We all know someone in our lives that represent a pillar that never falters. They never seem to complain, they are always there to support/encourage you throughout your endeavors, always offering a dependable helping hand, and they are always willing to give their time when you are in need. I think the term we subconsciously associate these individuals with is ‘The Strong One.’ The one that holds everything together. The one that makes you feel a sense of resolve when they are present. The one that listens to your problems, gives his/her unbiased advice, talk you off of a bridge when you are at you ends wit, and is just always there to pick you back up when you are down.
I don’t quite know when it happened in my life, but I became ‘The Strong One’ without even being aware of it. All I know is that it happened at an early age. As the oldest sibling in my family, I am the ‘Big Brother’ to everyone or the one that is always the model of consistency. So in some ways I took on a semi-parent role at a young age where I put my sisters first above myself because my mother was a single parent who worked multiple overtime shifts to give us the life she thought we deserved.
However, over time you learn that if you don’t let family/friends live their lives without being the supporting bridge over the river mistakes that are inevitable in life, you will create a dependency for them to always seek your assistance. However, when you make that decision to focus on your own life, you realize that being ‘The Strong One’ means no one makes an effort to check if you are going through any challenges. There is not even a question that you may need an ear to vent your fears, struggles, and life frustrations.
So over the years ‘The Strong One’ has to develop their own ways of working/coping through their own challenges without a pillar of their own to guide them through the rough patches.
Everyone marvels at the consistency ‘The Strong One’ exemplifies. They are treated analogically like professional athletes. As long as they continue to produce on the field and fulfill their entertainment duties or provide the support you need in your life in this case, you are blinded enough to not see they need support as well. They are just expected to be a machine and be light for everyone through it all.
I remember a specific real life scenario between me and my bestfriend/business partner Susie K., where I had to explain that I wasn’t a machine and needed time to be human. Where even as a friend who knew the inner workings of how physically and mentally demanding being a chef was I still had to remind her that I was human. That I needed time to recover and decompress so I can be the Rishone that everyone knows.
When I first started my business as Plated Soul I started it as a customized meal prep service. At one point I had quite a few clients that I made meals for on a weekly basis. That menu creating process for each client was something I thoroughly enjoyed but it was drawing energy from every part of my being to meet my extremely standards every week.
The crazy details of what that entails are not necessary to share but let’s just say from Thursday through early Monday evening I was locked in mentally, creatively, physically, and spiritually. Needless to say, at the end of every week I was so exhausted on so many levels that I wasn’t even aware of.
As you all may know, every week for the past 6 years Susie K and I meet on Monday evenings to evaluate how the week went for Musicality Central and what we needed to do to make the following week even better. That involves diving into client class experience, how to set the atmosphere, how to cater to new clients, how to cater to our regular clients, how we delivered our material, what routines were next, what workshops were next, Ad campaigns, collaborations with other businesses, email marketing ect ect… A few meetings in a row after a rough weekend cooking for my clients I realized I was becoming more and more short with Susie in these meetings. I literally had no more patience or capacity for anything not straight to the point. We would go down our to do list and I would respond with: ‘Next, keep it moving, OK solution, what is the solution or Can we get to that next week? I was unaware that I was trying to get through the meeting as quickly as possible so I could go home and decompress. Also though Susie is my best friend, she was also one of my clients at the time. I expected her to understand how tough my weekends were especially because I would tell her how taxing it was as a whole. However, most times expectations are a false sense accountability that doesn’t exist in the world of the person you desperately want to notice when you are going through some challenges.
She would move through our meetings not acknowledging how much stress load I had just carried for 4 days straight with no breaks. With all that I was still expected to be happy, patience, and always supportive. I was still expected to deliver a certain level, a certain standard, a certain product despite the exhausted state I was in.
This threw me for a dead spin of emotions so I took some time to evaluate my business, life, how I existed in my world of stress, and my own part in how people treat me. Especially if my best friend was treating me the same way everyone else does during this time.
It made me realize that you determine how people treat you. If you are real about what you are experiencing and what capacity you have to handle life then people will treat you accordingly. If you give the perception that everything is always good and you go through life like a machine then people will treat you that way. So we had a real conversation about what I was going through, took responsibility for how I was showing due to my stress load and the time I needed to decompress in order to be 100% myself. Most importantly I had to ask her to see me as a human.
Additionally, in society male fragility is not a thing so as a male you are not expected to express your emotions, insurmountable challenges, and communicate that you are going through a hard time without looked as weak. And that you are not sure you are going to make it through. But because you have faced so many of these challenges on your own you know no matter how hard it gets, you know you have a high percentage of surviving so you hold your head down, tuck your emotions in temporarily, and you push through.
If you have someone in your life that always seems to have it all together, that has been there for you 100% of the time, and always seems to be happy, have a real conversation about what they are going through. Now, think really hard. This Thanksgiving know that it could be your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your uncle, your really nice neighbor, or that teacher that is always there for you. Don’t assume they are always ‘OK’ because they make life easier or more enjoyable for everyone. Care enough to ask how they are really doing. Most times it may take asking them what’s going on with them a few times for them to share but they really, really want to. You just have to treat them like they are human, like they treat you. Listen, not just to listen, but also to genuinely offer your help in anyway you can and realy mean it. Even if you don’t understand completely, ask them how you can help. Always remember how hard it is to go through your own challenges even with someone there to help you through. Imagine what someone who rarely ask for help is experiencing. Never assume ‘The Strong One’ doesn’t need help. They need you to help them take off their cape every now and then.