Tough armour hides the pain

Maureen Kennedy
Maureen Kennedy

Barbara was one of those people who was always immaculately groomed, always said the right thing, did well in her job and kept socialising at work to a minimum. Her circle of friends was made up mostly of people she was at college with and people she had met through her various outside activities.

She did very well in her job and was regarded as a safe pair of hands. At one time, her line manager obviously felt threatened by her and made her life uncomfortable but she handled it without complaint.

The only negative thing ever said about Barbara was that she was a bit of a cold fish who lacked compassion and understanding of lesser mortals. So when a major reorganisation meant Barbara was made redundant, everyone assumed she would rise above it and move on to another job with ease. What they didn’t know, because she hadn’t talked about it, was that her marriage was on the rocks and her father was terminally ill.

Although maintaining composure in front of most people, she eventually crumbled in front her close friends and the whole pain of her situation was revealed. Because she was always regarded as the strong one, this side of her was a surprise. But it really shouldn’t have been.

The strongest people are not always what they seem. Their tough exteriors, their armour, are often their best defence against attack. Act like it doesn’t bother you and people won’t challenge you or give you a hard time. But inside they are feeling things every bit as much, if not more, than the rest.

Never make assumptions about people. If you feel that someone may be upset or hurt about something, don’t assume they will be fine. Say something nice, send them a note if you can’t speak to them or do something kind for them. They may say no thank you or appear unmoved but the gesture really will mean a lot. There is nothing wrong with being thoughtful and kind.

Many people have feelings but choose not to wear their heart on their sleeve. Why not? It isn’t a weakness to show feelings. It doesn’t make someone less authoritative, in fact it probably makes them more human and that, surely, is a quality we all desire.