The weight of being the "strong one"
Updated: Apr 5
I see you.
I understand that you work really hard to make everyone around you feel supported and heard. You give your all every day -despite how exhausted you may feel- so that the world can keep spinning. You may be the one your friends call when they're struggling, that your coworkers call when things are falling apart, or that your family relies on to navigate difficult dynamics or situations. The truth is that you're really good at all of those roles. So good that you are known as the "strong one".
We all know those people who always seem to hold it together with grace and patience, who show up for everyone around them. Sound familiar?
I thought so.
But, while this title sounds positive and acknowledges all of your hard work on the surface- it also holds an expectation that you aren't allowed to have your own moments of difficulty or struggle. Kind of an impossible task as a human, don't you think?
As someone who specializes in working with people just like you, I know that this can be a lonely role to hold. Of course you have moments of difficulty and struggle and it may feel like reaching out to anyone would be "burdening" them. Yet, you're completely worthy of support and check-ins,
Here are a few things I want you to remember:
When we are the "strong one" for others, we need to dedicate extra time to check-in with ourselves and engage in self-care. If we avoid this, it will likely lead to feelings of resentment and/or burnout.
It's important to practice setting healthy boundaries if we are feeling overwhelmed or fatigued from holding other peoples "stuff".
Being the "strong one" is not a job you have to keep forever. If you're finding it more draining than fulfilling it's time to look inward and ask, "how can I show up for others without jeopardizing my own mental health?"
I know it can feel impossible to pull back from being everyone's "go to" support person. Here are some ways you can create space with care:
I'm so sorry that you're going through such a hard time right now. This week is packed for me, when would be a good time to connect next week so that we can talk it through?
I absolutely feel you on this being a tough week, please take care of yourself! I am working on that, too.
I am feeling slammed right now but want you to know that I'm thinking of you- just sent you a Venmo to get a coffee or chocolate on me!
Wow, that is a lot going on! I hope that this week turns around for you and that we can touch base soon.
The key here is that by creating space for yourself when you need it, you will actually have more capacity to support those you care about and be fully present. You know the feeling of regret when you look ahead at your schedule and wished you hadn't filled it trying to make everyone happy.
What is one way that you can take care of yourself this week?
Is it saying no to something?
Scheduling time for yourself (even if it's a 10 minute break in the day)?
Is it getting more rest?
Is it setting a healthy boundary with someone?
Meredith Waller MSW, LCSW
Based in Boulder, CO and offering online counseling throughout Colorado
-Certified Shame-Informed Treatment Specialist
-Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional