Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, reminds you that inner strength isn’t automatic — you develop inner strength because you need to. Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
There’s a big difference between intelligence and ability, and knowledge and experience. Intelligence and ability speak about your potential; knowledge and experience speak about how far you’ve come in reaching it. Both ability and experience help you develop inner strength — especially difficult experiences. It’s a gradual process.
When you were born, you couldn’t understand a word. You couldn’t lift your head. You had no sense that you were a separate being from others around you. You didn’t understand that you had a body, or that those things flying past your face now and then were your hands, or that you could move them at will. You had to learn all that and more, how to feed yourself, walk, communicate, and countless other tasks as you developed throughout the years.
You wouldn’t take a kid from kindergarten and stick him in high school. First, that little kid needs to discover a lot about himself, the world, and much more. As he progresses through his life, he is confronted with problems and countless places where he does not know what to do next. He builds on what he knows from his learning and experience, whether in school, at home or anywhere else. His intelligence and ability have always been there from birth; he just needs an opportunity to use them.
Inner strength is like that. If you’ve found yourself in the bottom of a pit where you feel helpless or powerless, if you’re having a meltdown, a depression, if you’re falling apart or just having some trouble coping and all of this makes you believe you’re not strong, it doesn’t mean you really aren’t.
Perhaps your life has been ticking along just great for most of it and you’ve been lucky enough not to have had to cope with a lot of grief and misery before now, so you think you’re not strong – but really, you just haven’t had to be – until now.
Or perhaps you’ve been slammed by too many problems at once – you were broadsided by a sociopath and it’s taking a while to recover and you can’t figure out why you always coped before but you’re not coping very well right now. You can be overwhelmed for now but it doesn’t mean you’re not strong.
How I became strong
Since I was a young adult, people have told me how “strong” I am. And sometimes people tell me they aren’t as strong as I am – and even worse, they say they “never could be.” Well, first of all, I suppose if that’s what they believe, that’s what they’ll get. And they’ll never discover certain truths about strength, or their own capabilities. And I have to add, I hope they’ll never have to be as strong as I am, because of what I’ve had to go through in order to end up like this.
I can tell you that back in those early days as an adult, struggling as a single parent with a mess of other insanity in my life, I sure didn’t feel strong. But I was alone. I didn’t have a support system and I had to figure it out for myself. I fought my way through some pretty terrible circumstances and still held things together on the outside. No one saw what was a complete mess I was on the inside.
I was 19, divorced, with a ten-month-old baby to look after by myself as her father had been transferred to another province. Those were actually the least of my problems – but they were what made me begin to overcome the rest of the nightmare I was living. Just one part of that nightmare was that I had several severe anxiety disorders, and the eventual addiction that was purely a desperate attempt to deal with the anxiety.
To be honest, things got a whole lot worse for a long time before they ever got better but all the while I was discovering the first and most important truth about strength. I learned that until you need it, it’s one of those untapped resources inside yourself. It’s not a situation where you don’t have any, and you have to go to the Strength Store and get some, and then presto, you’re strong. Nope. It’s something you find inside yourself – if you want it or if you need it badly enough.
Strength is a decision
The most important truth about strength is this: It is a decision to believe that you can and will get through anything, that you’ll find the answers you need, and that no matter what, all is well. Simple as that. Making that decision means there is a never-ending supply of strength available to you.
At times, you may be worn out, overwhelmed, and needing a “time out” to refill that supply. That’s okay. Be gentle with yourself and trust that you’ll connect with your strength once again after you have a little rest, or when you borrow a little from others.
It’s often easier to be strong when there is someone else relying on you, someone for whom you feel responsible. Even pets fill this role. Studies prove that people who have pets to look after will recover from illness or injury a lot quicker than people who have no one relying on them. But to dig deep and find your strength because you need it is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
It’s okay to ask for help
Another important truth about strength is that like everything else in life, it must be balanced. It’s great to find your strength. But not at the expense of your vulnerability. It is okay to need, to lean, to accept help when it is offered – and to ask for it, too. None of that should be seen as weakness either. It takes strength to allow others to see your vulnerability.
So the next time you catch yourself saying you’re not strong, or you’re not as strong as someone else, just remember the potential is there. It’s simply a decision to believe in your ability to get through anything. Or even just a decision to get through it, even if you doubt yourself. When you feel like you’re crumbling, just remind yourself that you will get through it and take another step forward.
The ability to develop inner strength isn’t out here somewhere; it’s right there inside you. It may take a little practice to find it but once you knock on that door and step across the threshold, you’ll discover that you’ve already got all the strength you’ll ever need.