As an oncology social worker, I feel fortunate that I love my work and that I’m always learning. During my breast cancer support group this week, a group member shared a different perspective that shifted my thinking on a particular topic.
Our group discussion turned to well-meaning things people say (a.k.a. sayings which are often annoying and/or off-putting). One group member shared that she doesn’t like when people say to her “you’re so strong” or “you’re so brave” or “I don’t think I could go through this experience as well as you are”… or all of the above!
In my groups, this topic has come up countless times. Typically everyone (including me) agrees that these sayings sound patronizing and that they are often said to make the other person feel better… but then another group member shared that she feels differently. She shared that when someone says these words to her, she hears validation. She also hears that she is strong and brave, and that she is handling her situation really well under very difficult circumstances. This member also shared that she hears comments that don’t feel good… but that these comments, being discussed in the group, feel supportive and good to her.
The group and I really appreciated hearing her perspective. She enabled us to see that these comments can be supportive and validating, and not just unwanted sympathy as many of us assume.
How do you feel when someone says to you, you’re so strong; you’re so brave; I don’t think I could go through this experience as well?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to talking more here.
Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.
The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.