Over the last two years, I’ve delved even deeper into the idea of strength: What is it? Where does it come from?
It’s invited me to go deep in reflection with the works of authors like Brené Brown and Pema Chödrön, who have revealed an essential component of strength—vulnerability—from which I hadn’t dared tap before.
This quest has also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, attending events like I Am Power, the Radiance Retreat and, above all, every iteration of the Women’s Fitness Summit—the 3rd edition I of which just returned from a little over a week ago.
Through innumerable conversations, both online and face to face, my understanding of strength, and of its quintessential essence, has deepened beyond everything that I could ever imagine.
STRENGTH HAS NOTHING TO PROVE
I was recently asked to define strength in my own terms. I loved the exercise, as it forced me to articulate feelings into (hopefully) coherent words, drawn from the ongoing exploration mentioned above.
To me, strength is cultivating resilience in all aspects of our life—not puffing up our feathers to show off, or choosing to play small in order to avoid inconveniencing anyone, but simply claiming our own space.
Strength isn’t a solo operation.
When we perceive strength as a “going it alone” thing, we’re missing part of the picture: strength is being equally willing to help others, and to ask for help when we need it. See, strength has nothing to prove. True strength is, as so eloquently put by Jen Sinkler, about saying “come with me” instead of “look at me”.
Strength—much like love—thrives when it’s shared. It’s when we come to the understanding that there is sufficient space for all of us, and that our strength must be used both to further our own endeavours and to support others, that we truly tap into its deep potential.
WHEN SISTERHOOD SQUASHES INADEQUACY
I’m tired of the reputation of women as tearing each other down. Yes, I’ve experienced mean girls in my life, but my experience of the last few years has been so dramatically different from this that I’m wondering if there isn’t a bit of self-generating myth at play here.
I believe that, as adults, we can all make the conscious decision not to step into that game, and to create inclusive spaces instead. And for these spaces to be as genuinely strong as we want them to be, they have to make space for vulnerability.
Several days before the Women’s Fitness Summit, I experienced something absolutely unique on the forum dedicated to the event. Women started sharing what excited them about the Summit, but also what made them nervous. And while everyone seemed to have a corner of their psyche where they feared not measuring up, not a single soul used those openings for any ill purposes.
Without having ever met, a chorus of women came in support of one another, either by dispelling myths or by echoing “me too” to other’s fears and frustrations, in an outpouring of vulnerability that also turned out to be one of the strongest conversations I’ve had the privilege to read.
This is the strength that the world needs. In the words of Girls Gone Strong: Strong Women Lift Each Other Up!
During the Summit, this was crystallized in a very simple yet recurring daily gesture. Every day, at lunchtime or during breaks, attendees could be found sitting in different circles on the floor (as one does!), discussing an array of topics from their personal lives to their professional challenges, to the different presentations and workshops they’d just experienced.
Without fail, as soon as someone approached one of these informal circles, even if it was made up entirely of strangers, the circle would open up. We made the circle bigger.
This, to me, is a measure of strength: creating room for others, for potentially divergent viewpoints, for a different perspective on the world, without feeling threatened. Understanding that we will only grow stronger through connection. Choosing to share the experience.
What is your definition of strength?
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