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Tiny Wisdom: Being Both Strong and Hurt

“Pain is not a sign of weakness, but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” ~from my book, Tiny Buddha

A while back, my friends and I dealt with a challenging situation that profoundly affected all of us, including one friend who struggles with intense anxiety.

While I’m usually a proponent of giving specifics, I’d rather not call her out publicly, so suffice it to say it was a hard time, and everyone felt the weight of it.

Unexpectedly, this friend emerged as a source of support and comfort for everyone else.

In the face of tremendous adversity, something in her shifted, and she channeled a sense of strength to help everyone else cope better.

Except, she didn’t see it that way. In a private conversation with me, she disclosed that she wasn’t strong. She was only pretending, and was secretly crumbling inside.

She was hurting, feeling deep, overwhelming emotions, and putting them aside to help other people. In her eyes, she was weak; she was just trying to be considerate of everyone else.

I told her she misunderstood the definition of strong. It doesn’t require us to not feel. It requires us to act in spite of our feelings, and to also be willing to share them, just as she was doing then.

She was admitting to me that she was struggling, after helping others who were hurting, just like her.

That isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humanity. Sometimes we’ll need to lean on someone; sometimes we’ll be there to hold someone else up.

In a blog post I recently read about strength, a writer suggested we tell people to be strong when we’re uncomfortable with their pain—as if this implies they should stop talking, crying, or expressing themselves.

Maybe we don’t have to choose one or the other—sharing our feelings or accessing our personal power. Maybe the key to fostering fortitude is realizing it’s possible to be simultaneously strong and hurt.

Even the most firmly rooted tree can break its branches in a storm. Strength doesn’t mean we’re invincible. It means we have the capacity to move through the pain and heal.

Photo by Fuzzcat

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About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Mdiag79

    I broke up with my fiancee for more than one year now..i felt the pain everyday,every single minute..i never stop thinking if im right or wrong,sometimes i felt im right and trying to enumerates the reasons but most of time im puzzled..i tried to go in distance to move on,i tried to be his friend,but just find out his engaged again to other girl,i feel i cant bear the pain anymore…

  • http://www.bluecollarworkman.com/ TB at Blue Collar Workman

    My sister has been trying to change her job and location, and has finally started actually looking for jobs. She’s been applying and excited, but when she got an interview she started freaking out and questioning herself. She started saying that she wasn’t strong enough to change like this.  I think this post perfectly captures what I should’ve said to her, which was, being strong doesn’t mean that you’re not scared. It just means that you act in spite of being scared and feeling like you can’t.

  • Amysprague1184

    Wow. That’s awesome

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    Thank you, Lori.

    There are none so strong as those who reach out to another, to help or ask for help. It is the human bond that transcends judgment of vulnerability at that time.

    Too often we assume facades to hide our pain or empathy. This serves no purpose other than establishing a distance between us. We need that like we need another digital device of alleged communication.

    ~ Mark

  • Lap325

    Please know that while you feel like you can’t do it, you can and you are. Knowing all that has to be excruciating. Time will help and you can find happiness again.

  • Carol

    A dear friend of mine lost her dear husband to prostate cancer.  During her first year of mourning, she shared with us what she was experiencing, how she was dealing with it and the support she felt from her husband.  We all grew that year.

  • Lap325

    Your sister and I should talk…I’m going through the same thing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Crazy.Irish.Jen Jennifer Butler Williams

    Lori, I feel like I am the friend your talking about.  I recently confided in another Buddhist friend how much I hurt inside but put on a happy face because that’s what everyone else wants to see. Thank you for this article.

  • http://www.taotechingdaily.com/ Amy Putkonen

    Nice article. I shared this with my Facebook Group that is discussing strength.

  • Mdiag79

    thank you..

  • gloryglory

    I enjoyed this article.  Something I needed to hear this morning which added to me feeling better after my yoga practice.  

  • K10

    I too and I am sure so many others, suffer from extreme daily anxiety. It is extremely challenging and exhausting to put a front on, especially when people don’t want to hear about it. No one can ever understand what anxiety feels like unless you have lived with it and all it’s physical and menta sensations.  I have found just trying my best gets me through each day and you are right about moving through the pain and healing. What your friend did was inspirational and that alone will give her more confidence which may eventually heal her from anxiety. I am hoping that experiences where have to put your own difficulties aside will eventually lead me to grow and develop more confidence in my ability to let go of the anxiety.

  • Balakrishnan Mechakkat

    Respected and most revered Madam,
    The quoted feelings is the most destructive part in every individual rather majority of us , ego, that is the basic reason for being judgmental,and being blunt and open about pointing faults in others.Remember when we point a finger to some one our other four fingers are pointing towards us.But never feel guilty for all those phases you came through,we all evolve from being imperfect to improve ourselves spiritually,never ever feel guilty and always have the mind to forgive other unfortunate human beings because perhaps they too are at the bottom of the ladder as far as spiritual awareness is considered ,like how it happened in your case ,if they too have some god fearing traits inside them,rather the godly power inside makes them better human beings ultimately,otherwise their life will be wasted ,the most precious life being wasted is the ultimate tragedy of each human beings.Leave every thing to the god and by having full faith in them can get you out of any bad phase in life.But when we doubt about the existence of god is the occasions,when people feel like committing suicides etc.

    In a nutshell I learnt from being a drug addict and drunkard,so much truths ,but past is over we can not change it ,so no use thinking about it.Future is away we can not predict so no use thinking about that eitherl.Think and live in the present be happy for each moment we live,that is called the art of living [You may know there is a foundation in India by Sri Sri Ravisankar who runs an organisation called the art of living and yoga classes] There is also another process called Kundalini awakening ,which is releasing our coiled energy with in & by practice we are able to connects us to the god almighty.

    I have a blog site named ‘solitairebala.blogspot.com’ ,you may visit and go through some of my postings in connection with these subjects apart from so many other ills facing our society.     

  • http://libernetics.com/ SC

    I think it’s a big step forward in a person’s life when they can say for sure what it is they are feeling.  

  • http://libernetics.com/ SC

    Aside from that, someone once told me happiness is a choice.  It’s a hard choice sometimes, but it’s always a choice.  

  • Tahlee

    Just beautiful Lori. So what I needed to hear right now.

  • Connie

    I really needed to hear this today. Thank you Lori :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love what you about transcending judgment and vulnerability Mark. I think there’s no greater feeling than being there for each other, with pure, compassionate presence. 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Connie. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Tahlee. I’m glad it helped!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I thought it was inspiring too. I’ve experienced intense anxiety, and I know how hard it must have been for her to be there for our friends in the way she was. I’m also inspired by you–the fact that you’ve opened up as you have, and expressed your intention to grow and heal. I’m sending good thoughts your way. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Amy!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Jennifer. I’ve been in that place before as well. There are some days when I just don’t feel motivated to write something positive. When I’m hurting, I try to leverage my pain for a post and find some kind of lesson in it. I don’t always feel good, but I feel good about being honest. One other thing I’ve come to realize: Sometimes self-judgment hurts even worse than whatever is bothering me. It helps to be able to have these conversations. Thank you for being part of it. =)

  • Kruciphix

    I think I needed to hear that. Thanks Lori. 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re welcome. =)

  • http://www.breakingthehabitofme.com/ Breaking The Habit Of Me

     

    Hi Lori,

    Sometimes by finding that strength to help others when we are very hurt it can
    awaken the strength we need to find for ourselves to get through our pain. It
    is possible to be both, in fact, I feel, absolutely necessary. Also, when we expose
    ourselves to others opening up to us, it somehow feels like a safe place to
    then open up ourselves. It is heartening to see the strength of people in the
    comments here also.It gives us all hope and strengthens the feeling we are not
    alone.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’ve had that experience as well–that being strong for others can help me with my own healing. And I feel the same way about seeing the strength in the comments. That’s one of the reasons I love running this site–I’m always inspired by the people who stop by!

  • http://www.facebook.com/caharra Angela Isabella Preston

     “…a writer suggested we tell people to be strong when we’re uncomfortable
    with their pain—as if this implies they should stop talking, crying, or
    expressing themselves.”

    I get that all too much! People fear negative emotions, because they automatically think it would make them a pessimist to listen to it. Remember that just like a death, we NEED to process to pain that comes from being hurt or wronged, before we find peace. We NEED to associate ourselves with friends who understand this need, and will help us to get the pain and negativity OUT (vent, scream, sob, whatever), so we can be cleansed and move on.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I couldn’t agree more Angela! Recently someone asked me how she can change her feelings, and I suggested she find some creative way to express them, whether it’s writing, painting, or even dance. I believe the only way out is through, and I always appreciate when friends understand and support that.

  • Davidghibberd

    Well, i know that feeling but if you can set that asside for just a few moments and think on the flip side. He has now met someone he feels closer to and these things end for a reason especialy when we are all
    Learning life. This means you are free to grow into who you want to be and as soon as you just let that be…. Your new amazing life partner will show himself :-) x

  • ms pita

    i felt like i was weak try hold my head up high. when deep inside i was hurting. at times id be on bud in public out no where tears came flooding out. i just had let go. i felt shame. but i realize its nothing to be ashame i have heart who loves and cares deeply. i dont want ever change that part me. but learn the person has earn thst like i do for them