Too Strong to Feel Weak?
Am I too strong to feel weak? A question I recently posed to myself after watching “The Call to Courage” by Brene’ Brown on Netflix. My immediate answer was “Of course not!” I’m a feeling human who is okay with feeling weak when I can’t figure stuff out. I’m okay crying when I feel overwhelmed by sports schedules, dinner prep, work presentations, the list goes on. Yet after a short pause, it slammed me like mile 19 of a marathon. My basic reasoning in the scenario I just presented was a reflection of my personal instinct to fake the strong, and therefore the weak. My proving to whoever is watching or reading that I’m strong enough to feel weak is all for show. It’s a humblebrag! While it is true that I’m not too strong to feel weak, the weaknesses I’m admitting to are really designed to tacitly show my strength of character. But that’s fake! There ARE weaknesses, but the real one’s are much more difficult to admit to. The fake ones are my brain’s attempt to shout to the world that I’m okay. Truth is…I’m not okay. And neither are you. No one is.
As humans we are brilliant at wearing the masks required to get through any social situation or new and scary experience. On a daily basis, how we respond to our children at home might be completely different than when we are in public. Our thought process about what to wear, where to go for vacation, and choices we make concerning who we spend our time with are often rooted in our efforts to feel more okay. It’s natural. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Life is hard — a truth to which we can all attest. But why are we making it harder on ourselves by “masking” the pain and weakness with a skewed portrayal of strength and courage? We do this because it’s habit and it’s easy. It shelters us from the realities of living. But in the end, it keeps us from living our true selves.
My husband and I bought our forever home three years ago. It was the 6th home of our 15 year marriage, and after signing the closing documents, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m dying in this house.” Not the joyful day one home buying statement he was expecting. But that’s me and he accepted. We bought the house well aware that it had a full “finished” basement that needed A LOT of work. It was mold infested with old paneling ripping at the seams, wet floors, and a few long cracks in the foundation. We knew that at least four months of effort would be required to repair this “forever” home from the ground up. He repaired and I stayed out of the way while keeping a close eye on the Home Depot receipts. As the months passed the mold smell began to fade, the subfloor got laid down and the foundation was restored. Now fully finished, the basement is currently the headquarters of social teenage girls updating snapchat and sending giggly texts to boys and each other. I know this because I deliver bowls of popcorn downstairs, all the while peeking over shoulders and pretending to be cool. A clever trick I learned from my mother.
How does a new homeowner's basement renovation relate to being true to ourselves? It’s simple. Fix the problems. Fix the cracks that have been festering deep within you for years. Stop living with the lingering stench of resentment and fear related to others who’ve wronged you, stolen your ideas and claimed them as their own, embarrassed you, or lied to you. Is it easy? Not at all. Is it scary? Absolutely and completely. Living and speaking your truth to a world wearing costumes and swimming in mountains of debt to hide their own pain WILL begin to free you one memory, one resentment, one failure at a time.
But here’s the catch. Any soul work you do which requires some deep and nasty house cleaning is undoubtedly not going to go the way you planned. Someone who you wish would accept your honest words concerning how they pained you will continue to hurt you with their own insecure words. A venture of any kind such as a new business, hike up a famous mountain, or your first 5K will end up with speed bumps determined to derail you. In these moments allow the real weakness. Feel the pain and disappointment in yourself in order to pay the lesson forward toward your next endeavor. I own a business. I get failure and pain. Often.
When people ask me what I do I explain my curriculum writing, my speaking endeavors, and my potential opportunities. I’m often met with a few short questions and skeptical eyes. Those eyes say, ”Eh, not a real job, but good for her. She’s giving it a go” (all that’s missing is a patronizing pat on the head). Yes, it hurts, especially when it’s something I’m so passionate about. I’ve presented at schools where the message and content didn’t fit with their expectations. Spending hours preparing a PowerPoint rich in research, creativity, and engagement only to have it not well received makes me feel like the last kid picked for the 3rd grade kickball game. Nothing worthwhile is attained without massive setbacks. The cracks in the foundations of our self-esteem can be crippling to our spirit over a lifetime. So what makes us strong? Those bloody falls that leave a scar. Failure and the resulting feelings of inadequacy. Own them proudly and keep pushing through mile 19 toward lasting achievement.
Your soul is what houses you for you entire life, and you are continuously renovating the vessel that carries your soul. Do you want to go on ignoring the foundational cracks and administering a few cheap, temporary fixes? Or do you want to do the hard work that, although it leaves your hands dirty and your heart a bit tired, gets the job done right? And with each repair your foundation becomes stronger, you stand taller, and you learn that you are one step closer to getting an unlimited return on your investment. And that return speaks to your children, it leaves a legacy, and it affirms that you are brave enough to live to your highest potential. Not many are willing to risk this endeavor. Be someone who does. Just start with the smallest crack you can find.