Offering hope to those on the path behind me

Being Strong and Resilient comes from Pain

Are your Strong and Resilient? If so, I’m sorry you have had to go through whatever it is you have been through in your life.

If you have ever been inside a gym or followed any personal trainer or motivational speaker, you have seen/heard:


And if you are a cancer patient or a caregiver for a cancer patient, you have likely heard:


Or maybe you have lost a loved one, a parent, or a spouse and as you try to put your life back together you might have heard:


But do you know what all of these things have in common? In order for someone to know you are Strong or Resilient, you had to endure Pain.

Admittedly, I would love to not have these descriptors when friends, or others, see me trying to keep my life moving forward.

It all starts with You Are So Strong. Apparently, you have to have strength before you can have resilience. Resilience is built by having to be strong time after time.

I have had doctors and therapists tell me I am resilient. At first, it sounds like a compliment. But really, it is just a placeholder. They are trying to wrap their head around everything I shared and wondering where do we start. I’ve actually seen it in their face. The eyes are the giveaway: they bulge or become as big as quarters. Then they clear their throat or look down at their notebook to hide it And finally they say it: You are so Resilient

Pick up the smiling mask

After hearing how resilient I am over and over,

I realized every time I heard it, I put on a mask. In fact, I put the mask on before the words are even spoken. I know when something happens, it is time to pull out the mask and put it on. The words are going to come.

The mask I put on has a smile on it. It is uncomfortable to me but makes the people around me comfortable.

[As an enneagram 9, I used to think that outward peace was more important than inward peace – thus the mask].

For the past 3 months, I have picked up the smiling mask again. Between learning my mother-in-law was diagnosed with liver disease and liver cancer and breaking my femur. Friends saw my smiling face and knew that once again, I would bounce back.

Last week, before my mother-in-law passed away, when I looked in the mirror, I realized I was staring back at the smiling mask. I had been lying to myself. I believed all of the voices telling me how strong I am, how resilient I am.

This week the grief came back. Another chance to build resilience.

My mother-in-law passed away a week ago.

It brought back all of the pain of my husband passing away five and a half years ago -and the mask began to crack.

Using my walker the past 7 weeks was a reminder of the pain in 2010 when I first learned my hip had been destroyed by metastatic breast cancer.

And 2011 when my hip was rebuilt with 3 different prostheses.

And 2017 when I had to have surgery to remove the infected prostheses and learn to walk without a hip joint – and the mask cracked some more.

This week I broke down. Took the mask off and cried. But only in my own house.

The question is am I strong enough to leave the mask off when I am talking to friends.

I’m beginning to realize that true strength is allowing others to see me without the mask and resilience will be built by keeping the mask off.

True strength comes from the unmasking


  1. Cecilia Elaine Adamson

    I hold space for you in my heart . Allowing yourself to feel is the most courageous choice of all . Hugs.

  2. Cathy Troutner

    Powerful post. Thanks for sharing your pain and process with us.

  3. nancyspoint

    Hi Kim,
    Such a good post. Calling someone strong and resilient is supposed to be a compliment, but as you wrote, this means you had to go through something hard – or you presently are. I am writing about this very thing in my new book. Resiliency is great but…Anyway, wonderful piece. I tucked it in my weekly email I send to my readers. Hope that was ok. And your last sentence – so profound. And important.

    I’m so sorry about your mother-in-law and your broken femur.

    Keep writing.

    • Kim

      Thankyou for sharing with your readers, Nancy. And thank you for the condolences.

  4. Tina Cotton

    Oh wow, Kim. I’ve known you as you were going through part of this journey, but only is it now that I too am going through a similar journey if my own, do I truly relate. You nailed it! These are my thoughts exactly. I have not been able to explain the conflict that I feel between the face I have in public, or on social media, and the one that I wear a lot of the time in the privacy of my home or with my spouse. These words are real. Are we ever really as strong as others tell us we are? I spend a lot of time convincing myself that I am. I am tough, and yet…

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