Why Do We Call Stoicism "Staying Strong?"
Of all things, a tweet about the recent Bachelor finale got me thinking about how we as a society regard the display of emotions. During the finale, the bachelor had to break up with one girl before he went onto propose to another, naturally (lolz), so this girl gets her heart broken on national television; which, is feasibly quite a mortifying and emotional event.
Then former contestant of the show applauded the runner-up on Twitter as "the strongest bachelorette I've ever seen. She didn't fall to pieces after all that. Bravo."
So if she cried and "fell to pieces" after a guy who she thought was going to propose to her, dumped her on national television... she's not strong? She's weak?
This sentiment is echoed everywhere. Telling little boys to "man up" when they feel vulnerable or sad. Telling boys and girls to "stop crying like a little girl." Telling children and adults alike, to "stay strong" aka not display emotion in the face of an upsetting or tragic event. Gender stereotypes aside, this dynamic really is pushed upon us from a very young age.
Even after my dad passed away, I got several comments about how "strong" I was being for not being in tears 24/7 and returning to work quickly. But even if I had been in tears 24/7, why would that have not qualified as "being strong?" Just because I didn't suppress or shut down my emotions? Or lied to myself about how crappy I was feeling because I lost my father? For me, returning to work was not a showcase of strength-- it was actually something I needed to feel a sense of normalcy, when I felt like the floor had just fallen through underneath me.
I think that being vulnerable and sharing unpleasant feelings is one of THE strongest things a person can do. Facing your feelings is infinitely harder than running away from them-- only the brave do this. And I associate the word brave with strong.
So again, why do we do this? I think it's time to change the stigma around this...
What I think is strong and beautiful, is a person moving through a tough event with grace-- not to be mixed with stoicism or lack of emotion. Grace, to me, represents being authentic. Someone who is not afraid to talk about the pain, to cry, to admit that they have no idea what to do next-- but they are self-aware, and look forward.
To me, true strength is when someone is able to stand their ground and face the rocky waves as they crash around his or her feet, resisting the temptation to run away to safer ground of not feeling the difficultly of hard emotions. Admitting you're scared. Admitting you have no idea how to move forward. Admitting that we are human.