As far back as I can remember, I have always been classed a ‘patient’ person. I was proud of this title and, understandably, as an impressionable first grader yearning for praise, I practically beamed with pride whenever it was mentioned. What I soon noticed, however, was that the term came with all sorts of restrictions: I was always the last person allowed to go to the restroom; always the last person to get to choose my secret santa gift; always the last person in show-and-tell. As soon as I noticed the double-edged sword I did my best to overcome it - I signed up to events first, I volunteered to share my ideas first and I really, really tried to put myself out there. Soon, I had two titles: ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘patient’.
This was possible only because of the pre-existing social attitudes to go-getters and those who were well-mannered; they’re not considered to be juxtaposing adjectives - not even close. It is a much bigger challenge to apply the same to ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’. Lately, everyone is talking about how we all have different definitions of strength and while that may be true, we come no closer to accepting ‘weakness’.
I’m a bit of a crier. Always was, probably always will be. I cry when I’m angry, overwhelmed, disappointed or disheartened in short bursts of fat, ugly tears. (Funnily enough, anger is usually my go-to response when something makes me upset but that’s a topic for another article.)
Crying is pretty much advertised as the universal sign for a weakness but I don’t think we see the whole picture. For me, crying gives me a sense of clarity. In a weird way, my frequent moments of ‘weakness’ give me strength to face what’s coming. I think that weakness is from where we derive our strength, two sides of the same coin. I don’t cry in front of most people - only those I care about most. The people who care enough to probe, the people who make a difference in my life, those are the people I disclose my burdens to. I don’t (usually) need advice. I don’t need attention. I don’t need anything from them at all. Sometimes though, it's useful to have people validate your worries - convince you that you’re not actually just paranoid and sometimes it’s a useful way to be more mindful of each others’ feelings and make sure you haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole that you’re no longer aware (or make a conscious effort) to accommodate each others’ feelings. A little support goes a long way.
To be honest, I actually prefer just curling up in my blanket and having a good cry to myself. Even when nothing’s ‘wrong’ or ‘stressful’ or ‘upsetting’. Sometimes I’m just so excited about the future or agitated that my dreams aren’t coming towards me fast enough. Some feelings can’t be conjured into words and written away and in the absence of my usual outlets I revert back to the easiest way I know how. Emotions aren’t meant to be tucked away or controlled or hidden, they’re meant to be expressed. And if there’s one person who understands you best of all - it’s yourself.
You don’t have to be a strong person to get through life. Just a hopeful one. It’s okay not to be a strong person as long as you know how to pick yourself up after you fall - some of us stumble more than most but the people who keep going are the people who are able to recognise that not every situation has to be crippling and can let things go. It doesn’t really matter how hard you fall as long as you are able to bounce back, ready to give things another shot. Strength, to me, is the ability to accept weakness and the determination to continue your pursuit - whether that be academic or personal.
In the end, people will only see how far you’ve come - not how many times you stumbled. Don’t give up. I’ll be striving with you!
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.