Being a Pastoral Counselor intern at a hospital, I come across a lot of scenarios where patients who are recently diagnosed with a certain type of cancer form two immediate concerns: 1. What does this diagnosis mean to my way of living now? 2. How will my family take the news/who can I trust with this news?
Their mind begins to race about how others will become impacted, whether it’s at their job or at home, and they don’t want to become a burden on anyone. Most of these encounters I have seen, these feelings derive from the role they play in other peoples lives. They are usually viewed as The Voice of Reason or The Rock in their family. They are the supervisor, the counselor, the administrative assistant and the janitor all in one job position. This person is always praised for being ‘so strong’. Out of that praise, The Rock begins to take pride in this role for this has given them a new sense of identity, The Super(s)hero.
This super(s)hero knows that people are always depending on them. This may have been their role for years or even born into this role from being the oldest child. Because of this role, often times, there is no real time to ‘feel’ or ‘be’ in the moment but only to help ‘act’ or ‘do’ for others. No time to grieve, no time to process or cry, just get things handled. This is their mantra. The disadvantage of being a superhero is that they can become dishonest with themselves by easily telling others two words that create not only a facade but a wall between their own help and healing.
These two words are “I’m okay”. The downfall with these two words is that it doesn’t allow the person to own their real feelings. If you are this person, then you can probably attest that in being a superhero WE find comfort behind our mask. We can be whoever other people need us to be as we fight and advocate for their personal battles but behind closed doors we only Band-Aid our own scars. However, you need to know that there must be an acknowledgement and a realization that WE are human first. We know this because we cry, we hurt, we stress or get overwhelmed, we have feelings of loneliness and often say out loud I don’t need help to others as we secretly ask The Most High where is my help? Trusting someone with our vulnerabilities is definitely not the norm for someone who is use to being The Rock. Putting trust in the hands of another exposes you. It exposes your fears, your secrets, thoughts, self-perception and the perception you want to portray to others.
The fear of the unknown of what others would do with something so personal–so delicate, is risky. Especially if you have trusted someone in the past and they may have misused your trust, disappointed you or dropped the ball in areas you tried to depend on them for. If this is the case, then you may ask yourself how can you possible trust or be open again? But that’s it. We must try again. You were rejected from one job, but you applied for another right? You tried again. This life is full of ongoing trial and error. With those trials and error we are able to re-define ourselves and self-reflect on where we are and who we want to be. Owning your feelings doesn’t label you to who or how you will forever feel or be. It’s just where you are at this moment in your life. Own it and re-adjust to find your new norm. Finding your new normal is striving for your new peace given what life has thrown your way. It is not failure. It is not weakness. It is learning and accepting that we are human first, we too feel, we are vulnerable to different things and that is okay.
We don’t always have to have the answer to why we are feeling a particular way right away. We don’t even have to apologize to others on why you have changed how much you are willing to extend yourself. Self-care is very important. Once you are able to take care of self, your whole self, that’s when you begin to really help others. To empower others, to care for others in a way that is healthy for you and them. Learning ways to practice it daily is when your mask slowly comes off and trust start to form; vulnerability can be relinquished, bandaids can come off and the healing can begin. Become a superhero for yourself. Allow others to be there for you as you have been for them.