“What looks like strength on the outside is actually a cavernous well of neediness on the inside.” - Emily Freeman - Grace for the Good Girl
The more I think about that, the more I realize how right she is. The times in my life when I have been the “strongest” were the times when I really was a big mess, but wouldn’t let anyone see that. I had to hold it all together when I really wanted to fall apart. I needed someone to lean on, but either there was no one around, or I was too ashamed of my neediness to reach out.
I took pride in my strength. I had been through a lot and I had not crumbled. I was strong. I could handle whatever came my way. Getting mad about it doesn’t change anything. Crying about it doesn’t do any good, so just take it, deal with it, move on and try not to think about it.
I did get mad, though. I did a lot of raging at God when no one was listening. I did cry, too. At night, in my pillow when no one would see my weakness. Then, I would get upset because no one reached out to me. No one was there to help me go through my pain. No one knew how much I was hurting and how scared I was.
The problem was, I had told everyone that I was fine. I was handling it. I was strong. I taught everyone that I didn’t need help. I didn’t need anyone. I was fine by myself.
But I wasn’t.
Every time I told someone I was fine, I wanted them to look into my eyes and see the truth. I wanted someone to see what I couldn’t show them. I needed somebody to hear the words I couldn’t bring myself to say.
Most of the time, though, they didn’t. I don’t know if that is because I was such a great actress, or because they were oblivious to the signs or if maybe they did know but didn’t know what to do to help. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because the effect was the same. I was alone dealing with the mess that was my life along with my pain and my shame.
These days, I’m trying not to hide behind my “strength”. I have people close enough to me that I can call when I’m not doing well and talk to them about it. I spent quite a few years behind the mask of my strength, though, so taking it off is still hard. I feel vulnerable and exposed, but that’s better than being closed off and isolated.
Maybe because I lived behind that mask for so long, I seem to be able to sense when other people are doing that, too. Especially when I know that something difficult is going on, I try to be the one to look into their eyes and see the pain that they are trying to hide. I try to be the one who says, “I know you are ‘fine’, but how are you really?” They might not tell me, but I hope that they will know, in that moment, that someone sees and cares. And maybe, they will also know that God knows and he cares, too.
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 58: 8
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7