing with an emotional upheaval, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If you must comment on how “strong” someone is being through a hard time, tell them they are being resilient. The better option though is to not comment on how they are emotionally dealing with things.

I say all of this as someone why has consistently been told how “strong” I am in light of everything. I absolutely hate it. The fact that I appear okay during tough times is all just an act. I am coping the only way I know how and that is by faking it. I know seeing someone’s emotional pain isn’t socially acceptable and I really dislike the pity most people apply to hard situations. So I trudge on. What option does the depressed person have anyway? All we can do is keep moving forward.

So the next time you approach a friend you know is struggling, be kind. Tell them you are sorry for what they are going through. Be there for them and just be present. Don’t feel the need to tell them anything, let them do the talking. Realistically that is all they really need.

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