Mental Health

Think You’re Not Strong Enough? Think Again.

Think You’re Not Strong Enough? Think Again.
Published: 2020-12-23
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You've worked hard to get to this point. You've been training and practicing and learning and honing. You've been failing and succeeding, pushing forward, falling back, and pushing forward again.

And perhaps somewhere along the way, you stalled. Maybe the next goal seems just too big or too difficult. Maybe you're suddenly waking up at night and doubting yourself, your confidence crumbling. You might have fought your way to where you are, and for some reason (known or unknown), now you're feeling like you just can't go any further.

You used to feel like you could cope with things going sideways. You thought you were a pretty strong person and now your biggest challenge is to believe it. Your head is filled with thoughts of all you know and have experienced, but you're just not sure it's enough to take the next steps forward. So you're stuck.

There's a big difference between intelligence and ability, and knowledge and experience. Intelligence and ability speak about your potential; knowledge and experience speak about how far you've come in reaching it...so far.

Consider this: When you were born, you couldn't understand a word. You couldn't lift your head. You had no sense that you were a separate being from others who appeared in your field of vision. You didn't understand that you had a body, or that those things flying past your face now and then were your hands, or that you could move them at will. You had to learn all of that and more, how to feed yourself, how to walk, communicate, and countless other tasks as you developed down the years.

You wouldn't take a kid from kindergarten and stick him in university. That little kid needs to discover so much about himself; he needs to learn a lot of information in between those two stages of life. As he progresses through the years, he is confronted with problems and countless places where he does not know what to do next. He builds on what he knows from his learning and experience, whether in school, at home, or anywhere else.

If you've found yourself in the bottom of a pit where you feel powerless or stuck, if you're having a meltdown, a depression, if you're falling apart or just having some trouble coping and all of this makes you believe you're not strong, it doesn't mean that you aren’t.

Perhaps things have been ticking along just great for most of your life and you've been lucky enough not to have had to cope with a lot of grief and misery before now. Because of your lack of experience in handling the harder parts of life, you think you're not strong - but really, you just haven't had to be - until now.

Or maybe you've been slammed by too many problems at once, or one giant one; you were broadsided and it's taking a while to recover and you can't figure out why you always coped before but you're not coping very well right now. That's okay. You can be overwhelmed for now but it doesn't mean you're not strong.

Since I was a young adult, people have told me how "strong" I am. And sometimes they tell me they aren't as strong as I am - and even worse, they say they "never could be." Well, first of all, I suppose if that's what they believe, that's what they'll get, and they'll never discover certain truths about strength, or their own capabilities.

And I have to add, I hope they'll never have to be as strong as I am, because of what I've had to go through in order to get here.

I can tell you that back in those early days as an adult, struggling as a single parent with a mess of other insanity in my life and battling numerous significant anxiety disorders on top of it, I sure didn't feel strong. To make matters worse, I was pretty much alone in the world. I didn't have a support system and I had to figure it out for myself. I fought my way through some pretty awful stuff and somehow managed to hold things together on the outside. No one saw what was a complete mess I was on the inside.

I was 19, divorced, a high school dropout with a ten-month-old baby to look after by myself. Her father had been transferred to another province and the emotional wreck that I was, I had no idea how I was going to look after myself, much less a baby. Those issues were actually the least of my problems, but they were what made me begin to overcome the rest of the nightmare I was living.

To be honest, things got a whole lot worse for a long time before they ever got better, and all the while I was discovering the first and most important truth about strength. I learned that until you need it, it's one of those untapped resources inside yourself. It's not like you run out and have to zip down to the Strength Store to get some, and then presto, you're strong. Nope. It's something you find inside yourself - if you want it or need it badly enough.

It reminds me of a favourite childhood memory…on the way to rare visits to my grandparents’ farm and the only place I ever felt safe, there was a spring at the side of the road. Fresh, icy cold, beautiful water poured out in a constant stream from deep inside the earth. It always amazed me that it was just there, year after year, a never-ending supply of it for passersby to enjoy. Whether people stopped to drink it or if they drove past, it was always there…just like the strength that is buried within your soul and just waiting for you to discover it.

The most important truth about strength is this: It is a decision. Simple as that. You create it just as soon as you make the decision that you will keep going until you reach your goal. Or until things improve or you’ve reached whatever milestone you're aiming to achieve.

You create strength inside yourself as soon as you insist that you'll figure it out, find an answer, or resolve the problem. And because all you have to do to be strong is make that decision, there is a never-ending supply of it available to you.

At times, you may be worn out, overwhelmed, and needing a "time out" to refill that supply. That's okay. Be gentle with yourself and trust that you'll connect with your strength once again after you have a little rest, or when you borrow a little by leaning on people who care about you, much like boosting a car battery.

It's often easier to be strong when there is someone else relying on you, someone for whom you feel responsible. Even pets fill this role. For example, studies prove that people who have pets to look after will recover from illness or injury a lot quicker than people who have no one relying on them. But to dig deep and find your strength because you need it is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

Another important truth about strength is that like everything else in life, it must be balanced. It's great to find your strength. But not at the expense of your vulnerability. It is okay to need others, to lean on those who care about you, and to accept help when it is offered. And it's okay to ask for it, too.

None of that should be seen as weakness either. In fact, it takes strength to allow others to see your vulnerability. I know...that's not easy to swallow. This is usually because we're terrified of our vulnerability. We don't like our "weaknesses." We might even try to ignore them or we do our best to hide them - even from ourselves.

We might worry that when people discover them, they'll use them against us. It's true, sometimes that does happen, but it can only hurt you if you choose to let it bother you. It's also true that if people do that to you, it says a lot more about them than it does about you...

If you can embrace your beautiful vulnerability, you'll begin to appreciate that it's a precious part of your soul and the essence of what makes you "you." There is great strength in the awareness and acknowledgement of this.

It’s like when there’s a crack or a weakness in the foundation of a building. If you ignore it, you’ve got a potential disaster on your hands. If you pay attention to it, repair it or fortify it, the whole building becomes stronger.

You are no different.

So if you catch yourself feeling stuck and challenged to keep moving forward, if you feel like you're not strong enough to blast through whatever is going on, or you think you're not as strong as someone else, just remember this: The Strength Store isn't "out here somewhere.” It's right there inside yourself. It may take a little practice to find it, but you've already got all the strength you'll ever need.