I was raised by what I consider to be a strong woman.
My mom rarely shed a tear, forged ahead when she was sick, tired or just plain fed up, and never backs down from anyone. In my eyes, she was afraid of nothing.
So of course this is what I grew up to believe was the definition of strength.
Most people who know me would say that I’m an incredibly strong woman. My strength however is different. It’s a bit more quiet and reserved. I like to think my strength comes from a place of mindfulness and peaceful intentions, instead of an outwardly showy, “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar.”
What I’m finding is that too many of us are telling ourselves we aren’t “strong enough”…mainly women. And this is simply because their definition of strong is flawed.
We believe that being strong means we will never break down and cry…and I’m talking the ugly, fall apart in a million pieces on the floor in the fetal position cry. When the road we are trudging gets too tough, or the emotional pain and heartache too great.
We believe that being strong means we will never back down from something we started or from a person who is verbally attacking us or pressuring us into doing something we don’t want to do.
We may believe that being strong means we will never fear anything… that we will just forge ahead, balls to the wall, and go after everything we want.
None of this is true.
Being strong doesn’t mean any of these things. In fact, these are the most common misconceptions I hear my clients and friends make when they talk about their own ability to be strong or their perception of someone else:
1) Strong people don’t cry. One of the greatest signs of strength in a person, man or woman, is when we allow ourselves to cry and release emotions that get to be too much. Strength is allowing those feelings and that energy to pass through us, instead of repressing them, which is known to cause a litany of other problems such as addictions, chronic fatigue, illness and depression.
Crying shows that we are not scared to be vulnerable or outwardly process our pain. It’s a release that gives our human self permission to feel what is truly there. And to me, that is being strong.
2) Strong people don’t ever back down from other people. There may be times that we may be engaged in an argument with someone, or are being unfairly manipulated and attacked and rather than fight back, we decide to back down. Someone accused me once of being weak when I chose to do this.
I think it takes a lot more strength to back down, hold your tongue and retreat to your corner, instead of lashing out and attacking them back. There is power in backing down and not engaging.
This does not mean we allow somebody to bully us into getting their way or allowing someone to mistreat us. In those instances, we need to stand up for ourselves.
It means that we know intuitively when to be the bigger person and not engage with someone who is not being reasonable or is lashing out at us because of their own “stuff.” We don’t need to take on other people’s stuff. This is when the stronger path is to back off and allow your silence speak for itself.
3) Strong people aren’t afraid. People think that being strong means never being fearful. This isn’t true. All of us have fear. It’s part of being human.
Strength comes when we can embrace fearful situations, and not let them control us. It’s realizing that no matter what comes, we’ll be okay and know that this too shall pass. It’s trusting that the trial or challenge is leading us to something greater.
4) Strong people don’t complain when things fall apart. Of course we do! Most people complain or break down when things fall apart. And sometimes they even cry. They may even feel afraid of what will happen next.
When life unravels, it’s natural to have a mixture of emotions as we process what’s happening. It doesn’t mean we aren’t strong. We can complain for a period of time, but at the end of the day, strength is accepting what is and forging ahead as best we can with what we’ve got.
5) Strong people don’t second guess themselves. We may think that truly strong people know what they want and go after it, never stopping for a second to consider they may be making a mistake or embarking on the wrong path.
Most people second guess themselves on occasion because none of us ever know what the right path is. The truth is, there are no “right” paths in life. There are just paths.
We make choices every day which ones to walk down and pursue, and if they are aren’t working out for us, we hit the reset button, back up and head in a different direction.
Strong people just don’t beat themselves up when they head in a direction that doesn’t work out. They calmly acknowledge it may not have been the right path for them, and continue moving forward with grace, confidence and hope.
If we can let go of these common misconceptions we have about what makes a strong man or women, I think we would all start to see the powerful, quiet strength we all hold within each of us.
We don’t need to be Superman or Superwoman to be considered a strong person. We just need to be willing to walk an authentic path in our lives…knowing that we are capable of anything, that we are all powerful beyond measure and that no matter what happens to us in life, we will always at the end of the day, be okay.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Alex Holyoake/Flickr