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.
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 around you. 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 that and more, how to feed yourself, walk, communicate, and countless other tasks as you developed throughout the years.
And when it was time for you to go to school, they didn’t stick you in university. There was a lot for you to learn and experience first, and you had to develop skills and confidence.
Perhaps something has happened in your life that has left you feeling like a five-year-old in a university class. Maybe you’ve found yourself in the bottom of a pit where you feel helpless or powerless. Maybe you’re having a meltdown, falling apart or just having trouble coping and you don’t believe you’re not a strong person.
But it doesn’t mean you aren’t.
Perhaps you’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced a lot of grief and misery until now, so you think you’re not strong. But really, it’s just that you haven’t had to be.
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 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 say “I’m not as strong as you are!” – 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 be 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. 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. Those were actually the least of my problems – but all of those challenges were what made me begin to overcome the rest of the nightmare I was living, such as dealing with several significant anxiety disorders, ill health, and other troubles.
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 need it badly enough.
The most important truth about “being strong” is this: It is a decision, really. Simple as that. You become strong by making the decision to keep going, no matter what, and living in that decision moment by moment, day by day, until things improve. And that means there is a never-ending supply of strength 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, 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 you are strong as you choose to be. 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.