How To Be Strong

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This can’t be everyone’s ‘how-to’. I have no background in psychology and the only books I remember reading in high school were my great Aunt Marg’s Barbara Cartland romances.

My education beyond high school was in IT and that was only because there were no more spots open in cosmetology. I gave up my plan to cut hair and now I program computers instead because I registered late for school. No one wanted to be in the data processing class. I kind of get that now. Either way, I’m not educated when it comes to psychology.

Even my practical experience isn’t impressive. I haven’t stuck with any therapist long enough to give an expert opinion on being a patient of psychology.

What I do have are decades of experience being a human. I have decades of experience being a human who has been bruised and broken and damaged. Just like all of us. It’s a matter of degree.

The following Β is what I’ve learned about how to be strong. This is how I’m still learning to be strong. Please keep in mind that some of the beginning steps will seem counter-intuitive to gaining strength but they are still the ones I took.

I’m going to skip ahead and just cover the last three decades.

1. Make sure your overriding thought, the one above all others, is worrying how others see you. This is more important than current political and social events. This is more important than your education and your relationships. Make comparisons and assumptions about beauty and set your own personal standards based on unreasonable and unattainable standards. Β Worry about how others see you. There is nothing else. Except for some awesome music. I’m always going to be an 80s girl.

It’s important to note that making really bad relationship choices helps with the first step. For instance, my only unrequited love: 19 years old, got hit by a train and already had a drug and alcohol problem? Yes! I am in love!

2. Trade all your values. Dress differently, read different things, buy the right shoes. Then maybe these things will change the way people see you because, still, the most important thing in life is how other people see you.

3. Get exhausted because everyone sees you differently through their lenses and their experiences and their values. Learn that it’s impossible to present yourself with so many different masks. The costume changes alone are tiring.

4. Project an image of strength and individuality. Speak your mind. Almost always speak your mind unless the person you are talking to is mean or obviously more intelligent because still, it’s how you look to others.

5. Shed some of the facade. It’s pointless to try to hold on to all of it. Speak your mind a little more often with a little less worry about how you look to other people.

6. Convince yourself that it’s all an act. You are not strong. You never have been.

7. Examine your life. You conformed and you wore masks. You allowed yourself to at least pretend you had it together. You were able to live the life of a woman with strength, but it didn’t last because you took it away. Convince yourself that your strength is a lie and your real truth, the one no one gets to see but you, is that you are weak.

8. Learn the difference between the truth and a lie.

9. Stop lying to yourself. Understand that underneath all the bullshit, the fear and the disappointment and the envy and the pain, underneath all that you are strong. You are a strong motherfucker and you always have been. Even back at step number one.

Do you know what kind of herculean strength it takes to maintain a facade for years? Just because the strength is used in ways that aren’t ideal, doesn’t make the strength any less strong.

I’ve always had strength. I’ve always been strong. I just haven’t always used it to my benefit. I let it work against me. I’m working toward learning how to use that strength to make my life better.

This is not to suggest that I don’t spend some bouncing around on this list of ‘how-to’. I do. Some days I don’t feel strong. Some days I put all of my self worth into what other people think of me. On the darkest days I put all of my self worth into needing approval and acceptance from people who will never give it to me. I still own an impressive number of masks, but these days, I’m just as likely to paint them as wear them.maskII

Over all, though? Over all, I am strong like bull.

How about you? I bet you are stronger than you’ve ever admitted to yourself.

 

 

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37 comments

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  • I remember the first time someone told me I was strong. I was astonished. Since then I’ve come to realize (sometimes) that it does take strength to put one foot in front of the other when that’s all I’m capable of. I’m strong like a bull too!

    P.S. Your t-shirt is sitting on my desk. I’m going to try to get off my ass and mail it this week. πŸ™‚

    • Okay cool…because I look REALLY silly sitting here at my desk with just my bra and jeans on.

      hahahah

      I know you’re strong. I can see it every time I read your blog posts..even the sad ones.

  • This is pretty much it. No matter how much I try to be myself, I have to constantly get out of the mindset of how other people see me. I’ve convinced myself other people see me as insane though, so I have that going for me.

  • I know I’m strong. I just need to harness my strength and put it to work for me. I need to find a job I’m happy with. Right now that is part of my demise. The constant teetering tottering between, “I’d be awesome at that job, I can do anything, and I suck no one is going to hire me and if they do, it’s going to be another job I loathe. But through it all, I’ve got a great support system even if my strength waivers from time to time.
    Cheers to all of us harnessing our super hero strength!!!!!

  • I am actually educated/trained in psychology. I don’t turn to that when I need strength though. I try to follow two simple pieces of advice I’ve picked up along the way; do the next right thing, suck it up and quit complaining. One is a tad more “one of the people who raised me was a marine” than the other (I’ll let you decide) but both have yet to fail.

    • Simple…yet effective. I like it. I really have to pay attention to the ‘suck it up’ one. I find that I’m wallowing more than I’d like. But I am aware of it..so that helps

  • Being strong is not my problem. Believing that the strength of my worry alone is what keeps the planet in orbit is my problem. I am a CONTROL. FREAK.
    Ask me how I’m handling my daughter moving out for college this week?
    Do you know that she did her first semester schedule ALL BY HERSELF??? Why would she do that? She’s going into engineering. I’M an engineer. Shouldn’t she have just let me fill it out for her? What does she think she is? An adult or some shit?
    And my husband….he’s been out of work for three whole weeks now! Not that we didn’t know for the last two years what the contract date was, and not that we didn’t plan and save for it because we knew it would take him some time to find something else and WE. ARE. PERFECTLY. FINE. Except that I go to Monster.com and Indeed.com 17 times a day because for some reason, I believe he will miss the perfect opportunity if I don’t find it for him.

    God.

    What the Hell is wrong with me?

    • I am smiling as I read this and also feel uncomfortable because I know exactly what you are talking about. I am a control freak…I just want to make sure everything goes the way it should so that no one is unhappy. (Whatever that even means).

      If I got paid for worry, I’d be living in a mansion by the beach. I am a professional level worrier.

  • People tend to think of me as *strong*, I think, but that’s just because no one gets to see the times where I cry and scream and throw things and curse. (Except possibly some people who get odd random emails full of gibberish about cars breaking down and threats to ride the ATV to the liquor store, etc…) *grimaces*

    I think maybe we don’t realize how strong we are until we are forced to get through stuff. Compared to a lot of truly strong people I know, who have faced major adversity and survived it, I haven’t had to deal with much–so maybe I’m actually just a huge wuss and have never had to test my strength, but I like to *think* I’m strong. Also I’m not volunteering for any new ‘tests of strength’, because I have enough on my plate right now.

    rambling…

    I love your list and your honesty and your strength, and you’re right. You are strong. Listen to that voice, because that one’s right.

    • I dunno…I kind of like the emails…because it gives me a chance to dole out advice. I LOVE GIVING ADVICE. And, I’m pretty sure I’ve sent a couple rambling, incoherent emails of my own. HAHAHA. Besides..it’s always good to have a nice, friendly, nearly anonymous place to vent. And you are not a huge wuss. Are you kidding me? I read your blog, remember?

      And thank you. Sometimes I feel very strong..other times, not so much.

  • Someone told me in university that before we became friends, I intimidated the hell out of them because I seemed so confident and self-assured. This was news to me. I thought I was a big worry ball and the reason more people didn’t talk to me was because I didn’t interest them. But when I thought more about it, I realized my friend was actually right. I had never really cared whether I had five friends or fifty. I didn’t spend 8 hours a day glued to Facebook waiting for people to “like” my posts. I was perfectly happy being left to my own devices, and I was projecting that without even knowing it.
    And with that revelation in hand, I quit worrying for good about what other people thought of me, and instead dedicated my time to worrying about all the smaller things in life that don’t matter one bit in the grand scheme of things but are going to drive me insane anyway. πŸ™‚

    • it’s funny, how we don’t see ourselves the way others see us. My work friend (who I adore) was really intimidated by me and thought I was scary. I had NO IDEA.

      She knows better now.

  • Yep, pretty much all 9 applies to me verbatim. I’ve also been told I’m scary, mainly by men though. I used to think that was a bad thing, now I just think good, if it keeps the weirdos at bay let the world think that. Doesn’t seem to work on them though, my freakazoid magnet seems to still be on full power.

      • Ha ha ha, that kind of weird is good.
        Must admit that today I’ve allowed my perception of what people think of the way I look really drag me down.
        Was made to feel like the kid always picked last for the team today.
        It sucked beyond words and I felt the tears prick, but I shrugged it off and dealt with what the day brought with all the humour I could muster.
        Now I’m back home it’s a different matter though, it really stings.
        Too tired to think now, hope it all looks better after a night’s sleep.

        • Ouch. I know that feeling and it sucks raw ass. Tomorrow will be better and if I could, I would pick you first. I don’t know what I’m picking you for, though. But still…FIRST!

  • Why does everyone worry about getting older when the early years of adulthood or so often eaten up with BS, insecurity, and masks? I’m looking forward to the coming decades… I plan on being awesome. Kind of like you.

    • Thank you, Aussa!

      And yes, I LOVE these years. I mean, not everything about them, some of the physical changes suck major ass, but it’s still great. I don’t have any age I want to go back to..

  • I guess it depends on how you measure strength. You seem strong to me because you were there for your son through his addiction. I REALLY admire that. You may feel that what you did is just what a mother does when faced with those circumstances. But there is the strength, because it isn’t always that way at all. People are routinely abandoned for far less significant indiscretions than heroin addiction every day. So if you measure strength by the hard stuff, it would seem to me that you have it. Some of my friends think of me as strong because of how much function I have recovered since my stroke (which, by the way, was the end of my own addiction, but not to heroin) while in my mind I’m usually more likely to dwell on the weaknesses I’m left with.
    #8 and #9 can lead me to the three magic words: I don’t know. Once that has been ascertained, I find myself with the choice of finding out, or doing something that may turn out to be really stupid. Thinking things through first used to be one of my strengths, as was the ability to just admit when I didn’t know something, which is I guess a lucky thing, because since my stroke they are now necessities, with consequences for failing to do them.
    So perhaps I’m not the best judge of whether someone has strength in their interpersonal dealings or not, but just going by the honesty and courage required for a post like this one, you seem to be doing pretty well.

    • THat is awesome. I HATED 40..I was horrified by it..but 50? I FUCKING LOVE FIFTY! well…and 51

      I think it’s awesome you are finding your way so young…you need a big party!

  • First off, let me say I wish I could be as excited about being old as the rest of you — numbers never phased me until I got to 50. Even then, I was OK with it — until my body started acting as if it had a mind of it’s own.

    It occurs to me that my body DOES have a mind of it’s own — my brain — but you know what I mean.

    I often don’t feel strong — but I keep doing the Stuart Smalley thing: “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, and doggone it, people like me!” I’m hoping it sinks in and stick after awhile.

    • Well, I think you’re awesome. And please remember that you’ve got some major trauma right now…I don’t think any of us (or many of us) feel very good about anything when we’re in the shit…when we’re in the middle of it, we are just treading water. But it will pass and you’ll realize what a bad ass motherfucker you have been all along. πŸ™‚ At least that is my prediction.

  • Damn I am strong! Borrowed you blog topic for my latest post. (idea credit given at the beginning) After inventorying the things I cried over… or almost cried over… I have got to be strong. No question.

  • Like you, I’ve always been strong. But I didn’t know it until much later. I made some stupid choices and held some silly beliefs (and I probably still do). But I know I’m strong. Thank you for reminding me of that. xoxo

  • I never thought I was particularly strong until I got to about 23-24 and had people ask me about my life (my dad had a chronic illness from the time I was 2 and deteriorated over time–30 years, but still–and my mom died of an asthma attack when I was 22; I ended up supporting my disabled dad while I was working full time and going to college), and they’d say, “Wow–you must be tough” (in a good way). And I used to think, “Eh, I guess.” But as I got older, I realize that I’m strong enough to face whatever it is I have to face. But I’ll tell you, there are plenty of people who I know have had it way worse than I did, and I while I’m glad not to have had to confront what they did, I know that if I had to, I would. Because that’s what you do, right? You are clearly strong, and if the way you view yourself is how others see you, well, then you’re awesome! Because that’s what I think.

    • Thank you so much for this! I’ve always heard people say how strong I am…I just didn’t feel strong..it felt like an act..but I am pretty sure I was wrong about the ‘act’ part

By Michelle

Michelle

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