I came across this tweet earlier and I strongly related to it. It also got me thinking:
“Is being strong always a strength?”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to push through difficult life situations while bracing myself for pain and agony.
I had mastered the art of appearing “strong,” whether it was by working long, exhausting days without eating or engaging in unhealthy connections.
I distinctly remember going through a brief period in high school where I was continuously told how strong I was. How little emotion I showed. How I didn’t let things get to me. I took them all as compliments.
I was an over-giver and people-pleaser who rarely asked for or got help from others. I frequently said yes when all I wanted was to say no.
I left high school bitter, angry, and with no voice to express my needs.
I can recall each time I had to suppress my sadness while feigning strength.
I became so good at projecting strength that I was able to convince others I was self-sufficient and didn’t want their help.
But as I discovered over the years, I was merely harming myself.
It’s like we are programmed to conceal our weaknesses and show our strengths. That being vulnerable will allow a person or situation to destroy you — and that once we are broken, we are unable to put ourselves back together.
When I reflect on my childhood, I become miserable. My inner-frightened child is still there, pleading for acceptance, understanding, and wanting to be seen. Dreaming to find people who were like me.
My mental health deteriorated as I secluded myself more. The more time I spent alone, the more negative the thoughts became — making it incredibly difficult for me to focus on anything positive.
You prevent people from seeing the real you by putting on your strong façade — and I did exactly that.
The child I was, growing the roots of mental illness, grew into an adult with chronic anxiety and depression. I buried my debilitating depressive episodes, plus the ones I witnessed my family go through. I kept all of this as far away as possible from my inner circle.
I felt no one would understand what I was going through and that it was my battle , with no community.
I can say for a fact that no one from my childhood truly knows me — including my family.
There’s strength in being strong enough to admit your weaknesses. After all, we all have areas in which we excel, and others in which we could use a little worderTimothy Skyes
I hope this serves as a reminder to be kind to yourself or someone else today.
Love and light,
P.S. Thank you for reading the first issue of Food for Thought — a newsletter where I explore food and mental health. If this issue resonated with you, feel free to share it with someone who’d find it meaningful. Catch the next one in a week. x
Chef Lerato Mokonyane has worked for some of South Africa's best-known brands such as McCain, Topo Chico, Eskort, and Sutherland Wines. She's passionate about recipe development, food photography, and everyday nutrition.