Where true strength lies (and why I gave up my strong independent woman persona)

A friend shared with me recently how a friend of hers is having a hard time at the moment and it's been difficult to watch. Her friend is incredibly smart, kind, funny and on the surface appears to be extremely successful.

Underneath this impressive exterior however, lies someone who’s barely keeping it together. Her biggest barriers? Denial. Avoidance. The old ‘head in the sand’ routine that in the past I’ve been all too familiar with.

We’ve all been there, right?

As my friend shared her concerns I was reminded of my own past. For years I played the strong independent woman and could not, would not, ask for help. Asking for help would mean I had failed - as though I was some kind of super-human being. I felt as though everyone else had it together so what the hell was wrong with me that I didn't?

The truth is that no-one has it all together.

On paper I had everything going for me but on the inside I was miserable. I was popping beta blockers to ward off panic attacks at work and would burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I had spent years running from my demons and it was finally catching up with me. I didn’t want to deal with it so I pretended everything was okay and kept running until I pretty much had a breakdown.

And that was the best thing that happened to me.

What followed was years of recovery. I had to admit I wasn't okay, face my demons and start to recover my health. What I discovered during that time is that true strength lies not in pretending we have our s*** together but in admitting when we don’t. It takes courage to admit we’re not doing okay and to step into vulnerability.

In her book 'Daring Greatly', shame researcher Brene Brown suggests that “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Toxic shame was stopping me from allowing myself to be seen.


I now realise that we can’t do this life thing alone and we all need help at some time. We need each other.

The irony is that when we stop wearing the mask, those we love are much more able to connect with us. What would you do if a close friend or loved one reached out and asked for help? I’m guessing you’d do all you could to help. So why not allow others to do the same for you?

It doesn’t mean that we fix other people’s problems for them – as adults we’re capable of solving our own problems. But it does mean we walk alongside those we love. We act as their cheerleader and sounding board without judgement. Being present for another without judgment is one of the kindest things we can do.

So, my invitation to you this week is to consider whether you’re running from something you need to face? Are you wearing the 'all together' mask and could you drop it for a moment and let someone you love and trust see who and how you really are?


I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a similar experience to share? Share on my Facebook Group or drop me a line.

If you’re struggling and need support please reach out to someone you love and trust. There is no shame in asking for help. If in doubt, you can always call Lifeline in confidence on 13 11 14.

Claire NettleyComment