Have other people told you, or do you tell yourself, to “be strong” when you’re upset or something challenging happens? What are the costs of “being strong”? What does vulnerability mean to you?
When something hurtful or disappointing happens, we often buy into the assumption that we’re being tested, and that passing the test depends on pushing through and persevering. Many of us don’t give ourselves permission to be vulnerable, feel our feelings, or ask for help.
We live in a world where being strong and pretending we’re “FINE” (Feelings Inside Not Expressed) is not only common, but often rewarded. “Be strong” is one of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard, and it’s my least favorites because the implication is that we shouldn’t feel. So, we put on a mask, trying to look strong on the outside while falling apart on the inside.
I think being strong is overrated. Pushing away pain or disappointment usually means you’re going to be pushing aside some valuable learning and healing. Vulnerability is a powerful tool for healing. Mental toughness diminishes vulnerability.
Perseverance is important when dealing with challenges in life, but the key is to persevere by asking, “what am I learning,” rather than mustering the strength to push it away or jump over it.
Although it may seem like we’re protecting ourselves, being strong via suppression erects walls around our hearts and reinforces beliefs about it not being safe to feel our feelings or share them with another. Please don’t underestimate the healing power and true strength of vulnerability.