Don't Confuse Strength with Stoicism
This might be one of the areas that I feel most strongly about.
This misguided, societal belief that being strong equates to being stoic. That showing emotions is a sign of weakness, rather than an immense sign of strength. That to cry is to not be strong enough to hold it together. That nobody is walking around in pain, with anxiety, or dealing with depression, grief, and sorrow.
WHY, I ask you?! WHY?!
Why does crying equate to not being strong enough to hold it together?!
Why is showing emotions a sign of weakness?! nd what about stoicism equals strength?! Why is the human experience, literally, the pain of being human, seen as a sign of something being wrong?!
I understand that holding it together in some instances is perfectly necessary. I'm not trying to say that we should all be walking around, sobbing uncontrollably, or that we should only let our emotions guide us.
I am saying, however, that we don't pay enough attention to our feeling world. It's like logic is the be all-end all and that emotion and logic can't exist at the same time. That if logic is in place, then there's no room for emotion.
Strength is vulnerability, not stoicism. People have the full capability to be both logical and emotional, both thinkers and feelers - both of these can exist at the same time. And when we think that we have to manage everything on our own, when we have to keep our chins up, our lips stiff, and our eyes dry, we do nothing but spread the message that we don't need anybody... which is isolating. We only isolate ourselves when we don't allow other people into our lives in meaningful ways.
What does stoicism do except send the message that feelings should be kept to yourself and that they aren't worth the time?
Rumi (a Sufi poet) wrote about our humanness, and that we all have an "open secret." A "secret" that everybody has and experiences, but nobody talks about. That secret is our brokenness.
We are all broken. We are all in pain. We are all grappling with meaninglessness. We are all trying to make sense of the world in a way that feels good. Yet we don't talk about that. Not with everybody, at least.
We act as if everything is good, our life is golden, our experience is untainted by common experiences and fears. And when we see a crack in somebody else's armor - what do we do?
We jump on it.
"Ooooh, they have anxiety. She's depressed. He's a workaholic. She can't keep her man."
As though we haven't been in a place where we felt the sick thud of anxiety in our stomachs, or the complete listlessness of depression. As though we haven't buried ourselves in work as a way to avoid something overwhelming, or that we haven't been in shitty relationships.
What's the deal, my friends?! We are those broken people, yet we act as though we have it together. We act stoic and collected, like we've never been in a place where we wept uncontrollably, questioned the meaning in life, or felt overwhelmed with ambivalence.
We are broken.
We are all broken.
And you know what?
It doesn't mean anything other than that. It's not like you're less of a person because you have some brokenness. We get to live life, trying to make sense of it, trying to find meaning in it, and trying to meet an be with people who are life-enhancing rather than draining.
Furthermore, do you see what that judgment does for our societal beliefs around being stoic? It perpetuates them.
If we judge people who show their brokenness (those who show their moments of hardship), then we're in essence saying that we don't want to see those moments. We're saying that we want to see the pretty picture, not the jagged edges. We're saying that we want pristine, not raw.
The problem is that we can't have both. If we get pristine images, then we get stoicism and plastic - we get disingenuity and fake authenticity. If we have brokenness, then we get the reality, yet we feel compelled to judge.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Although you have a choice.
You can start to embrace the brokenness that permeates humanity. Or you can play the game of "having it all together." Both are going on right now, although I would say the latter is winning. One gets you friends who don't know you, but who love the life you claim to lead. The other gets you rawness and authenticity - it's gives you a level of real that you may have yet to experience.
We get to decide if we see stoicism as a strength. We get to decide if we want to share ourselves, really share ourselves with those around us. We get to decide if we have the courage, the strength, the fortitude to be vulnerable, raw, and genuine.
It's hard work, but it's worth it. I can promise you that.