We talk about strength so often, ‘she’s so strong’ ‘he has such strength’ but what does it actually mean? And does it mean the same to you as it does your neighbour?
A quick Google search will show you multiple definitions we have for the word.
I would say my husband is incredibly strong, he can bench 120kg and barely break a sweat but I would say that his mental strength far surpasses anything he can do physically. It would have to for him to survive me everyday!
In our family, and amongst friends, I have always been seen as strong, robust or a bouncy ball as they used to say ‘always bouncing back’. At some point in life, after so many bounces, you begin to loose your elasticity and your once bubbly and energetic bounce becomes more of a hauling yourself off the floor whilst trying to not cause further damage or sustain long term injury.
I really do feel like that bouncy ball, a year or 2 ago you could have kicked me down and pushed me round, you would have found that I still come back smiling. Today I’m a much more fragile kind of ball perhaps more glass than bounce. A pretty strong type of glass mind, just much more open/transparent and a little less bouncy.
So I fall harder and I recover slower. Does that make me ‘weak’ or any less strong? It all depends on your interpretation of strength. Before my mental health got really bad, bouncing back was part of my nature and not something I found so difficult. Now days I find myself taking the negative things in life much more to heart and they affect me more deeply. My mental health can be both my best friend and my bully. And there is no harder bully to battle than your own mind.
If somebody makes it into work when they really don’t want to but I only just make it to my living room, does that make them mentally stronger than I am? What most people fail to realise is that to some, making the smallest steps can be the biggest achievement. For me, getting on a bus or going to a social event is one the bravest things I can do and is a time where I show incredible strength. Because strength is relative.
Lifting 120kg on the moon might not be all that impressive so it really depends upon which planet you’re starting from. To me the rest of the world experiences set backs, and life in general, relative to the gravity on the moon. I on the other hand can experience them relative to the gravity at the centre of the earth. It’s still the same amount of weight, technically, but our ability to hold the weight and the pressure it places upon us are very different depending on where we stand.
Just because you might handle a situation different to someone else or because you can’t work 24 hours 7 days a week doesn’t mean that the person who can is stronger than you.
The times when we are at our strongest are when we are most scared but continue anyway. When we ‘feel the fear but do it anyway’.
We are all uniquely and independently strong. There is no such thing as that awful phrase ‘man up’ which disgusts me to my core. What does it even mean? The words ‘you hit like a girl’. Where does that even come from? They’re ‘weak’ or they ‘just can’t handle it’ you have no idea what that person is having to ‘handle’, not a clue.
The next time you feel the need to compare your ‘weakness’ to someone else’s strength, ask yourself, are we dealing with this problem under the same gravity?
Yesterday I did something that made me terrified. I thought I was going to faint the whole way there. I even had a friend kindly come along to provide support. Part of me was kicking myself for not being ‘strong enough’ to not cry, to be head strong, to face the fear alone. But do you know what? I did it. I was strong not because I wasn’t scared when others might not be, not because I was ‘head strong’ or ‘determined’ but because I was absolutely and completely terrified and yet, I still did it.
“I was powerful not because I was’t scared but because I went on so strongly, despite the fear.”
Never mistake your silence for weakness, your kindness for acceptance. Never believe you are not enough because today your head and mental health was just too much to fight. Today you are alive because you win your fight every day. And for that you are the strongest person I know.
Do not be afraid to be afraid.