Is it strong not to cry?
Is it weak to be vulnerable?
The stories we tell ourselves about what strength is and how we have to show up in the world could actually be stopping you from living the happy peaceful life you deserve.
I'll share my experience with changing my perception of what strong really means and the suffering that I see women endure because of the way they think of being strong.
I'll even give you a simple exercise to help you see how your thoughts on "strong" impact your life.
Read Full Transcript Below:
This is Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm a healthy lifestyle coach, a clinical Ayurveda specialist, a personal trainer, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. In this podcast, we talk about healthy thinking and mindfulness practices, eating well, moving your body for health and longevity. And we'll also hear from other breast cancer survivors who have reengaged with life and have incredible stories to share. This podcast is your go-to resource for getting back to life after breast cancer.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the breast cancer recovery coach Podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. I am so happy you're here with me today. And I want to start off the show by giving a very big thank you to Wendy from Louisville. So happy that I could see a username and actually know your name. I don't know if you change that.
So you could leave a review or you always use it. But I'm thrilled that you did. And I thank you so much for listening. And I'm so thrilled to hear that the podcast does give you some support and help Wendy and thank you again for taking the time to not only leave a rating but also write a review, that really means the world to me.
And in the review, I love that you said you were a two-year breast cancer survivor. Because I think that's something so important to recognize that it isn't just those few months or even that first year when we first get out of treatment that can be so challenging. There's an ongoing need for support. And we're constantly I think not only just coming up on the things that we need to process from the trauma of breast cancer, but because it changes the way that we see life that we want to live a life that we recognize that it lifts that that veil of I don't know is it mortality is it, it's something changes for us, and we see so much more value in life and understand the tentative nature of life and, and we just want to live it differently.
So it can be for a long time that we work on or struggle with or tried to make sense of what we've been through and how it works with life going forward. I know for me that I say it was definitely the first three years were the most difficult. And I feel very confident saying that, since my last diagnosis in October of 2020. Even more, I continue to evolve, I continue to see things differently to realize and identify places where my ego gets in the way of my happiness.
And actually, we're going to talk a little bit about some of that not necessarily ego but a different belief that we have. And I think that this belief is very common, not just where I live, not just in California or in the United States, but around the world. And as a part of just, you know, being a human being a woman, and what we have to go through. So we'll talk about that in a minute.
But I thank you, Wendy, for pointing out that even as a two-year survivor, and even further out, I've worked with women who have had been eight years out from their diagnosis and their treatment, but they're still struggling. And it's important to know that if you are still struggling or feeling like something isn't right, and not knowing how to take a step forward, or how to make a change, that reaching out to other survivors becoming part of a support group, looking to other people who can help you and validate those feelings we have because they're very valid is so important. And it does not matter how far you are away from your initial diagnosis and treatment. All right.
So let's jump into today's show. In today's show, I want to talk about something that came up quite a bit in the Learn to love yourself after the breast cancer workshop that we did last weekend.
So the workshop was amazing, it was so powerful, so many amazing women, some finishing treatment, some still in treatment, some you know far out of treatment doesn't matter. There was just so much power behind exploring the ways that we treat ourselves with self-compassion that we love ourselves, and that we give ourselves a break. And one of the very powerful themes that came up and that continues to come up when I work with women and other survivors is this word that I think I want to start a petition that we strike this word from our vocabulary as breast cancer survivors.
But it's the idea of being strong. And I want to talk about that a little today because I think that the way we perceive strength or that we perceive the expectation, that we have to be strong, that we need to be strong, that we reinforced the protective barrier, we know we want to be strong because we don't want other people to worry about us.
And so we build this barrier between us and the people who love us. And it just gets bigger and bigger. And that barrier is also for ourselves, we build this barrier that doesn't allow us to get to know ourselves to get to you treat ourselves the way we deserve and need to be treated or to even recognize what it is that we need.
So here we are, we're coming out of having a diagnosis of cancer of toxic, invasive, insanely hard treatments. And then we don't let ourselves connect to what our actual needs are. Because we tell ourselves, we have to be strong. And so I want to dig into a few things. If this is you, and you identify them with that. And when you feel the emotions bubble up, you push them right back down, and you say to yourself, I've got to be strong, keep fighting, be a warrior, then I want you to really pay attention to this.
I want to offer that in general, we are confusing the idea of being strong with, well I think we're misinterpreting it. We are saying that emotional strength means emotional disconnection, that when I'm strong, I don't cry. When I'm strong. I don't share with other people that I have vulnerabilities. When I'm strong. I act like nothing gets to me, even though I know I may not tell other people. But I know. It's literally making me sick. When I'm strong, I wear pink. And I tell everyone, I'm a warrior. And everyone tells me I'm a warrior, and inside I want to crawl in my bed and cry.
I feel scared. I am confused. I don't know where I fit in. I don't know who I am. Everything seems mixed up and confused. But if I don't address it, if I don't look at it, if I don't talk about it, and if I don't talk about it with others, then I'm strong. And I want to share my opinion and say that that is not correct. That that is not emotional strength. And in fact, I want to obviously love me some science. So I want to give you a little definition from ScienceDirect.com, ScienceDirect.com says emotional strength is defined as the ability to respond in an open and vulnerable way, in the face of intense emotional experience. Feeling one's way deeper into the emotion, which allows access to implicit functional processes driving action.
Well, that got pretty wordy there. But basically, that is just saying that ignoring our emotions is not emotional strength, that the true emotional strength of being strong is the ability to be vulnerable. It's the ability to sit in those emotions, to go way deep into those emotions, and to just access everything that is happening there. That is strong. And you know why? I always say that, and in my coaching, I use that because that's hard. into me strong does it mean the easy thing strong means the hard thing. And I also don't want to misspeak here by saying strong or ignoring things is the easy way. Because when we ignore those emotions, that is not easy.
It eats away at you. It's a different kind of heart. Facing the emotions and being vulnerable, that's difficult because you're actually sitting in the pain and working through the pain. But you come out growing on the other side, stuffing the emotions, telling yourself that's what strong people do. That's difficult because it makes you sick. And we're not here to get sick. We're here to get healthy and well and support our healing.
And in order to do that, we have to really look at this word strongly, and how we use it, and why we use it in our lives. Why do we perceive strong as emotionally disconnected? And I'm gonna leave that question out there. I'm not gonna answer it for you because I cannot answer it for you. It's a different answer for each of us.
For some of us, I'll share my personal story. For me, in my first diagnosis, emotional strength was being a warrior, my whole life, strong meant nothing gets to me, I don't need anything, I got this, I'm on my own. And that was drilled into me by my dad, who knows if that's the way he wanted me to perceive it. He just wanted me and my sisters, all of his daughters to be strong, independent women, right, he wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves. And certainly, no one taught my dad who was born in gosh, was it in either 1940 or the late 30s. No one like taught my dad to get in touch with your emotions.
You know, oh, hey, if you feel this way, then you really need to explore that so you can heal because those negative emotions will kill you, they'll make you sick. And I'll tell you what, we watched my dad after the loss of my brother, I say we my whole family, we saw how sick and we saw that his maybe it wasn't his inability or he just didn't have the capacity to deal with the loss of my brother. And as a result of that pain, he slowly slowly slowly destroyed himself from the inside out. And it was a sad, terrible, long, awful process.
But he's not alone.
Because I see that happen in so many people, and we call it strong. So I just want you to think about that. If you're feeling these things that I can't take time for myself, what is the self compassion crap, you know, what is putting myself first being the priority, noticing what I need, giving myself permission to explore what life could be like if I let go of all the rules and ideas and incredible drive to go back to a way that it used to be?
What if strong, equals vulnerable. And unlike what most of us tell ourselves throughout our life vulnerable does not equal weak.
Because to be vulnerable, to be open to your own emotions, I see people struggle with that I watch it, I see them fight so hard. And the emotions are right there, they're at the surface, they're, they're about to make this person choke or cry, and they just shove it back down allowing that to come up and experience it, that's the ultimate vulnerability.
And I'm telling you, it changes things and it supports our healing. I've had to do it myself. So I'm speaking from experience. And, you know, as I've talked about before, sometimes that's it's letting go of a little bit of ego. Because our ego is who we are, right?
We define ourselves by this, this is who I am. And if I am strong, is one of those characteristics, then what I want to offer you is not an answer or not an argument that, but just a question. What does strong mean to you?
And I think a great exercise is writing that at the top of the piece at the top of a piece of paper, and just writing what strong means to me, and then write all of that down, and really look at what it means to you. And then ask yourself, Is this true? And do these things serve me? If strong means I don't cry? Does that serve you? If strong means I've been through this horrendous experience of breast cancer. But I mean, they keep a stiff upper lip and not let anybody know the turmoil inside of me or the pain, is helping you is that real strength?
In psychology today, there is a list of seven things that emotionally strong people do. And I'm going to share those with you. When they say that emotionally strong people are less discouraged by setbacks and disappointments, more adaptable to change, more able to recognize and express their needs. I wanted to share that one with you. But I didn't want to take things out of context, because that's so important, able to recognize and express their needs focus on getting around a hurdle, rather than on the hurdle itself.
And I want to offer here that and I've talked about this on other shows before, that sometimes, we're so focused on cancer that we haven't noticed we forgotten to work towards a solution for the pain that we're in or the challenges that we're facing. And so emotional strength means recognizing that, looking at that and saying, here's where I'm at, and I'm really facing a big challenge here. How do I get around it? Number five is they can learn from mistakes and criticism. Six is they tend to see the larger perspective, in a challenging situation. And seven, they're able to recover more quickly from emotional wounds, such as failure or rejection.
And so with the emotional wounds here, again, I want to say that we have to recognize those wounds to recover from them. Right, we have to know ourselves be confident ourselves. And if we come out of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment, just in this whirlwind, feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under our lives, and we're no longer feeling confident in ourselves.
And we were not feeling great about our self image. And we're not even feeling confident in the direction we've chosen for our lives, or maybe haven't chosen, we suddenly realize, holy cow, I've been led by a ping pong ball in this game of life. And I don't want to do that anymore. I want to live a life of intention.
Well, it takes that emotional strength, which means vulnerability, because making change in life, and I'll share something with you that I've just thought was fantastic over the month of May, as I talked about, on the last show, with my empower members, we work on abundance. And I think it's just so telling that even when you hear abundance, and you talk about abundance, you think, Wow, awesome, great, who wouldn't love and embrace and invite abundance.
But then when you really start to even look at what that means, and if what it means to you, requires changes to occur in life, difficult things can come up, tough conversations need to be had, really looking at what you're doing now and how it serves you and create stepping stones to that life, you decide you want that abundant life you want to live, that can require a lot of revolt vulnerability, right? It requires difficult things and coming from a place of compassion for yourself and for the loved ones around you.
So strong, in my opinion, means more emotion, awareness of your emotions, openness to your emotions, the ability to really see what's going on with you address what's going on with you, share it with those that are closest to you, and know that in doing so that breaks, that's not I'm going to worry then they're going to be scared that's connecting to them.
And it takes strength to connect to other people. Right, because it's a vulnerable position. And what is vulnerable mean opening yourself up to something and you're not sure what's coming on the other side. So you got to work on letting go of the agenda or deciding what someone else should say or do when you present this. There's a lot of work behind that. And it takes a tremendous amount of strength. And that's why I think that things like that learn to love yourself after breast cancer workshop, this podcast, the breast cancer recovery group revived and power, all these things. They're so great.
And I know so many women still resist, we resist engaging in them and engaging with other survivors. Because we tell ourselves, we just have to be strong. And yet we dip our toes in, right? Might dip our toes in, listen, this podcast didn't really tell anybody. We might go into a group, whether it's the breast cancer recovery group or any other group in Facebook, and just kind of Prowl around on the periphery and see what other people are saying and like, Oh, God, yeah, that's me too.
And it's working. And there's nothing wrong with that we all have a different comfort level.
But when you notice that if you're listening to this podcast, there's something you need, there's something you're looking for, or you wouldn't be listening to this podcast, right?
With all those women who came to learn to love yourself after breast cancer, there was something in them that wasn't sitting right, something in them that they knew they needed more of, or to switch, but they either didn't know how or they told themselves, I have to be strong.
And that is not strength, that might make me cry. But it also might cleanse everything. Giving yourself that permission and understanding that true strength means the ability to be strong enough to be open with yourself into being authentically who you are no more masks no more I have this with this person and I have to be this for that person, who you really are and whatever consequences come around, embracing that and whatever change that might create in your life.
So I wanted to put that out there first as something for you to consider because it is a very big point when it comes to healing and to embracing the forward transformation of our lives, right? Strong, I'm going to fight this till I go back to the way I used to be, versus Whoa, I don't know what just happened here by the minister with this. And I'm going to have to let go of some things. And I have to say goodbye to the woman I was before breast cancer to a certain extent. And I have to let go of some physical things that I used to love to do, and they're no longer comfortable. And I've got to sit in that and have the strength to let go, and have the strength to be curious enough to walk into the unknown with myself. And just be like, Alright, self, I don't know what the hell is coming. But we're going to be open to it. That my friends take courage and strength.
And I know you have courage and strength because you're here. And that tells me you've already been through a lot. And you have a tremendous amount of courage.
So I think that we just need to sit for a minute here and reevaluate our meaning of strong? And is your definition of strong, serving your healing in your life and in your body now? And if it isn't, you know where to find me.
Come to the breast cancer recovery group, ask your questions, get some answers, get support. And that's what I'm here for. I'm that's all I'm here for. I'm here. For every breast cancer survivor out there. Every woman with a diagnosis, every woman who's living with breast cancer, to have a support system where they can come and be authentically themselves.
Because I know that that is a happy place. It's not an easy place to get to, but it's an awesome place to be. Alright, I will talk to you again next week, my friend. And until then please be good to yourself. Do the work. Get the paper out. Write the sentence at the top. Evaluate your thinking and how what you're telling yourself is serving you or not serving you in your healing and the life you want to live.
I'll talk to you next week.