Be strong! Can we be strong and not cry or not worry? Is a strong person always confident? Is a strong person someone who faces difficult times, takes a deep breath, picks themself up and keeps going? Such questions can cause a conundrum! Can we be strong and show weakness – place our vulnerabilities on show?
When I was practicing social work, it included using a Strength Based Approach. I would identify the strengths a person or family had and concentrate on these to build resilience in what was a difficult situation. For example, identifying experiences, aspirations, interests and talents? That can be difficult to achieve alone when life is a struggle. The approach does not ignore the reality of the person’s situation but gives the freedom to identify positive building blocks for a better life.
In my life I can concentrate or ruminate about negative experiences but that will not give me a better life. A better way is for me to set goals for myself, do things that I love and built positive experiences into my life. This year, apart from writing, I focused on music. I joined the University of the Third Age (U3A) and I am learning the ukulele. As I played the guitar when I was younger, I found the transition to the ukulele (a four stringed instrument) relatively easy. I have just bought a banjolele (sound like a banjo but played like a ukulele). Music is a great mood booster and strengthens our mental health, building resilience along the way.
I recognise strong people as overcomers. They have faced adversity and dealt with it. Yet, demonstrating strength can be a slow journey. Strength is more about a willingness to complete the journey. If I find myself in the middle of a valley, where there are hardships, I make a decision not to stay there. Strength comes from looking at the choices and making a decision. When in the valley – keep walking! There will come a time when I walk out of the valley and through the journey I grow stronger. That does not mean it is easy. It takes character to continue on in tough times, rather than give up. Helen Keller (she could not hear or see but she gained a Bachelor of Arts Degree) said that ‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.’
I recognise strength in a person when I see perseverance, a consistent moral compass and rock-solid values. They do not waver, even in tough times. A great quote from Robert H. Schuller (an American Pastor, motivation speaker and author) is ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do.’ For years Robert Schuller had a weekly television program the ‘Hour of Power’ broadcast from his Chrystal Cathedral. It is now owned by the Roman Catholic Church.
To be strong is not all about strength. To be strong is also possessing an ability to acknowledge weakness. Not everyone can be strong all the time. That is why we live in families, in communities, in town and cities so we can support one another. Our lives interconnect and it is through this interconnectedness that our strength grows.
In my recently published book ‘Caught in the Crossfire – A Memoir’ I recall an incident in my life when I was at one of my lowest point saying ‘I was unsettled and having trouble sleeping. I made an appointment with a local doctor. Against my will, I broke down in the doctor’s consultation room. While I felt it was a sign of weakness, the doctor said that it was completely understandable in the circumstances.’ Yes, even in the midst of a moment of showing our vulnerabilities we do not lose our strength. No one is immune to such moments. In differing ways, we all experience times when our vulnerabilities are on show.
I am always inspired by others experiences and what they have to say about their life challenges. Below are inspirational quotes that I have found helpful. I hope you do to.
‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have’ – Cayla Mills, cancer survivor.
‘When the world says, give up, hope whispers, try it one more time.’ – Unknown.
‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.’– Vincent Van Gogh
‘You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.’– Marcus Aurelius
‘Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.’ – Oprah Winfrey
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.’ – Mahatma Gandhi