reflections from the strong friend
As of late, social media has been flooded with posts speaking to mental health. Many of them emphasizing the importance of checking in on your strong friend(s). I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to be more communicative with our loved ones however, I recognize our need for collective healing requires more than frequent check-ins. What if we challenged the way we view this mental health epidemic in the first place? Questioning the ways mainstream culture promotes fear, illness & dis-ease. And how we contribute to this phenomenon when we abide, whether consciously or subconsciously, to the rules we’ve been programmed to play out.
As a fellow “strong-person” who’s navigated life-changing/traumatic experiences, check-ins from loved ones hasn’t always felt like enough. I received these reminders of connection in gratitude and yet they did provide comfort to the pain of feeling stuck. Nor did it address the discomfort of not knowing how to express heavier emotions such as pain, anger, isolation, sadness, and grief. I remember longing for community and wanting someone to hold me when I couldn’t hold myself and not knowing how to ask. Do you know what happens when you’re taught that being strong means suppressing what society deems as negative emotions? For me, it meant masking my pain from others because I was similarly trying to mask it from myself. Truth is, masking only works for so long until suppressed feelings make themselves visible in other ways.
Many of us suffer in silence because we are taught to associate emotional vulnerability with weakness. Some of us don’t even know we are suffering because we are so busy distracting ourselves from ourselves. When this is the case, how does one ask for help? How does one recognize that these normalized ways of beings are problematic to begin with?
When I notice myself struggling in silence, I do my best to remember there’s power in challenging the narrative. I can choose to not feed the voices that tell me feeling is a sign of weakness. I can do things differently by embracing what’s coming up and allowing it to teach me. I am learning that I can reach out and ask for help. I can also practice receiving help when it is offered. It’s all a matter of choice and yet we often forget that we have free will to begin with.
How can you challenge this narrative in your life? Can you open yourself to feeling the depths of all your emotions? The great, the challenging, and everything in between. What if there were safe spaces that allowed for full transparency? Could we go there and sit with all of ourselves. Supporting one another and learning how to get honest with what’s going on within? If we did this, how could this shift our experience? As individuals? As a collective?
I ask these questions with the desire to engage in dialogue that keeps us moving in a progressive direction. I don’t know the solution to our cultural imbalance yet I do believe it starts with the people. When we pull back the veil and do the inner work of getting to know ourselves, we create space for more authentic connections with others. We also create space between what we’ve accepted to be as true and infinite possibility. We learn that we don’t have to buy into the lies we’ve been taught. We foster new ways of being and relating.
In a world where vulnerability is viewed as strength, I envision checking in on our people and them being comfortable with expressing their struggles because they’ve done the work of being more intimate with their feelings. In return, our world is filled with beings who are capable of reaching out and holding space for others because it’s something they do for themselves. To be present for the needs of our community, we must commit to being there for ourselves. That means showing up, especially when it’s hard. Arriving with a readiness to wholeheartedly embrace whatever comes up. It’s deep work but we got this. All of us. We’re in it together.
Big love from my heart to yours.