We are strong! Strong people control their emotions, stay loyal no matter what, and serve others until exhausted. Strong is one of the hows I grew up with. Hows are expectations placed upon you by the family you grew up in. Some of the hows are positive and some of the hows are confining and even controlling. Strong became a source of pride for me. When I was strong, my parents were proud. When I was strong, I was admired. When I was strong, I was safe from people seeing deep inside me. Being strong meant I never had to be vulnerable. In fact, being strong protected me emotionally, mentally, and physically.
The day it all came crashing down, I was terrified. How could I possibly live my life if “being strong” was no longer an option? If being strong meant I was avoiding relationship risk and intimacy, then it wasn’t serving me anymore. Being strong kept me safe in a family system where volatility and emotional chaos often were in charge. Being strong was keeping me from being the person I was meant to be in this life. Being strong was blocking me from being seen and truly known. (Click to read more about how I discovered I needed to let go of being strong.)
As I began to sort all of this out, it dawned on me that perhaps being strong and strength might be different. The more I thought about that, the more I became convinced that was where I need to shift in order to leave this particular “how” behind me. I made a list that looked something like this:
Being strong is keeping emotion hidden.
Strength is allowing emotion to flow in order to be seen and understood.
Being strong is never showing fear.
Strength is acknowledging fear is present and using it as fuel to propel through the risk.
Being strong is always having the answers.
Strength is asking questions and exploring possibilities.
Being strong is doing it myself.
Strength is knowing what I do well and what others do well so we can do life synergistically.
You get the point. Shifting from strong to strength empowered me to keep a very good part of my character that was yes, built from the idea of being strong. That character trait is resilience. Resilience is often formed in the darkest of circumstances and becomes the very thing that makes us soar with strength in all areas of our lives.
What is one how you would like to shift in your life? What elements of that how are positive? What elements are best left behind? It’s a daily, sometimes moment by moment, process that needs our awareness and attention. Shifting out of the hows that no longer serve us free us up to be fully present now.