This current season of my life has brought in a lot of grieving. Grieving things I thought were true but found out were facades. Grieving things that have come to a literal end in this lifetime. Crying and writing became a new language which I couldn’t have foreseen myself becoming fluent in. I’ve always used writing as an outlet, but not so much crying. I quickly began to wonder if I was not being strong enough through what I was going through, and I had those thoughts echoed by people around me who were used to me just dealing with everything in what must’ve appeared as ‘stride’.
I also want to mention that in my grieving was the experience of some sadness, but grieving doesn’t mean living in sadness for me. Everyone has a way that they physically allow their body to release emotions. In the past, I would always try and work out, or phone a friend, or do something to try and get my mind off of it. But those emotions always seemed to come back – more aggressive, bigger, and even more in my face.
It became clear to me that I had a choice – I could grieve now and let myself be in control of the circumstances around my grief, meaning having blankets, tea, letting others know what I was going through, giving myself the space to grieve, etc. Or I could try to force my grief down, in which case I would be literally relinquishing control of making the process of grieving feel safe and comfortable for me because it would come out from anger and I never knew what was going to trigger me having a full episode that looked on the surface like it was about something else but was really about something that wanted to be released and was finding anyway it could to come out. Pushing down grieving also lead to more anxiety and depressive like states for me. And I’ve found that by giving myself the space to release, I’m able to come out and get back to my life in a more joyful place rather than feeling like I’m being hit from all different directions when I’m not directly dealing with things.
I’m what most people consider to be pretty strong, but I’m also incredibly sensitive. I’m sure every seemingly strong person can relate, but when everyone believes you’re strong, you’re often not held emotionally in the way that you really yearn for. This was my story for a really long time and sometimes it still is. I could be pouring my heart out to someone and their response would usually be something like “Yas, why do you even let it bother you?” Which, I guess is a valid question, but even more valid, to me, is if something is bothering me why am I being asked to behave like it isn’t?
Sometimes this is done through people blatantly saying, “just be strong.” Other times its through their facial expressions. Someone’s vibe can make you second guess yourself, all based on their perception of what they believe you should be doing in the name of “strength.”
And what is strong? I often think people see it as the opposite of being weak obviously, but who decides what either of these things actually mean or look like? You can be seen as strong if you’re holding it together during a really tough conversation and also seen as strong if you completely let all over your emotions show. You can be seen as weak if you completely break down and are unsure of what to do or you could be seen as weak if you know exactly what you’re going to do.
It’s not the choices or even the situations that people use to judge what weakness or strength is in someone else. It’s based on what makes them feel the least uncomfortable. And it’s based on what people feel keeps them from getting drawn in emotionally.
As I get older and try to deal with things from a place of understanding and empathy, I realize that much of what I thought my strength was is what others felt my strength was. It wasn’t until I looked at myself was I able to define what it meant to me.
There are so many times when I didn’t have the energy to do anything but let go. And in that letting go I felt so strong and brave. And I see no weakness in this. And even in the moments I decided I couldn’t let go, I still believe it was my strength that allowed me to hold on.
I’ve found that when dealing with the tough & gritty situations, the one’s that bring forward the shame, the guilt, the hurt – all the feelings, that no one can tell you where your behavior falls on the spectrum of weak or strong. That telling me I’m being so strong, when I feel like falling apart isn’t necessarily what I need and that we should ask each other what they need. That telling me someone else’s choice was weakness and therefore I should make a different decision isn’t how you necessarily help. Even if someone allows themselves to continuously get hurt or used, and in your opinion they’re “being weak,” shaming them into a certain box isn’t the answer.
We can all try to do the work that’s necessary to allow ourselves to release the binding that these words hold on us so that we can move forward. Sometimes, it’s merely our programming of what being weak or strong looks like that makes us take a particular action or do a specific thing. And words shouldn’t have that much power over us. Instead we should choose what feels innately like the best divine move. Trusting that whatever falls in alignment is the way that we should go and that we are being fully protected.
In what ways has the definition or perception of weakness and strength gotten in the way of you doing the work you need to do to heal, move forward, or break binds that no longer serve you? How can you redefine these words, so they no longer box you in?