The strength in showing weakness

Back when I started my career in journalism it was an industry built around tough, no-nonsense newsrooms where the only thing that mattered was getting the story.

I spent every day in a heightened state trying to emulate the editors who seemed hardened, fearless, ruthless even – no doubt telling themselves it was all in the pursuit of the truth.

Now I look back and realise the ‘toughest’ characters that I worked with were almost certainly the most afraid.

They stormed, shouted, and pressured their way to getting what they wanted.

But they were only doing as others before them had done. This was the culture that created them.

They, like me, were once a timid new-start in awe of these larger-than-life leaders who could instil fear with just their mere presence.

But I couldn’t tolerate the human cost of trying to shut down my empathy in order to get ahead.

I watched it take its toll on them. Most drank heavily and their personal lives were a mess.

So I veered from news into features – a more comfortable place where I spent my days interviewing fascinating people who had overcome life’s adversities.

They shared their stories with me so openly – from those struggling with extreme physical and health conditions, to those who were turning their experience of loss, poverty, addiction, injury, illness or another challenge into a way of helping and inspiring others.

Their willingness to expose their open wounds in the hope it would save another person from going through it, or would help them through it, was the very definition of strength to me.

What it means to be strong

Strength is raw, it’s vulnerable, it’s honest and it’s giving.

Strength is not closed, judgmental, vengeful, angry and out for itself.

Newsrooms have changed, just as attitudes have changed.

My colleagues in more recent years have been supportive and happy to explore ways to improve their communication and leadership styles.

And while being vulnerable is not always the easiest thing to do in a professional – and sometimes personal – setting, it’s the right thing.

Recently on my channel I spoke with fellow YouTuber Claudia Rolnick of Claudia Glows about our past experiences with eating disorders.

It was an uncomfortable spot for me as someone who was raised in old-school professionalism where you didn’t discuss personal challenges.

But just like those amazing people I had interviewed as a feature writer over the years, I realised we have a duty to open up about the things we struggle with – because in doing so we normalise them.

It’s when we understand that everyone around us feels overwhelmed at times, has struggled and may still struggle with self worth and that this will manifest itself in different ways, that we take the strength out of fear and instead put it into community and camaraderie.