Always investing into others… but who is looking out for you? There are some things you need to hear when you’re tired of always being the strong one for everyone else.
It’s amazing how giving some people can be. I was blown away recently thinking about a few of the older men I know at my church who are just absolute pillars for their friends, their businesses, their families, and just about everyone else. At their absolute limit, but still finding time to give to others who need it. I find myself always inspired when I see the lives of people who live to give. No matter what’s going on in their own life, they’re always there for everybody else.
…But who is there for them?
I don’t usually go around telling everybody this, but one of the things I hold as a super important focus in my life – you could even call it a mandate – is to keep strong people strong. Who looks after the people who look after everybody else? Well, I would like to be one of those. When 10 lepers get healed and only one would come back to say thank you, I always like to make sure that I’ll be that one.
We don’t always fully appreciate those people who look after us the most, do we? We can just kind of fall into familiarity and even sometimes be bored with how reliable some people are.
And it’s funny, the people who are usually so busy looking after others don’t always go around asking for help. But there are times when you’re always the strong one that you go through your own challenges, and it there can be times where even the most faithful and reliable people are staring at their breaking point.
So, faithful and reliable person, let’s talk about what we can do when you’re tired of always being the strong one.
Isolate what’s getting you down
It can be very easy in life to let ourselves get overwhelmed with all the things that are happening. Usually to bring the best of us down, there is usually a feeling of being pressed in on every side. You feel under pressure at work, you feel under pressure at home, you feel like those friendships aren’t exactly what you need, you find your husband or wife is starting to twang on those ever fragile nerves, the kids are always making noise, and people just don’t understand how much is on your plate.
In reality, it’s probably actually only one or a few things that are really getting you down, and they’re seeping into other areas of your life.
In my life as an example, I can think of one particular time in my life (among many) where I felt completely snowed under. Too much pressure for deadlines at work, the people at my church didn’t seem to understand what I was going through, I wasn’t enjoying life the way I usually do, and I just couldn’t rest enough to catch up on the restlessness inside.
What was wrong? Some relationship I wanted to go one way went another way. But instead of actually facing that one issue in my life, I was avoiding it and letting it affect everything else I was doing. Usually confident and comfortable in being generous with my life, I was wearing thin because I wouldn’t man up and address my disappointment. There’ve been other times in my life where I have had other issues similarly affect other areas of my life for the worse.
I wonder if you can finish this sentence for yourself – “What is really annoying me right now is _______”. I dare you to actually say the start of that sentence out loud (don’t just think it), and let your mouth finish it without your brain interrupting. You may be surprised that what you think is the world out to get you is just a deadline at work or something someone said to offend you.
Don’t be afraid to talk about what you want
Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
When you’re always the strong one, you don’t always get what you want. You usually suppress your desires, thoughts, and sometimes even how you feel, in order to look after the people in your world. The selflessness of serving others often necessitates we do that in action.
But there comes a time where you need to face those dreams of yours and be honest about what you really want. About your desire for someone that you can talk to for yourself. About your deep yearning for close friendship with others. About the family you want one day. About the dream you had when you were just a little boy that you’ve still been putting off because you’ve been full on serving others.
Hey strong one, you’re a person too. Perhaps the tiredness you’re feeling is from the dreams or the places your spirit longs for, but your service sometimes distracts you from. Joshua needs his rest in the promised land too, you know.
Make sure you have a “you” in your life
Having worked with corporate and spiritual leaders for a number of years, I can safely say that often the people who need the most support are the ones who give others the most support. Why is that? Cause often they aren’t just facing their own problems in life – they are also open to and taking on board the problems of others. It’s one thing to be facing turmoil in your own family or business – it’s another to be helping a group of 10 people deal with turmoil across all their families. Especially when those 10 never ask you about how you’re doing or about what you’re going through. Oh yeah, and they don’t usually say thank you.
When you’re always the strong one, it is likely that you are always “that” person in everyone else’s life.
But who is “that” person in your life?
In truth, we all need a couple of “that” person to call our friends. They say leadership is one of the loneliest places there is. I think that’s a great tragedy, and I think that it shouldn’t be the case. Quite often, it’s the leaders who are isolated who are in the most danger of giving out.
Maybe it’s time to open your life again to people about where you’re really at. Give priority to those relationships in your life. John Maxwell calls it the law of the inner circle. Definitely worth a large investment of your time to build and develop.
Take the mask off
When you’re always the strong one, you’re very cautious about giving your problems to anyone else. You see that as laying a burden on the people you’re supposed to be supporting. And you know, there is truth in that – if you’re looking after someone who is struggling, it’s probably not the best to be also throwing your problems on their back to consider as well.
…But who helps carry your problems then? No one? Just you?
The big issues in our lives are usually just the small ones that we let continue on, or the things we haven’t talked about. That feeling that started with you not feeling as appreciated as you thought you should be has blown up into a full-blown insecurity. That sense that you’re always just putting on the strong face has turned into you feeling like you’re being taken for granted.
Superman needs a place to put the heroics away for just a few minutes and be accepted as Clark Kent. The president needs to also be the husband or the wife that you can still have coffee with late at night and talk through the big parts of the day. The father needs to be appreciated as a man trying to find his own way while he’s negotiating how to set the direction for his children.
And you, my friend, need a safe place where you can just be the real you. A place where you can talk about whatever you need to. A place where you don’t have to be the strong one all the time.
A very real experience for those who have always been seen as being strong for everyone else is that they don’t feel like they have the space to have a weak moment. What if someone saw you bleed? What if someone did see the tears you keep to yourself? What if someone did hear the deepest dreams in your life that you don’t always find the place or the time to talk about?
Maybe you’re finding yourself getting tired because you’re running from your need to be vulnerable. Maybe you’re keeping people at a distance because you don’t think you’re allowed to let yourself go for a moment.
Let this be your permission to do exactly that.
To let the walls down and to talk about how you really feel. I know it may feel strange at first and I know you’re not used to it, but if you don’t put back into yourself, strong one, you’re going to lose who you are.
And you are so much more than what you do. We’re human beings, not human doings.
And of course you can continue being strong for others. But make sure it’s coming out of a strength you’re going to be able to sustain.
There are many more considerations to take into account when you find yourself tired of always being the strong one. What are some of yours? Have you ever had moments where you wish you didn’t have to do so much? Maybe this is a good chance for you to be real about how you’re really doing. You’re among good company, my friend.