There Is Such A Thing As Too Tough

I am tough, very tough, so tough… too tough. I never thought being too tough would be something that could hurt me. It’s taken me until now to realize that it can, and that it has.

If I can recall anything from my childhood it’s that I was always told to be myself no matter what. Obviously this is a good thing, but the “no matter what” meant even if I was completely alone all the time, and I had to be My dad is my best friend and the toughest guy I know. I was brought up on these amazing stories of him being the big bad ass guy at school, and how he never let anyone or anything bother him. It was weak to let the world bother you. Always be so self confident no one could touch you and never ever ever let them know they got to you, even if they did, because you don’t give them the satisfaction. As great as all these things are, I really took them to heart as a kid. They were the only way I knew how to survive in elementary and middle school. I was always an outcast. But I always put on the strongest front, so strong and convincing that I was convincing myself too. “Nothing bothers me,” I lead on, even if it did. Letting the kids know I was angry and sad about my social placement was NOT an option, in fact I made it appear to be my choice, that I chose to be alone. Admitting it to myself wasn’t an option either, though. I had to be tough, very tough, so tough, too tough.

I was a hard ass, not just to others, to myself. Feeling angry or sad because of what others did to me was “weakness,” and I would never admit to being weak. I would dismiss those emotions and forge them into the rock like self that I created  inside. Stone cold and unfeeling. I was punishing any part of myself that was authentically what I deemed weak.

In high school I began to learn that if I wanted to connect with others, I couldn’t continue to be a  brick like being. I discovered empathy and what it was to understand pain. Breaking these habits of never feeling was very difficult. It was the lifestyle that protected me for so many years, however, when God says change, God means change, and that meant putting me through all kinds of crap to make the rock melt. In my junior year of high school, some theological study on where Eastern religious philosophy meets the West, lead me to some realizations. I learned about self compassion and how important it was to be kind to myself when I felt sad or angry. I unearthed that feeling these emotions did not make me weak, and this knowledge has improved my life deeply. I began to stretch this empathy towards myself and say, “Becca, you feel sad. That’s okay. Why do you think you feel sad?,” and navigate through and with my emotions, not getting stuck in them. I’ve learned to acknowledge them and treat them gently. I wish this knowledge and practice onto all people. It’s okay to not be okay. Acknowledge your feelings, don’t get stuck, and be compassionate towards yourself.

Unfortunately, despite this new found wisdom and self love, the years without it has left me with a lack of practice. I didn’t and still don’t really know how to express these newly acknowledged emotions. Okay, I admit I’m sad, I admit that it is valid that I’m sad, but I also understand the logistics of the situation and that the reason I am sad is “dumb”, therefore I should be able to get over it quickly. I am a very logic based person and hold a lot of clarity in situations, for example I realize that the reason that girl was unkind to me is because she has her own demons. I then chart out that okay I feel sad, but because I know the reason isn’t on me, I should move on past it and forgive her. Perfect, amazing. This is what I have done for years now. I’ve simply acknowledged the logical steps, gone through the motions, and tried to get over something as soon as possible. Especially that. It’s still hard to break the habit of letting anyone know I am hurt, let alone dwell on it. No one wants to dwell. No one wants to admit something still hurts them, something others expect to be over by now.

I learned to cry, a little, but I tried to shove past everything that happened to me. Therefore never fully processing it, leaving its remnants on my soul. Inside each of us is a melting pot, now sometimes it stirs with sweet stews and other times it boils over with black tar. That nasty stuff is quite poisonous, and will continue to poison us and our lives and we won’t even realize it. So you have to throw it up.

This past summer I have learned about the art of talking about your feelings. Like really, I mean saying out loud the horrible things bubbling over in that melting pot. Screaming it out. Crying it out. I’ve said things for the first time in my life, things I had only ever kept inside to keep boiling. It was really hard. To get those words past my lips was so scary, I was so scared of how the world was going to receive my embarrassing brokenness. Turns out, it’ll be okay. I threw up the poison. The tar had left my chest in the form of screams and tears I don’t mean to sound so corny but I mean it. Not the normal cry, the really internal stuff. I admitted how bad some of my past still hurt. I admitted how I feel like a victim, how insecure I feel, how I feel like maybe something is wrong with me, and like all those people can’t be wrong. I spoke the demons out loud so they couldn’t haunt my head anymore. God and the universe could receive them, and take the physical weight off my chest. Saying these things out loud has improved them. As a kid, even in high school, I never would have trusted such a method. As childish as that sounds, we all want to be tough, but if we’re too tough to process the truth of who we are inside, it’ll only boil over later.

So that’s what’s happened here. The tar inside boiled over onto my life. All the emotions and situations I had neglected to process are knocking on my front door and demanding an answer. It would be pretty hard to slam that door on an angry mob. And I won’t. I’m going to let each one in, kindly and one at a time, and greet them as old friends I didn’t take the time to really meet the first time. Some therapy will hopefully help me get to know them, so that I can grow into me, with towards myself. If I could talk to myself in high school, I would tell myself, “Say it out loud! Admit how bad it hurts, cause that’s the truth, your friends will listen! Then you can keep growing!”

Finally, after so long, I’m spitting all the tar up so that I can be warm inside. I can see myself now. I look at myself and feel proud for doing this. Don’t wait like I did, even though I know you’re tough, really tough, so tough, just don’t be too tough.


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