Suffering in silence isn’t “Strength.”
It’s survival mode. And it’s time to break out of it.
All my life, I’ve consistently been praised for my strength. I’ve been praised for my ability to endure, to keep going, to keep fighting, despite any number of things that could have destroyed me.
I think often when people praise strength, they don’t realize that they also might be praising the very thing that is literally part of that person’s own breaking. And you’d never know it, because when someone is praised for their strength, over and over and over again, they will do whatever it takes not to appear weak.
For me, that meant learning not to ask for help; to rely on myself to such a point where I felt guilty when something was freely given to me. I learned not to desire certain things, so as never to feel the ensuing disappointment when/if they did not come, as well as to never appear ungrateful for the things that I did have.
Suffering in silence, this was strength.
Learning to endure and adapt, despite my pain, this was strength.
Pushing down anger and bitterness (even when I was rightfully angry and bitter at the injustice I myself was experiencing), this was strength.
The thing is, when you’ve lived a life of scarcity — like there is not enough of something physical, spiritual, or emotional to go around — the act of “wanting” can be a thing too luxurious even to consider. One your heart shrinks back on. One that, perhaps, you think you don’t deserve.
I’ve been writing letters to different versions of my past self as a form of processing and acknowledging things I’ve been through that I haven’t truly allowed myself to feel for a long time.
In one of a series of letters I exchanged with my 17-year old self, she wrote this:
“I continue to see you applauding me as a soldier, praising my work ethic, endurance, and strength. Even my soft-heartedness.
“But there were many years when that was so hard, I wish I wasn’t just praised for those acts. Rather, I wish someone had taken them from me. I wish I would have been allowed the luxury of rest and of want.”
The luxury of rest and of want.