“You’re such a strong woman.” You’ve probably heard those exact words a zillion times before. Okay, not a zillion times. And not those exact words too.
But someone must have said something similar to you as a result of how you handled a particular difficulty or maybe one you’re going through now. People judge your strength based on what they see on the outside.
It might have been a bad breakup, or the loss of a close friend or family member, or pet, or maybe you lost your job and your financial stability. It could be a relationship that is heading nowhere or a divorce. Perhaps your teens are depressed, or there’s a rape incident, or you’re fighting cancer or any other health challenge. There could be an impending foreclosure on your mortgaged property, or the loss of an unborn child. Or perhaps someone close to you is dying and there’s nothing you can do about it except hope for a miracle.
What do you do when something terrible happens to you?
Even if you’ve never found yourself in such a situation, have you ever thought of how you would respond or cope if you experienced something terrible?
Perhaps you’re just one of those people who say, “Oh, such can never happen to me.” Scientists have a name for that way of thinking. They call it the “Optimism bias”. Optimism bias (or the optimistic bias) is a cognitive bias that causes someone to believe that they themselves are less likely to experience a negative event. It is also known as unrealistic optimism or comparative optimism.
So, how can you be strong, when you’re obviously not strong?
It’s Okay to Be ‘Human’
Don’t ever feel you need to apologise for being human at that point in time. Showing your true feelings can actually help you and others close to you. Have you lost someone or something? Grieving or crying is actually good and healthy; it is a natural response to loss.
If someone offers you a shoulder to cry on, cry a good cry on it. Don’t try and be superhuman or a superwoman and hold back your true feelings. It’s been proved that when we allow ourselves to go through the grieving process we become stronger for it. We are better able to cope with the challenges of life.
Patti Davis reportedly said, “It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.”
Remember the Good Times
Two lines from Donna Summer’s song just played out in my head:
“Forget about the bad times.
Remember all the good times…”
When I lost my dad, it was quite hard, because I thought he was going to hang around much longer…probably till my first daughter would grow up and get married. (Smile). I just cried and cried my eyes out when I got the news.
But after a few days had gone by, I would wake up and want to feel sad, but something he said or did would surface in my mind and it would make me smile or laugh. Over time, allowing the inflow of those good memories kind of diffused the sad feelings. It contributed greatly to strengthening and healing the void in my heart. I still miss him, but I’m no longer overwhelmed by sadness.
However, if it’s something you will rather not remember, like a bad breakup or sexual abuse, don’t block it out like it never happened. It’s braver to open up about it.
Good Talk is Good
Talk when you can. Don’t feel pressured to do so. You can also write down what you’re feeling if you don’t feel like talking yet. Talking to the right person is good. It makes you heal and feel in control of your feelings.
Consider talking to a professional counsellor, therapist or confidant. Are you about to give up on that marriage, because you feel it has gone awry? Or shutdown because of what you’re currently facing? Don’t. Speak to someone.
Stop the Blame Game
Did you lose a child? And you’re blaming yourself or your spouse for being careless? Did you lose a job? And you’re blaming the system?
Did you lose a loved one? Do you blame yourself for not being around very much in your partner’s life, because that’s why he left? Or do you blame yourself for being sexually abused? It’s not your fault!
Whatever it is, all that blaming is not going to do any good. It would only sap energy and strength from you, and make you or the other person miserable.
So, stop the blame.
Embrace your Weakness
Yeah. You heard it right. You might not feel strong right now, but embrace what you feel. Own it. Nobody likes feeling weak or helpless, but you need to acknowledge when you’re weak, so you can deal with it.
It does not make you weaker, only stronger. A man called Paul once said, “I take pleasure in weakness…persecutions… for when I am weak, then am I strong.” And God also told him that His strength is made perfect in his weakness.
Kelly Clarkson sang the song, titled: Stronger
This is an excerpt:
You think you got the best of me
Think you had the last laugh
Bet you think that everything good is gone.
Think you left me broken down
Think that I’d come running back
Baby you don’t know me, ’cause you’re dead wrong
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And she’s definitely right! Have you experienced a bad breakup or got fired through no fault of yours? Did someone betray your trust, or something similar? It won’t kill you. You’re on the way to becoming stronger.
Response-Ability is Needed
Responsibility is made up of two words; “response” and “ability“. It means the ability to respond and not react when something happens. It is about being more aware and mindful of what is going on.
Responding in an intentional way might not happen overnight when something awful happens to you, but with time, as you allow yourself to respond to it, you build inner strength and courage to deal with the process.
Lou Holtz said, “Life is ten per cent what happens to you and ninety per cent how you respond to it.”
Lend a Helping Hand
If you can, reach out to someone else that is not feeling strong at the moment. Scientific research has shown that when you help others even when you are low, it boosts your own mental health and helps you survive your own difficulties. It makes you happier and more satisfied with life.
You are not going to become strong automatically, but acknowledging and embracing what you’re feeling right now, will help you use those feelings as a springboard to a better and stronger you.
Efe Lisa Ifezuo