The question that often sits on my mind is “are we born strong or do we become strong?”
If we are born strong then that would imply that we come into this world as a blank canvas and life moulds us, in a sense we have no control of who we will become. However life has shown me that to a certain extent we bring some qualities with us, how this happens depends very much on your personal beliefs. I know for certain that some people are born with insight and wisdom, others seem to live forever and never develop the capacity to develop as humans.
I am tough, ambitious and know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, Okay - Madonna
I was both gifted and cursed with the label “strong” since I was a child. It was a persona I created to protect myself in a world that left me vulnerable and often alone. Others around me would say “you are too strong to cry” and completely forget I too was a child, this is the curse of the strong child! As I grew up I embraced the strong label because it kept people away, and I learned to stand alone. What others couldn’t see or didn’t want to see was the soft, emotional, caring person underneath, what those close didn’t want to see was the hurt that was being covered by the strong persona. What they couldn’t see was the little girl that just wanted to be loved and cared for.
Over the years this young girl became an independent, intelligent, self-sufficient lady who others could rely on, what else could she have become? The world isn't ready for “strong” women, it’s too much of a threat. We are aloof, uncaring, downright bitches who won’t be tamed.
I know what I bring to the table….so trust me when I say I am not afraid to eat alone
When I reached fifty my life took a surprising turn, things started to fall apart one bit at a time. Just as I thought I’d reach the stage where I could reap the benefits of all my hard work, the rug was pulled below me and nothing could hold me up. The illusion of a happy home, successful career and good life was shattered, the lie finally exposed.
First there was the text from my ex-husband to a new female interest that just happens to land on my phone, it was karma in action, the marriage was never going to last, two people who were clearly on different paths.
Then the news that I was going to be made redundant. I remember the day that I was called into the office at work to be given my notice, I hadn’t expected this even though I probably should have. I was the main earner in our home, my salary paid for most things and we were comfortable with that (or so I thought). I remember the words being said by my manger at the time but my mind drifted off to thoughts of panic, anger and even at times a sense of freedom. I had been feeling trapped for a long time, not just in my working life.
I left the office that day to take the train home in a daze, shocked and emotional but unable to cry in the center of busy London, that’s what crazy people do, isn’t it? But I was broken, sad and emotional, I guess that’s what it feels like to be made to feel worthless. All I wanted to do was to get home so I could cry!
As I entered my home, I could feel my posture change however instead of letting myself feel hurt and emotional, I realised I was putting on that strong woman persona again. Why? Because in my marriage that was my role and I was just being who I had become. I remember telling my husband and being very careful about my words to not upset him too much, not out of fear just so I didn't rock his boat too much. It was because I knew he was weak, he was never going to be the one to give me good advice or be there for me, he wasn’t capable of that. So I let go of how I was really feeling to make sure he was alright, the same old cycle repeating itself. This game we played we had mastered after thirty years, I was superwoman, and nothing could touch me and he needed to be saved every single day.
I decided that I wasn’t going to go back to work, they didn’t deserve that from me. So I went to the doctor to get a sick note. As I entered the doctor's surgery, I began to run through the story I was going to tell the doctor. He was a young doctor I’d never seen before. I sat down and began to tell him about my redundancy and how it had made me very anxious, the truth in fact. Then he looked at me and asked me if I was alright. Nobody had asked me that, I started to cry uncontrollably, and this startled me. Then the doctor asked me if I had any suicidal thoughts, “of course not” I replied. I was given time off work and left.
As I was driving home, something felt very different to me. I kept thinking “why could I cry in front of a complete stranger and not to the man I’ve shared my life with for over thirty years?” That question kept going on over and over in my head.
He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is might - Lao Tzu
It suddenly hit me that I could no longer keep up with the fake persona that had got me through a difficult childhood. I had shut down as a person, attracted people into my life that were takers and had no idea who I really was.
Over the following weeks, this change became apparent to my husband, I just wasn’t willing to play that game anymore. I was fortunate to find out that he was already having a flirt or whatever you like to call it with another woman, this was my get out of jail card and I used it with no option to return. He wanted the woman that never made demands on him, the one that just got on with everything and never expected anything in return, so I stopped being that woman and this is where I began, and we ended.
To be strong means I am grounded and confident in who I am
I learned that being strong is not being uncaring, being strong is daring to be vulnerable and open. I learned that having the courage to be who you are without having to fit the expectations of others is worthwhile.
I’m done saying sorry for being who I am, I’m done being the strong one, I’m done being what others want me to be or expect me to be. I’m happy to be who I am, I’m happy to be with me if that’s what it takes to be me.
To any woman or man who feels like they don’t fit, I say be fucking proud of who you are. Don’t become someone others need, become who you need. Weak people will always try to break you because watching you makes them feel bad about themselves. Let them be, don’t try to fix them or change them, move on and walk your road. No man or woman is worth you losing yourself for, in the end, we will go our own way anyway.
And be thankful for the pain, it’s what has brought you to this place, the one that you are at now. This is where you get to change your life. I thank my redundancy, I thank my divorce because finally when I sit alone and it is quiet inside.
Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t reach out, how can we help? Contact us and let’s work together through whatever is keeping you stuck right now.