Growing up in a small country town I was taught that strength was being physically strong and also never showing your real feelings or pain. It took me many decades to realize nothing could be further from the truth!
Looking back it’s hard to distinguish who to blame for these incorrect notions, whether it was my family and others or society at large, although I can clearly see where my immediate environment deviated many times from social norms when it comes to the way it regarded physical pain and emotional pain. Regretfully my upbringing resulted in a very unrealistic understanding of pain, empathy, endurance, respect and coping.
However as I matured and experienced the world I realized that the forms of strength I was familiar with growing up have very little to do with the human strengths that I admire today.
The notion that personal strength means not speaking about painful things, not showing emotions, not showing love, not offering empathy and not being vulnerable seems completely ridiculous to me today. Especially now.
Although many of those I grew up with may still cling to the belief that being tough or strong means being silent and emotionless I feel much more able now to reject this notion and leave those people to their convictions and their fate.
I have been able to construct my own understanding of personal strength based on my experiences of life and the world, and I feel much more comfortable with doing this with each passing year.
It has been my experience that personal strength has almost nothing to do with physical abilities or emotional suppression, in fact the very notion seems absurd to me now. I can’t believe that I bought into such an idea for so long!
The types of personal strengths that I admire today are such things as daring to try new ideas and open our minds to alternative thoughts and experiences; even when they test our long held beliefs. There is true strength in continuing to keep going after many failures or mistakes and yet still determined to carry on regardless.
There is exceptional strength in revealing our real thoughts and feelings even though we don’t know how they will be received. Only those who have had felt the pain of rejection yet still choose to be a feeling and emotionally giving person will ever know the strength required.
There are incredible amounts of personal strength required when you face daily pain and struggle and yet you choose to keep going and keep living for the benefit of others, to help them rather than for any personal benefit. This is something very few people today can appreciate especially when society keeps sending messages about entitlements and personal power. Very few comprehend the notion of responsibility and living for altruistically.
There is enormous strength needed to forgive others for the deep pains they have caused us and even more strength to forgive ourselves for the pain we have caused. The ability to still believe in ourselves and find beauty in ourselves when the world turns its back or closes its mind is something so difficult that it levels any physical pain to obscurity.
In this era of disposable and replaceable living it is harder to hold on to things than to simply push them aside.
True emotional maturity and personal growth requires far more strength and commitment than does physical strength and muscle power. Time and time again I have seen people admire things which look impressive but lacks deeper substance and meaning.
Finally, it has been my experience that believing in yourself, your worth, your beauty and your truth takes Herculean strength that very few people posses or are taught to nurture.
Time and time again I have had my self worth and value questioned and my honesty and credibility challenged by friends, family, loved ones, society and by the medical profession simply because I have diseases that affect my physical abilities and capabilities! I can say without fear of contradiction that facing all this and yet still choosing to go on and hold on to self respect and dignity is the hardest thing anyone will ever do and those who continue to do this, day after day, are the strongest people you will ever meet in this world!