Hard times demand strength, but there is a Myth of Strong. The fallacy equates strength to independence; finding the inner resources to survive on your own. This sets up a false dichotomy that you are either strong and independent or weak and needy.
Certainly getting through any crisis; whether related to health, money or relationships, requires grit and determination. You need to dig deep and tap into your resolve to rediscover hope and light. But the Myth of Strong is that all your resources have to come from within. They don’t!
In fact, we have a greater chance of making it through tough times when we turn to others for help. This reaching out is an act of courage. It is scary to admit we cannot do it alone. Exposing your need for help can feel so vulnerable. Being brave enough to name your need; now that is strength.
And asking for help is a gift offering to your Loved Ones waiting in the wings witnessing your struggle. They see you. They are hungry to help, but unsure how to do so. It sucks that we have to tell them what we need. Why can’t they just magically know? Why can’t they just be readers of our hearts and minds? If only being human was that easy.
Who or What Drives this Myth?
When I first experienced my stroke, my own values drove the Myth of Strong. Perhaps it was pride that blinded me; an illusion that I had gotten through so many other tough times alone. At the same time, I didn’t feel anyone would understand my needs when I, myself, didn’t understand. I was so deep in crisis and overwhelmed by fear that the only choice I could fathom was going it alone.
But I had some Loved Ones who were persistent in finding a way to break through my shell of isolation. It was their tenacity that urged me to risk being vulnerable by accepting their help. When I did, I realized that the gift within asking was mutual. My needs for help were fulfilled at the same time that their desire to help were met.
Beyond personal values, the Myth of Strong is also driven by a culture of independence that in the U.S., goes back to our colonial roots. And those of us in the minority by gender, race, sexualtiy or other often feel there is so much to lose by relinquishing our independence hard fought by ourselves and the generations preceding us.
Avoiding the Trap
There is also the potential trap when well meaning Loved Ones reaffirm that you are strong. The Myth within us can misinterpret these words as “You are strong, you’ve got this [alone].” Most often, this is not the loved one’s intention. Rather they are acknowledging the strength, grit, and courage they see in you. It is an attempt to validate and uplift you. Loved ones need to be much more clear about these intentions. And those on the receiving end need to be mindful of misunderstanding this Myth of Strong. You are strong, but that doesn’t mean you need to go it alone and struggle through by yourself. Yes, you are strong. And we are stronger together.