The Curse of the Strong Friend
Giving birth to my first son was also giving birth to myself.
The version of myself that had to be well enough to love him. The version of myself that had to be grounded enough to maintain a clear head, and stay calm; even as his dad was screaming at me, or terrifying me with his physical stature and court orders. This version of me was learning how to love herself. Not in theory, but in practice. Learning step by step how to meet my own needs so that I could function in the world while absorbing and transmuting the stress swirling around us so well, that my innocent baby boy did not sense it and consume it.
One of the ways I loved myself was to not invite my long-time addicted and nodding out mother to my birth. The emergence of this new and precious soul meant that I no longer had the bandwidth, or the desire, if I’m being perfectly honest, to mother my own mother. A rather awful pattern had been in place up to this point of her worst behavior happening during events that were "supposed" to be joyful; graduations, weddings, and my baby shower to name a few.
She was less than enthusiastic about this shift.
Sometime in the first month after giving birth I received a card from her in the mail. It was dripping with bitterness and resentment. “What happened to my loving and forgiving daughter?” she asked.
I realized that in her eyes, loving her meant there was no room to love myself or my new baby. If I wasn’t available for her total consumption, she would shame me, label me as unloving, and quickly let me know that I was a let down. A disappointment.
In this relationship boundaries were blasphemous.
I was taught that aside from the nurturing energy I put into others, (specifically my mother) that my own needs, worthiness, and boundaries were invisible and essentially nonexistent. My existence is in service of your wellness; even if to do so means I must choke out my own voice, wisdom, and agency. I was taught that the way others treated me was about me, and not about them.
I believe that wounds re-emerge as themes and patterns in our lives, begging to be healed and integrated. My mother wound has reappeared time and time again in friendships as I’ve naturally taken on the role of the “Strong Friend”.
The Strong Friend often doesn’t experience reciprocity in her relationships. She often feels unseen and undervalued. She knows that her Power comes from the Source unseen, and she feels incapable of holding back the flow of sustaining Love in her relationships, even as she yearns to receive the same healing gifts she gives.
The Strong Friend swallows her hurt and disappointment rather than expressing it. She does not realize that by holding back her Truth she is allowing others to ignore her raw humanity. She does not know that her silence keeps her complicitly on the pedestal erected for the Strong, outside the realm of needing compassion, tenderness, and support.
Do you know the Strong Friend? Does she live inside of you? Or are you the Other, justifying your lack of loving action based on the fact that, “She’s strong. She doesn’t need me to reach out, check in on her, listen as much as she listens to me, text her first, etc.??”
How can we as women heal and integrate the residue of past patterns that arise in our lives and friendships with one another?
For many years I would never share in relationships if I felt hurt, because I felt so ashamed. I was ashamed that others treated me poorly or inconsiderately because I felt it was a reflection of my inherent unworthiness. I was ashamed that others trampled right over my needs and feelings. I believed the hopeless despair at the core of my being was my lonely wound to nurse because I came into this world as a lesser being.
I had no idea that it was my responsibility to teach others how to treat me.
I had no idea that in order for others to know me deeply, and care about my heart, I had to first show them my heart and allow my true feelings to be known. I did not know that setting limits in love would allow me to love more effectively and abundantly than ever before. I did not know that energy cannot be counterfeited or borrowed, and there is no way to give from an empty cup. For so long I truly believed that it was just a part of life to give; even if I myself was empty, even what I did not want to give. I believed this was the only way to be loved and valued.
The funny thing is, it never worked.
I believe that by practicing Radical Honesty we take a step closer to truly loving ourselves and one another.
Here are some ways we can all practice living in Love.
#1: Remember that we are all human, and we are all in need of love, compassion, support, and nonjudgmental acceptance. The veins of every being on this Earth are flowing with the same blood. There is no justification for withholding that which you yourself want to receive. Do you want to be heard? Then you must listen. Do you want to be seen and appreciated for your you-ness? Then you must see and appreciate others for their uniqueness as well. Do you want to be celebrated for your victories and achievements? Then you must celebrate the successes of others. Do you want to be supported in your time of need? Then you must lift those who have given you strength.
#2: Do not hold back your impulse to encourage or support others.
How many times has a thought that you should reach out to a friend blown in on the Wind of your Spirit? How often do you ignore it? How often have you justified this by thinking, “Well, I'm sure she is being supported by her partner, sister, other friends, etc. She’s the strong one. I’m sure she doesn’t need ME.” ??
You are the hands, feet, and mouths of Love on Earth! Do not wait to reach out. Do not wait to be a friend. Be the friend you need in your own life.
#3: Lovingly communicate when you feel hurt, angry, and wounded in relationships.
I know this is a hard one! Our willingness or unwillingness to share our Truth says so much about who we are choosing to be at this point in time. Have we really healed from the past? You cannot be known if you refuse to let yourself be seen. Other people cannot love you if you do not teach them how you need to be loved. There can be no forgiveness and no redemption when we are not honest about what has taken place. Without Radical Honesty we are blocking the opportunity for a growth so deep that it heals old patterns and wounds.
#4: Notice when you are over giving in relationship and ask yourself, “Am I giving freely from loving abundance? Or am I giving in order to receive love, worthiness, or acknowledgement? Am I giving because I believe I am the only one who can meet this need?”
Remind yourself that the presence of Love & Worthiness cannot be given or taken away by others. We are inferior to no one and superior to no one. Just by being here you are Loved- in fact, you are Love embodied! Just by being here, you are worthy. Remind yourself that Love is guiding each of us, and that we are no one’s savior. We cannot give what we do not have to freely give.
When we know who and what we are, we attract others who know who and what we are. It is more than a cliche that when we treat ourselves the way we treat others, we will find ourselves receiving the same quality of treatment we offer. Have you experienced this before? Are you ready for a shift in your relationships?
Now I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have created a community for women where we learn, practice, and embody the skills of Radical Self-Care, including boundaries and communication for loving; as well as Radical Honesty so that we can live as the highest, most integrated expressions of ourselves. If you are ready to practice skills that decrease exhaustion, burnout, and resentment, while generating more love, energy, and freedom in your life and relationships, we would love to have you. Join us for your free 30 day trial in the INHABIT Self-Love Community Lab. We aren’t just learning together, we are BECOMING together! I would love to connect with you there.
Our first group call is April 15th @ 8:30am PST!