Have you ever found yourself in the bottom of a pit where you felt helpless or powerless? Have you had a meltdown, a depression, or felt like you were falling apart? Or perhaps just having some trouble coping and you believe you’re not strong?
Perhaps your life has been ticking along just great for most of it and you’ve been lucky enough not to have had to cope with a lot of grief and misery before now, so you think, “I’m not strong!” – but really, you just haven’t had to be, so how would you know?
Or perhaps you’ve been slammed by too many problems at once – 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. You can be overwhelmed during challenging times but it doesn’t mean you’re not strong.
Since I was a young adult, people have commented on 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 about their own capabilities. And I have to add that 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 end up like this.
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, I sure didn’t feel strong. But I was alone. 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 still held things together on the outside. No one saw what was a complete mess I was on the inside.
I was 19, divorced, with a ten-month-old baby to look after by myself as her father had been transferred to another province. I was dealing with several anxiety disorders such as OCD, panic attacks, agoraphobia and anorexia. My physical health began to deteriorate as a result of all of that anxiety. Quietly, I developed an addiction to deal with it.
Those 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 but 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 don’t have any and you have to go to the Strength Store and get some, and then presto, you’re strong. It’s something you find inside yourself – if you want it or if you need it badly enough.
How do you do that? It’s a lot easier than you might thing. The most important truth about strength is this: It is a decision. It’s as simple as that. You create it when you make the decision to do so. And that means 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 from others, 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. 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, to lean, or to accept help when it is offered – and to ask for it, too. None of that should be seen as weakness either. It takes strength to allow others to see your vulnerability.
So the next time you catch yourself saying you’re not strong, or you’re not as strong as someone else, just remember the potential is there. The Strength Store isn’t out here somewhere; it’s right there inside you. It may take a little practice to find it, but you’ve already got all the strength you’ll ever need.