I Am Not the Strong Friend Anymore

Photo by Leighann Blackwood on Unsplash

Being the "strong friend" is a scam, manipulative, and promotes one party giving one sided emotional labor for free in the name of "friendship". I'm not being that person anymore. I'm done. It's the same thing as being the "bigger person". 

I pride myself on being a Jacqueline of all trades, cultured, well rounded, intelligent, confident. In real life, not just online via my blog and social media pages. Not bragging, just stating what I can back up. I also realized I was the strong friend ever since I was a child. It really started amping up during my teen years in high school. 

I'm the only and oldest girl in my family, so I've taken on some (not too overwhelming) responsibilities especially with having special needs brothers. I also come from a line of amazing, nurturing women. My great grandmother was a nurse and so is my mother, so that's where I get this spirit of helpfulness, knowledge, and ambition from. I've been blessed to have been promoted to an assisting leadership position at work and dabble in entrepreneurship. 

Unfortunately, being someone who wears so many hats and walking down a path of leadership does not always mean there's reciprocation when it comes to relationships. In my experiences, it's opened a window to be taken advantage of. You're the platonic "clean up woman" (R.I.P. Betty Wright). This doesn't mean the people who may not reciprocate equally do not love or care for us, but it's still hurtful and unfair nonetheless.

To make matters worse, there's a stigma called the "strong Black woman" trophe that has given the okay to masculinize and overburden Black women into taking more than what we should whether it be in the work place, family roles, or in romantic relationships. Ironically, while watching YouTube videos listening to other people's perspectives on being the "strong friend", I noticed many were made by other Black women. There's no doubt in my mind there's a connection between the two. Crazy enough, in my experience other women have benefitted off the strong Black women trophe as much as men and other people in other communities.

I realized I was the friend who was the therapist, cheerleader, walking encyclopedia giving free information on everything ranging from skincare to natural medicines, the ride or die, researcher, you name it. Again this isn't me bragging, it's just the reality. When someone was hurt or betrayed, I was there vowing not to associate with anyone who dared to do my friend dirty. When someone was dealing with goofies, I was there breaking down their toxic and abusive personality traits since I dubbed myself a Great Value expert on narcissism and sociopaths since I experienced it one too many times. 

When it was my turn? I was ignored. When I was disrespected and shit on by a mutual party? I was pretty much told to get over the disrespect and scolded for how I choose to respond to someone mistreating me while I was nothing but good to them. Let me tell you, it's always telling when folks respond to how you react and not to what you're reacting to or questioning why said party did what they did to you. 'Nother story for another time. While some "strong friends" keep quiet about their pain, struggles and issues, I am always vocal about my experiences. 

Maybe it's the stereotypical "Taurus" in me but, loyalty to a fault is what it's called. I'm not writing any of this out of self pity, anger, bitterness, or shade, but out of realization and healing. I have had my petty and bad moments as a friend. I can look back and old friendships and experiences and pinpoint exactly what I did wrong and what I could have done better. 

However, I know I'm a damn good friend overall. I don't regret being the strong friend because deep down inside it's reflective of who I am. It's righteous to be that type of person especially in a world and society where people are selfish. But I don't want to blindly be the strong friend anymore. I'm not saying every single last one friends never had my back (although some didn't or turned out to be fake), but I was always the one going above and beyond, being understanding, being honest, giving unlimitedly. No more. 

I saw a few tweets stating that "being the bigger person is a con". So is being the "strong friend". People take advantage of you being understanding, wanting the best for others, and being solid within yourself to the point excuses for poor behavior are constantly made. As long as people can lean on the strong friend and use guilt for them to be the bigger person aka the pourer, they don't have to do do the work themselves. 

When other people act of character, you're supposed to "understand".

When other people do not communicate and are not honest, you're supposed to be the one to speak up. While they respond with lies.

When other people are disrespectful and show you how they really feel about you with their actions, you're supposed to take the high road.

I realized I was being emotionally manipulated in a very subtle way with the "woe is me" lines, folks running to me every time they were in a mess, and being told that it was my responsibility to pick up the pieces when other people messed up with me. This made me see that I was trauma bonding with some people and that being understanding was being used against me when I decided to walk away from associations that hurt me.

I want my loyalty, energy, care, and efforts matched. Not me being the resource guide for others and Dollar Tree Iyanla Vanzant, beloved. Especially not when it's met with disloyalty, lies, disrespect, jealousy, and competiveness. Being confident, comfortable with myself, and well rounded is not an invitation for others to come into my space and take advantage even if it's not in a malicious way. 

Your strong friends don't just need for you to "check up on them" (in reference to a meme I've seen on social media), they also need you to step your game up and pour into them as they've poured into you. 

I'll do you one better by saying there is no such thing as a "strong friend" because people should be pouring into each other equally. The term also lowkey denotes that in reverse the opposite party is "weak". We all have our strengths and weaknesses generally speaking, but relationships should not just be one person overly pouring into someone else. This even opens up issues for resentment, jealousy, envy, competition from the other party. Ask me how I know. Been there, done that one too many times and I could write a detailed book on it. Having these kind of power dynamics and polar opposites, even unintentionally, in friendships sometimes can a recipe for disaster. 

If this was a romantic relationship situation, we'd be quick and direct to state hat one party was taking advantage of the other and even being emotionally abusive, an emotional vampire, etc especially if a man is doing this to a woman. So why in platonic situations do we have to pretty up these similar toxic actions performed within friendships, especially in cases where this is done in women friendships? In my opinion, I find that in analyzing toxicity in friendships, the more passive and subtle actions are overlooked and people only pay attention to blatant and obvious signs of abuse. Another discussion we'll have in the future. 

Being the "strong friend" can sometimes mean being the emotional dumping ground. We're not your second mothers or free therapists. We have feelings and a right to be taken care of and cared for too. Don't simply "check up on us" as even that action can be bare minimum af, match us or move around. 

As for now, I'm only obligated to be the strong friend for myself. While I have compassion for people, always going out my way and above and beyond is not in my ministry anymore. 



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