treat me like I’m fragile

(occasionally. with care, consistently)

valentina citra
4 min readJan 1, 2024
source: pinterest

About months ago, my office's building management was conducting a fire drill simulation, and I have an amusing story about this.

In that fire drill simulation, I had to go down the emergency stairs from the 18th floor. Thanks to the daily walk from and to the bus stop and the absence of my motorbike, my legs are strong enough now. The fire drill simulation was smooth. But later on, we heard something serious. Someone said that a girl with shoulder-length hair from my project got stuck on the 6th floor and could not move because of vertigo.

“Shoulder-length hair girl? That must be Alen,” said someone and some people agree with them.

Yet, one of my workmates refuted it. “Nah, that can’t be Alen. Alen is strong, she’s not that weak.”

When I heard that story from her, I laughed. Because yes, that girl wasn’t me. During that commotion, I was outside of the building smoking my cig with my other workmates. Luckily, the girl that was mentioned before had already been rescued.

That one event got me thinking. So even now people always perceive me as someone strong, huh?

If we go back to the past, I’ve heard people calling me strong since I was a little girl with Daoming Si as one of her childhood crushes. I don’t know why even back then people called me strong. All I know was they were just complimenting me and that was nice. I was a naive child, you know.

As time went by, the strong remark remained. I didn’t say that is a bad thing. In fact, that compliment boosts my confidence. I felt like I had this superpower and could turn myself into Power Ranger or Ultraman. I felt proud because people saw me as a strong and reliable person who always found a way to figure out something.

There was this time when I was in college. I had this task from my lecturer that needed to be done in a group. So I came to my friend’s house and we finished the task at night. This friend’s house is in a village and the road to his house is dark. When we were about to leave his house, the boys offered the girls some companionship like, “Do you want me to accompany you to the main road since the road is dark?”

And guess what? No one offered me that. They said something like, “Alen doesn’t need that, she can do it by herself. She’s brave and don’t forget that she’s a he.” Yes, some people see me as a boy because of my boyish appearance. Even until now when I put on my makeup. I mean, yes, I’m not afraid of dark roads and I can get to the main road safely but a bit of chivalry is still fine, right?

My aunt from my dad’s family’s side also thinks the same. My friends too. Even my manager thinks the same. My parents also do the same. A lot of people think that I can do everything on my own and do not need any help. Heck, even my parents almost never check on me. It’s like they have this huge faith that despite everything I’m still alive somehow.

But I guess something was wrong since I found in the realization years later that I have this tendency to not ask for help.

Alen, you’re so strong.”

“You always can figure it out, Alen.”

Those words pierced deep into my soul. I thought I couldn’t ask for any help because I’m strong. Because if I ever ask for help, most people will look at me with puzzled eyes and proceed to say, “Alen, you can make it through.” Yep, they brush me off.

Those things molded me into someone who has difficulty asking for help. Since most of them always belittle me every time I ask for help. I have no choice but to become strong and independent. I have to be strong even at times when I don’t want to.

After a lot of confusion, struggles, and talking sessions with a psychologist as a form of journey to know myself deeper, I realized that being strong in my case is not an achievement or accomplishment. It could be considered as a trauma response.

And let me tell you, it is so hard for me to let myself be weak, fragile, and vulnerable. It is still hard for me to ask for help. It took me aback when I asked for help and someone helped me. That felt strange. I was (and am) always wondering, “Am I allowed to ask for help? Am I not bothering them?”. After years of being so independent, that kind of response is very common.

If you think that I’m a strong person, I appreciate that. Thank you for thinking of me that way. But I want to be fragile sometimes, you know? Because when something is fragile, you treat it with such care. Because I’m just a mere human who can break too. I have feelings. Although I have a not-so-friendly face, I feel things deeply. So don’t treat me like I’m strong 24/7. Treat me like I’m fragile, with care, with tenderness, with gentleness.

For my people who have ever seen me in my fragile state and stay, I wish you all the good things in the world. No words could explain how much I love you all.



valentina citra

a living mayhem with wandering mind | write in ina / eng | @aleviannt_