“I am seen as a pillar of strength. I was brought up this way. I don’t show my emotions or to talk about the bad stuff going on in my life. When people ask how I’m doing, I say, ‘I’m fine.’ As a nurse, I am always there for others. I don’t want to have to ask for help or lean on others for support. I always thought of this as a sign of weakness.”

This was a statement made recently by a client who is going through a pretty rough time in her life. Does it sound familiar to you? Do you also believe it’s “weak” to show emotion or to talk about the “bad stuff” going on? What might you be afraid of?

Many people complain about their lot in life. They go on and on telling long stories about what they’re going through. The difference here is that these people are coming from a place of victimhood and are often seeking attention or sympathy. When you listen to their tales, there’s a lot of drama, often whining and self-pity, and as the listener, you might feel uncomfortable and not know what to do or say. So when things are going rough in your life, you keep it to yourself for fear of sounding like the moaning Myrtle.

Sometimes, you minimize your issue or problem. “It’s not so bad.” The little voice in your head tells you that other people have bigger problems and they don’t need to hear yours. Or that voice might have you believe that you are not worthy to share your problems; that people don’t need to hear what you are going through. Perhaps you’ve been taught to believe that you are supposed to handle all of your problems by yourself; like my client, you received the message that it’s weak or wrong to ask for help or to share your feelings. Or perhaps you believe that you are the only one who feels the way you do and that something must be wrong with you.

Health care professionals in particular are at risk for falling into this trap because they care for others all day. Their problems may seem small compared to people who are dealing with pain and death. But the reality is that your feelings are just as important to you as someone else’s feelings are to them. Your pain is your pain and it’s not to be compared to another’s pain.

Is it strength then to be closed up and not share your feelings with another? You might fear that others will discover you are human mistakenly thinking that “being human” equates to being “weak”. But holding it all in keeps you stressed out, hiding, and alone. You cannot run from the pain that exists within you. Holding back and holding onto your pain only keeps you in pain longer and makes the pain more pronounced.

The story itself is not what we are concerned with here. “The story itself can be distracting. The story is the shield that keeps you from you-from your Truth. It’s not strength to hold onto the story; that only keeps you in pain and keeps you struggling for answers.” (from “The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance”) The story is your way in to discover and assess all of the emotions you are experiencing as you go through whatever it is you are going through. We all have stories to tell. It’s not the story but how we feel about what is happening to us, what we learn from the experience, and how we grow as a result that is important.

When you do share your story and your pain with another, what you find is that people can relate to you. They listen intently. They are thrilled that you shared and often will have a story of their own to share that lets you know you’re not alone and gives you hope. Hey, if they got through it, so can you! You don’t always know what to do with your pain regarding the problem. Just processing your feelings by talking about them helps you work through them and after, you feel relieved.

You might fear sharing your pain with someone who ridicules, judges, or tries to fix you or the problem. Often people have been hurt in the past by telling the wrong people their stories or their pain and in doing so were rebuffed. You might have heard things like, “Oh quit your complaining/whining.” Or “That’s nothing! What happened to me was…” What messages have you heard when you have made other attempts to share the pain of your story?

People want to be able tell their story to someone who will listen without trying to correct, fix, or take away their pain. Sometimes, it’s simply about sharing the pain with someone who can empathize with you and help you be with the pain. Have you ever tried to share your story with someone who jumped right in to try to fix things for you, give you their opinion or advice, or tell you how you should feel? How did it feel when this happened? Did you feel connected to them? Have you ever done this to someone else who wanted to just be heard?

When you open up to someone, you are able to connect with that person on a deeper level. You connect as human beings. When you refuse to open up, although you might see yourself as a pillar of strength, you are viewed as different, unfeeling, and all-powerful which places you on a different plane than the rest of us. We know you’re human but there is no way for us to connect with your humanness if you refuse to allow your humanness out.

My client admitted, “I shared my story and my pain with my dad who had no idea of what I was going through. I also shared with a friend and she still thinks highly of me. She still likes me. She even shared a story of the worst time in her life. I didn’t know that she had gone through that.” By sharing our own humanity with others, we open the door for others to share as well. As we let down the walls of resistance that keep us separate and alone, the other person is free to do the same.

Pain, like anything else including happiness, is transient. It too will pass. When you ignore your pain, it remains with you until you are ready, willing, and able to acknowledge it. What you resist persists. Once acknowledged, you are able then to move through the pain and learn from it. But like everything else in life, when we share our experiences with others, life becomes more meaningful and enjoyable. If there is something you are holding onto, find someone safe and share. You will feel so much lighter, freer, and more at peace. And you will connect more deeply with the person you share with.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN, CSAC is dedicated to helping you break through the barriers to your happiness and success. She is a masterful coach, a motivational speaker and world-renowned writer and author. For additional resources and to sign up for her inspiring e-newsletter, visit www.NurturingYourSuccess.com or email Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com.