Home > Communication, Family, Love, Relationships > Stoicism is seriously overrated.

Stoicism is seriously overrated.

My role model growing up did what she had to do. It didn’t matter how she felt about it. She just did it, day in and day out, no matter how she felt.

That, in turn, is how I have been. It doesn’t matter how I feel about most things. What’s important is that I do what I can, as often as I can, to the best of my ability.

Recently I’m discovering there are shortcomings to this approach–like, for example, that even the people closest to me can’t tell when I’m suffering. I’m being retrained to use my words not only for grandiose sentiments such as appear in blogs, but for little important ones like, “I’m overwhelmed.”

Good things: Learning anew to trust my instincts. Getting healthier. Looking forward to posting next Wednesday’s interview with the fantastic Reina Salt. Having 1,294 entries in my almost ended book giveaway. Learning to use my words for new kinds of expression, thanks to gentle encouragement and love, and the lovingly spoken words that inspired this post:

“Honey, you are allowed to be grumpy. You are allowed to be sad. What you are no longer allowed to be is stoic. Be a big gay man at a horror movie. Wear your heart on your sleeve. You know what I’m talking about. ‘No, girl, don’t you run in that alley!'”

Stretching toward light

Stretching toward light

  1. February 28, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I’m naturally pretty stoic too. Or I try to be, anyway, haha. That’s just how men act around here. It can be exhausting though, as you probably well know. There’s a time and a place, but I think that you’re right–it’s often overrated :).

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:13 am

      There definitely is a time and a place for it–just not, as you’re driving at, always and everywhere! I think Anthony’s right to say that it’s important not to always be stoic with one’s S.O., because then how are they ever supposed to know? Or provide appropriate support?

      He’s been stressing that it’s OK to stand tall through something, but to be vocal–at least with him–at the same time, which I’m coming to agree with him more and more has no bearing whatsoever on my strength.

  2. February 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Being raised in a traditional European home, I’ve definitely had my bout with stoicism. My parents were both immigrants and were definitely the ‘doer’ types. They weren’t people of many words. But like you, I have been blessed with a man who’s given me permission to be weak. His influence in this area of my life has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:15 am

      I love how much history you can fit in a few sentences. Maybe someday I’ll be able to emulate that!

      His influence in this area of my life has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. This is awesome in so many ways. I am glad for this, and glad for my own like gift, which I’m just starting to be equipped to receive.

  3. Running from Hell with El
    February 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I am still trying so hard to overcome this distancing from my own emotions. Stoicism served me well for a long time, but now it holds me back from being all I can be. It keeps me feeling like a child when I really need to grow into becoming an adult woman. So here’s to crying like a gay man at a horror flick.

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:19 am

      In my case, I don’t actually distance myself from my emotions; not remotely. The problem is in communicating them: What’s the point? What does it change? Does it change the fact I need to do this and this and this and this and this, and still have energy left over for that? So silence on a day-to-day basis, year after year, has been my preferred approach, but thanks to gentle encouragement on Anthony’s part, I’m coming to see there are times it’s important to express those feelings instead of holding them hostage and telling myself that doing so makes me stronger somehow. (It must be a sign of improvement that looking at the last sentence’s closing words made me giggle and shake my head.)

  4. March 1, 2013 at 4:26 am

    How well I know this stance, this get it done no matter what you are feeling on the inside. I have ripped apart relationships in my failure to say “I hurt”. Whether that pain was physical or my heart hurting, I failed to say the words, I failed to ask for help, I failed to reach out to friends, family or loved ones. It was my failure not theirs, how would they know if I failed to say the words, “I am in pain, I need help.”

    Though I am getting better at asking for help, it is only in baby steps. Maybe someday in the far distant future I will know how to do this effectively. I suspect the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” might be true. My personality is ingrained, only in my writing does any of my hurt ever come through and even then mostly, no it doesn’t does it.

    I am so glad you are learning to let go. You are learning to reach out and be one with your emotional life. I think you will be richer, blessed for it.

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:27 am

      how would they know if I failed to say the words, “I am in pain, I need help.”
      I never thought to ask the question, as recently as a couple of months ago. But for one who puts on a tough facade, no matter how tired or overwhelmed she is, I now understand completely how it would be surprising to an S.O. when words like the following are spoken: “How do you not know how exhausted I am all the time?” Now it seems so clear that when someone’s busy telling herself “IamstrongIamstrongIamstrong,” it would be easy to sell others who only ever see that display, not the struggles involved beneath the facade.

      I hope that saying is not true. I’d like to think it’s something more like “it’s a little harder to teach an old dog new tricks, but damn do they do them well once they’ve got ’em.” ♥

  5. March 1, 2013 at 5:15 am

    I was pretty unaware of my own stoicism until I started to see the same behaviors appear in my daughters. Like mother, like daughter, and I became desperately afraid they would never learn how to ask for help, or allow themselves to be totally vulnerable if I didn’t set a different example. I’m still working on it, but I’m guessing something must have gotten through. The other day, when I was whining and bemoaning something I said, “Oh, this is silly. I should just buck-up and deal.” My older daughter replied, “No Mom, you should just be where you are and ask for help.”
    And there it was, the student had become the teacher.

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:31 am

      I got goosebumps reading that. It also serves as an important reminder that these choices I’m making day to day don’t just impact me and Anthony; they’re serving as lessons for the watchful little one who thinks we know much more than we do.

      I’m glad I’m coming to see, and say, and hope Li’l D will someday say words like, “you should just be where you are and ask for help.”

  6. March 1, 2013 at 5:16 am

    I’m trying to learn the same lesson. It’s hard to undo the protective mechanisms of a lifetime. And hard to face the feeling of suffering, too. But we all deserve to be more than just efficient. While I’ve squelched the pain, I’ve also numbed the feeling of joy. But I was so productive!

    • March 4, 2013 at 5:33 am

      This sentence jarred me: But we all deserve to be more than just efficient. Seeing it put in such bold terms is amazing! A huge “amen” to this. I’m also going to share this with Anthony, so that he can remind me the next time I get in the “just-gotta-grin-and-bear-it-silently” cycle.

  7. March 1, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I never want to be trouble for anyone so I keep things to myself.I think after hiding when I was little from the bad things that is what I need to work on as an adult.It is not always easy to do.I love this post.

  8. March 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I don’t think stoicism is a bad thing, but you’re right; we have to know when it’s OK – no, not OK but necessary – to let the mask fall and ask for what we need. That is really, really tough, and not something I can usually do.

  9. March 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Hi Deb. I’m glad you’re addressing your stoicism now. I was trained to be stoic, too. I wasn’t allowed to cry when I was a child. Here I am in my “golden years” still trying to convince myself that it’s alright to feel, really FEEL. I’m getting pretty good at it.

  10. March 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I’m still trying to convince my partner (after 13 years) that it’s actually kinder to me and the kids when she lets us know how she’s really feeling instead of stuffing it all. Good for you for having the courage to change.

  11. March 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    A time and a place for everything…stoicism does have it’s place, and it sounds like many of us have been raised to have to much pride to appear broken. No one wants to be a whiny complainer. But there is a balance. Sometimes its a hard balance to find. I look at my mother who kept it all in and ended up institutionalized for three weeks and getting ECT. She was so afraid to complain, to ask for help. I was too when I was younger, and I struggle to find the balance too.

    Good for you Deb, in starting the journey– feeling pain and living through it instead of stifling it is good for your mind, your body and your spirit.


  12. March 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Do let me know if you figure this one out — how to stop soldiering on.

    One of the biggest hassles of having a chronic illness is that I try not to complain — it’s so tiresome, boring, etc. — that nobody knows that I really shouldn’t be climbing that mountain or whatever. Ummm, sometimes I really need to let folks know.

  13. March 5, 2013 at 5:51 am

    I love that ending quote!

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