I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Strength through Weakness

Not being medically or scientifically trained in any way, I don't know the statistics. But I would bet that if a proper health census were taken, we would find that there are more ill people than healthy ones. And I don't mean ill in the sense that I'm ill - I mean all kinds of things - diabetes, cancer, heart murmurs, strokes, depression, crohns, celiac, cholesterol... there are so many ways that our bodies can and do malfunction.

So why so much stigma around illness, especially invisible illness? And when you think about it, aren't most illnesses, ailments and diseases, including all the ones named above, invisible?

Sociologically and anthropologically speaking the stigma makes sense. Illness is weakness, and not too long ago, we would have slowed down our tribes and/or threatened the safety of the group. I get it. But not so much nowadays. I think the fear that surrounds illness, much like wisdom teeth, is no longer useful and as such needs to change. This post is not an academic argument - I don't have the energy for that ... more of a venting of the frustration I feel at knowing why this is so and that it is slowly changing, but not fast enough for my liking. It's also an attempt to help the change along. Nudge. Nudge. Nudge. Any changes yet?

One of the things I dislike about out society is that it is only acceptable to show weakness in certain situations, and in certain circles. Weakness is perceived as vulnerability, and the stigma which surrounds it is nothing more than a reflection on the sad truth that we do not trust each other. The weak don't trust the strong to take advantage of each others' weakness. The strong don't trust the weak to pull their weight. Speaking in broad generalizations, of course.

However, I believe that weakness is not as it seems. Some weaknesses and weak moments are forced upon us, and those of us that are weakened through such hardship in some aspects of our lives can actually use this to become far stronger in others (like will and hope!) that are just as valuable in today's world. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

Stephen Hawking is my favourite example. If he wasn't physically vulnerable, we'd not have his tremendous knowledge of the universe. Montessori is another one - if she had not had to go through the pain of leaving an illegitimate child to be raised by others, I doubt we would have the benefits of her research - which by the way, have altered the way every school runs, not just Montessori schools (tangent: did you know, she was the first to have child-size furniture made?). Charles Darwin would have been a medical doctor, except he couldn't stand the sight of blood. Thanks to that weakness, we have the whole field of evolutionary studies.

There are tons of stories that mirror this pattern. In fact, I don't remember ever hearing a biography of anybody that didn't have such a story - a failure, a vulnerability, a mistake. Apparently stories without these elements are not interesting enough to write about. Or perhaps, without facetiousness, they are crucial elements of what we call success. So again, I ask, why do we fear them so much?

I'd love to see our society redefine how we view strength and weakness, and I know we are making strides in that direction, and I wish they were faster and bigger strides! As much as they are populist, Phil Donahue, Dr. Phil and Oprah have helped push these issues into the spotlight. They have made it ok for us to talk about abuse and addiction and pure survival. The message? You have to have moments of weakness if you can ever hope to achieve true strength. The blogosphere is teeming with the daily documentation of life in all its gory glory.

The more we talk and write, the more we bring to consciousness that we - all humans - share the common experience of suffering, hardship and weakness, and our individual hardships and weaknesses are what give us our collective strengths.

The more we share our stories, the more we can help others to stop feeling like they have to live in silence. The more we understand each others' differences, and see the strength that comes from adversity, the more we can push our whole society towards a healthier, more emotionally stable space. I really believe this. Yes, I'm a hopeful optimist most of the time.

Ok, all done. You can have the soapbox back now.


  1. "The function of freedom is to free someone else."
    — Toni Morrison

  2. Hope you know how much you inspire me! :)