It’s always hard to recognise what you are good at. We are quick to recognise what is good in others – but we hesitate when it comes to ourselves. If I was a body builder, or an athlete, or any profession where I needed to display my physical strength, the visual representation of rippling biceps or the ability to carry weights/people would be applauded. And rightly so – strength doesn’t come instantly. I believe that strength is a process and we can start that process whenever we choose to. We can rest well in our strength; or we can doubt it, question it, reject it. I truly believe that we all have strength.
The image of the lone woman walking alone does not necessarily conjure up thoughts of strength – but often we discover our strength as a solo pursuit. ‘Inner strength’ is a phrase well used and it’s the ‘go-to’ phrase that we connect with resilience and well being. We often do not know what our inner strength is until we are tested – the loss of someone we love, the loss of a job/career, the loss of good health – we all have our own examples. I personally have certainly had an interesting couple of years and my strength has certainly been tested. I would like to think that I was using the period when my strength wasn’t being tested, wisely and judiciously. I don’t think that this is true – but I may be wrong! We do not often display our inner strength when life is smooth – there doesn’t appear to be any need to do so.
Human beings are incredibly strong. We are resilient. We are creative. We are problem solvers. Our hearts are also able to withstand more than we think. My mother died twenty five years ago and I can remember thinking, as a young mother with a small child (my son was just a year old at the time), that I would NEVER get over her death. I couldn’t see how life would work without her. My mum was everything to me. The thing is – I DID get over it and life HAS gone on – and I even laugh from time to time! What I do know is that I have learned to live with it, but I miss my mum every day and I look forward to the day when I will see her again. However, for the sake of my son – and this was my overriding thought at the time of her passing – I needed to get up and get on. So I did; some days were easier than others. This process added to my strength reserves and I have withdrawn from my strength account over the years. I guess that I am now aware that I must top up my strength account on a daily basis.
As a Christian, my journey with God gives me strength. I am mindful, grateful and thankful of my relationship with God. Does this mean that I get less troubled by life? No. Does it mean I am not pushed around by the same pressures that everyone else experiences? No. For me, it is a reassurance that I am not alone. That I am loved unconditionally and supported to overcome because my life has purpose – and I am being directed to make a difference.
Recently, I have embraced the #IamRemarkable initiative that I was introduced to by Hannah Wilson (@Ethical_Leader) and I love its mission. #IamRemarkable strives to empower women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings. This has strengthened me immensely. I have posted statements that show my own strength under the hashtag #IamRemarkable but even better than that – I have loved strengthening others!! This has given me a real buzz – our words can bring life to others and it is this realisation that is now buoying me to change direction career wise and to utilise the strength that I have to help and benefit others. Looking after ourselves is one of the key actions that develop our strength. Rest. Leisure pursuits – walking, reading and gardening are my go-to pursuits!! I have come to realise that working ourselves into the ground is not a good look – but for years, and especially in school leadership, I felt that I had to have all the answers. Couldn’t look weak or hesitant. Took on the worries of everyone. Had to be better. I thought that this was strength. Strength of leadership – when in fact it was quite the opposite. Ultimately, I had to show strength by changing my viewpoint and re-framing my experiences. I have learned that leadership looks very different and just because the world sees it in one perspective, it doesn’t mean that this is YOUR perspective. Strength is when you walk against the tide, not knowing whether it ‘looks right’, but when it ‘looks right’ for you, you replenish your inner strength account. Maybe, to answer a question that I posed earlier, this is when you are ‘working out’.
We live in strange times – and one day we will read about this time in history and think about how we felt and what we did. I know that even though life feels like a rollercoaster – I will hold on to everything that I know to be true but I will also embrace what works for ME to help others. All of us want our strength accounts replenished to help us through the storms of life. Rather than using the analogy of a storm, I would state that we are in a hurricane right now – but we can make it through. This too shall pass.