Strong for Everyone Else
I received some difficult news. I didn’t want to be a burden by sharing it, but it was too heavy to carry myself. Bravely reaching out to some friends, I briefly texted about the uncertainty I was facing.
My friends told me they’d be praying. But one friend’s thoughtful response brought me to tears—uncovering a hurt I usually bury.
You see, this friend of mine, gets me. She is cut from the same cloth: a Type A personality, Modern Martha, Devoted Encourager. She wasn’t satisfied with the stiff upper lip message I texted. She cut to the chase:
“How’s your heart? Talk to me. How is my friend really doing?”
And the tears came because I didn’t have to be the strong one for a moment.
I responded with, “Sometimes it’s hard to be the one who is strong for everybody else.”
To which she wisely replied: “It’s hard to pour and pour and pour out some more. And sometimes no one thinks to ask how the bubbly, Type A, strong women are doing. We may have it together but yet we still need people who care about us as people and not just counselors and promoters.”
She put words to how I felt.
Confessions of a Strong, Capable Woman
Now don’t get me wrong, both my friend and I love being bubbly, Type A, strong women who encourage others with all we have. We were designed to be that way. Yet every once in awhile, we long to be on the receiving end…to be seen for who we are, not what we contribute.
Sometimes when we stop doing for other people, they distance themselves or disappear…because we’ve stopped being useful to them. Often we are the shoulder for others to lean on yet sometimes we cry in the closet alone and our shoulders ache from all we’re carrying.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will most likely be the party planner, the communication initiator, the one who remembers that your loved one passed away on this particular date a year ago, the cheerleader who does her best back handspring as you take the next step toward your dreams. And it’s an honor to do so.
But sometimes the encourager needs encouraging.
But she feels bad about it. She doesn’t want to be insensitive, or come across as needy, or risk the dismissal or rejection that may follow her admission.
Sometimes she wants you to plan a get together. To call. To ask how she’s doing and listen for her real answer. To offer to take care of a line item for her, so she has some breathing room.
She doesn’t want to stop being the reliable woman, but a break every now and then goes a long way.
Sit with her after a disappointment. Invite her to a movie that will make her laugh.Ask your friend how she's really doing... Click To Tweet
Your friend doesn’t want to burden you, so she tends to hide how she’s really feeling. She wants to listen to you and help you but every once in awhile she wants to be heard. Sometimes she makes a hurt or need known, but sometimes others don’t really know what to do with that.
She loves to be in your corner. Truly. But sometimes her corner feels lonely.
When she’s out in front or in charge, or throwing confetti to celebrate others, she gets weary sometimes. She enjoys doing those things, but every so often let her be the recipient of the celebration.
Three things your Type A friend needs (but probably won’t tell you):
- Your Type A friend needs some reassurance that you see her…not just her accomplishments and not just when she reaches out.
- Your Type A friend needs permission and room to share what’s going on—not the prettied up and polished version—in a safe environment that won’t downplay or dismiss her admissions.
- Your Type A friend needs someone else to take the lead sometimes (only sometimes). Invite her for coffee (and not just so you can tell her what’s going on with you). Send her a card just because. Text her sometime just to tell her you’re thinking about her (help her know she’s important to you).
I am resisting the urge to delete this, because the worst thing that could happen is that people feel like they need to walk on eggshells around Type A’s. Or they view this article as a rant or criticism (it’s neither). It’s just a gentle reminder that your strong friend is not invincible nor immune to loneliness.
Type A’s usually don’t mind being in charge or a shoulder to lean on—it’s how we’re wired.
We dry our tears, we send a card, we make that call and we plan that party. Because that’s what we do. And we do it with joy (usually). But I hope this serves as a window into your bubbly, Type A, strong friend’s heart–helping you see what she might need, but probably won’t tell you.
So friend, how are you really doing?
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