Often when a person experiences the death of someone they love or they open up about abuse in their past, people tell them the same thing, & that thing is how strong they are. It can be an empowering statement, but more often than not, it isn’t.
Many people say this when they don’t know what else to say to someone that has suffered trauma & pain. They usually say it to people who haven’t opened up a lot about what they’re feeling. In these situations, people assume because someone hasn’t opened up about a lot of what they feel, the person must be coping well with the situation at hand..even when that isn’t the case.
Being told how strong you are also can be a way to gently tell a person to stop talking about their pain. Your pain has made this person uncomfortable for whatever reason, & they want to stop you from discussing it. Since they can’t tell you to shut up without appearing like a total jerk, they tell you how strong you are. While the words, “stop talking about it” aren’t said, something in how “You’re so strong” is said can leave a person feeling as if they shouldn’t discuss their pain.
Being truly strong in these situations isn’t like what many people think it is. Real strength isn’t being stoic & going on with your life as if nothing happened after suffering trauma.
Being strong means being real. Being open about whatever is going on with you, admitting you’re suffering or being more emotional than usual rather than taking the easy way out & pretending all is fine isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of courage & strength to be that vulnerable!
Being strong means having the strength to face your pain head on & deal with it to the best of your ability. Many people lack that strength. They prefer ignoring their pain or pretending bad things never happened to them. They are the people who do their best to stop others from discussing their pain, because it reminds them of their own pain that they’re too cowardly to face. Strong people are nothing like that, & should be proud of their strength!
Being strong means crying, being angry, being numb or whatever negative emotion you feel & accepting the emotions without judgment or criticism. Facing such emotions without judgment & criticism takes a great deal of bravery & strength. There are not a lot of people who are willing to do that. The majority of people judge & criticize their emotions very harshly rather than accepting them for what they are & coping with them to the best of their ability.
Being strong means asking others to help you when you’re having one of those days where you feel like you can’t function. Many people can’t handle when someone is this vulnerable & can be very judgmental & critical. It takes a lot of strength to admit that you’re falling apart right now & need some help knowing an insensitive reaction is a distinct possibility.
All of these feel like the exact opposite of strength at the time they’re happening. They feel like you’re doing everything society looks down on. Wallowing in your pain, not letting go of the past, whining, indulging in self pity… yet nothing could be further from the truth! Doing such things are acts of tremendous strength, especially when you are hurting the worst. The more pain you’re in, the more strength & bravery it takes just to get out of bed each morning, go to work, eat regular meals & shower. Being in tremendous pain means each of those normal, little things has become a tremendous burden. When you can do them, you should be proud of yourself! When you do the other things I mentioned such as facing your pain in addition to those things, you are proving that you are strong, tough & brave. I hope you’re very proud of yourself! You should be!