When we hold everything together while dealing with difficult circumstances in our lives, we may find ourselves receiving praise and positive reinforcement for being “strong.” While this is typically considered in our culture to be an admirable trait, it may backfire when taken to an extreme. What does it mean to be strong? Does it mean to soldier through all of life’s challenges without emoting or faltering? Or does it mean to be in touch with our true authentic selves, even if that may reveal vulnerability or insecurity? Being “the strong one,” may work to help you cope with crises in your life. But struggling to maintain that position of strength may, at the same time, have a cost. You may find yourself detaching from your inner self in order to fulfill the burden of living up to this standard, whether self-imposed or other-imposed. Maybe this is necessary for the short term, but at some point, we all must connect with what is going on inside.
Perhaps it is helpful to think of other definitions for strength, besides the usual concepts of power and indestructibility. Maybe it is strong to be honest, even if that means admitting our fatigue and fear. Or might we consider ourselves to be strong when we acknowledge that we are merely human, or that we need help, or that we are overwhelmed? Hemingway wrote that “many of us are strong in the broken places.” Most people will find that both strength and vulnerability are companions to us on life’s ever evolving journey.