Is being strong always a strength?

  • January 16, 2023
  • Lerato Mokonyane
  • 3 min read

Dear foodies,

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.

Connecting with your friends and family when you’re going through tough times can help ease the stress. Instead of feeling like you’re alone, you can draw strength and build resilience from having others to lean on

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.

If you’ve experienced abandonment in your life before you will know how far the wounds of being “second best” or “not worth it” run within you

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 worder

Timothy Skyes

I hope this serves as a reminder to be kind to yourself or someone else today.

Love and light,

Chef Lee

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

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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.