I have been reflecting on 'strength' this week, in response to Sarah's prompt in the 'Your Soul's Plan' group.
It's hard for me to contemplate the meaning of strength in my life without recalling the question one of my Teachers once posed: 'Which is more powerful: a giant Caterpillar earthmover, or a laptop computer?'
Strength, for me, seems both relative and situational.
As much as anything , finding my strength has been a journey of finding my voice. I lived many years in a state of voicelessness. 'Finding voice' is very different-- at least to me-- from having a 'powerful' voice. My father had a powerful loud voice. But it was not a 'strong' voice-- he believed people respected him; as a deeply intuitive child, I recognized that people feared him, but did not respect him so much. Fear and respect are two very different things.
In a sense, my father taught me one of my more 'contrarian' views about strength: I have never seen anyone who-- for lack of a better term-- 'thought with their fists' as strong. I have rejected physical strength as 'real' strength, since my last physical altercation (with the school bully) in 3rd grade.
The greatest feat of strength I learned... was to speak the word 'no.' And to use it 'undecorated.'
I was raised in a family where 'children MIGHT be seen, but should NEVER be heard.' One of the further guiding principles of the family was that nobody still considered 'a child' should have an opinion of ANY kind, and that even if you did, everyone else's (read 'older') opinion was FAR more important, anyway. And should you have the GALL to bring an opinion 'you'd damn better' come armed with a complete criminal court case ready, to defend your opinion under severe cross examination. It was just easier to not try to be heard.
As an adult, I gradually learned to say 'no,' but my knack for choosing to surround myself with new versions of the 'bulldozer personalities' of my childhood always made me feel like it was a huge amount of 'work' to have a voice... and to tell people no, when my (still ill-defined) boundaries were pushed. My initial 'no's' were heavily decorated, generally accompanied by a litany of reasons and excuses.
Then a dear friend (who's also a therapist) explained to me that 'no' is a one-word sentence, containing only two letters... and all the other 'stuff' is unnecessary. 'If someone invites you to an event you don't want to go to, simply saying 'no thank you' is sufficient. You don't owe them reasons and rationalizations.' I was mid-40's, before I learned this. Along with the strength to say 'no,' came the strength to accept losing many of the people I knew as 'friends,' who did NOT like anyone standing up to them.
Strength remains somewhat of a mystery to me. It generally strikes me that others have much more strength than I do. They seem to overcome adversities I can't even imagine. My issues and problems seem petty and unimportant, next to theirs. The way they overcome, to me, is strength. I've been told that my ability to not get INTO 'deep trouble,' in the first place, is strength. Which, in turn, is what reminds me that strength is relative and situational.
I ponder how others perceive us differently from how we perceive ourselves. I have been called 'The Rock of Gibraltar,' and 'the strong one,' and have been told that I am usually the one who keeps working and keeps everything running when everyone else is running around in a circle, shouting 'the sky's gonna fall, the sky's gonna fall.' I don't see myself as a strong person. Resourceful, perhaps. Experienced at life, perhaps. Much of the time, I feel fragile.
Where I KNOW I have strength... is in healing; and showing others how to heal. I avoid the term 'healing others,' because I don't (and I can't). All I can do is offer them a space in which they can heal themselves.
That said... I have rambled on, and still end at the conclusion that 'strength' is not something I think much about. It's a bit like 'power.' I neither seek it, nor reject it-- I just don't think about it, as 'something.'