We all want to feel the benefits that come from having a strong character. But what does it mean to be “strong?” What are some characteristics of strong people? Who exhibits strength? How do we build our strength? We will be exploring these questions in this article. As always, I will end this post with a few questions for your consideration
I often hear clients say “I wish I was stronger.” They also say “I wish I was more like so-so who is so strong.” What they are really saying is this:
-if I was stronger, I could resist certain temptations
-if I was stronger, I could make myself do the things I know I should do
-if I was stronger, I wouldn’t have this problem
-if I was stronger, I wouldn’t let fear run my life
In the field of psychology, we think of strength in terms of what is innate or natural to us. For example, you may be naturally gregarious or naturally introspective. When you understand and make use of your strength’s life feels like less of an uphill battle. When our strengths are aligned with our goal’s life is easier.
However, we cannot always rely on innate tendencies. Life can be challenging. To feel happy and successful we need both natural strengths and the willingness to shore up our capacities with skill-building.
-The person who identifies as an addict or problem user but chooses to experiment with new coping methods after relapse is exhibiting strength.
-The person who identifies as being “anxious” but learns and practices new skills, to discipline their thinking, is exhibiting strength.
-The person who identifies as depressed but uses reserves of willpower to make themselves eat and walk around the block is exhibiting strength.
-The person who identifies with being overweight but keeps hope alive by getting back to a healthy diet and exercise routine is exhibiting strength.
-The person who despite their best efforts to fix an unhealthy relationship, decides to preserve their spirit by walking away, is exhibiting strength.
Having thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are aligned with a sense of being strong is not something we are necessarily born with. For most of us, it is something we deliberately, consciously and incrementally develop. Strength of character is built incrementally, just as a muscle is. Muscle tears as it builds and often it is our trauma and challenges that build our strength. Strong people see adversity as an opportunity to grow.
There are specific mindsets that allow people to feel strong, happy and successful.
-the willingness to learn how to discipline our thinking.
-the willingness to learn how to discipline our imagination.
-the willingness to move out of our comfort zones and take new action.
1. What does being strong mean to you?
2. Who do you know that exhibits this way of being?
3. Are your decisions and actions coming from a place of strength or fear?
4. What one thing can you begin to incorporate into your life that will grow your sense of being a stronger person?
Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW