I’ve found the true meaning of strength: being emotionally transparent with others

We all deserve support and care – tell others how are you truly feeling

During my teenage years, there were a lot of changes taking place and events that I never would have imagined would occur, all during the supposed best years of my life. Every day was a battle I was fighting alone and silently.

Those around me knew of some of my struggles but not most of them. I began to internalise the pain I felt and hide behind my convincing deception of “I’m fine”, when in reality I had never wanted someone to notice more that I needed help. The thing is, I didn’t want to worry anyone, and part of me didn’t want to admit to myself or anyone around me who praised my strength, that I was finding it so difficult to get through my days when others were managing perfectly fine.

However, it dawned on me that if I was pretending so well, those peers of mine who I envied for seeming so happy were probably doing just as persuasive an act as I was.

According to a recent survey, 90 per cent of young people respond to the question "how are you doing?" with either "grand", "fine", "okay" or "all right", despite feeling worse than the word they used. It's answers like these that have led 50808 – a free 24/7 anonymous text service – to launch the campaign #GetPastGrand, which encourages young people to skip the small talk and be open with others about how we're truly feeling. It's no wonder we show hesitance in opening up when there's so many possible implications that can hurt us further if we risk being vulnerable.



In the time I’ve been volunteering, I became aware of the apathy for the hardships others have faced. I learned the dismissal they received shaped their attitude to bringing problems to light in the future. This resonates with me still due to the fact that in my own experience, with some individuals, it reinforced and amplified my fear of being a burden, being too much to handle. I think this is a natural fear. I’m also aware that this is a significant issue for men in particular. For too long it has been a common assertion that men show strength in their silence, that true masculinity is only ever present in remaining stone-faced in view of others.

Bottling up my emotions was wreaking havoc on my physical and mental health and I reached my breaking point. I broke down and suddenly that habit of mine of saying “I’m grand” so flippantly was broken. What surprised me is that instead of the dismissal and silence I had been dreading, I was instead faced with overwhelming support and empathy.

It was like I could finally breathe again, and once I got past saying “I’m not okay”, it got easier to talk about what I really felt. As a result of these challenges, I found my passion was to help others with their mental wellbeing and being a support for those who needed it because I want to offer the comfort to others that I had craved for so long.

In the same survey, 68 per cent of people said they would feel better if they had more opportunities to talk about how they’re feeling in their lives. Being honest and making our feelings known to others takes immense bravery, and there are several actions we can take to be there for one another. If someone comes to you, I’d encourage you to give them the safe space they need. It’s important we give uninterrupted time to someone to talk about their difficulties. It’s imperative to remember that it’s not necessary to find solutions.


By listening intently, we’re walking with that person through their pain and in that way they feel less alone which can make a real difference and help them feel better. Leave judgment outside of the conversation and instead put yourself in their shoes so that you can better grasp what they’re going through. If they’re finding it hard to open up, it can be beneficial to let them know you’re there for them and that you’re thankful for them trusting you. I feel one of the most important things is to ask twice. As I’ve shown from my own experience and the results found from the 50808 study, it can be easy to shrug off the truth for an easy and short “I’m okay”, but if we ask again, that shows that we truly care and we notice a difference, that we want to be there for them.

Through my own struggles and supporting those who I text with through volunteering, I’ve found the true meaning of strength: being emotionally transparent and aware of what we’re going through with others. A defining factor in my choice to explain how I was feeling, I thought about what I’d think if a loved one came to me seeking support. This resulted in the instant urge of wanting to be someone they could talk to about anything at anytime.

It would only make sense that those that care for me would want to do the same if only they knew I was in a tough place. We all deserve support and care.

There’s no shame in feeling, it only makes you stronger.