What is it that permits us to take that first step forward toward our dreams and aspirations, to keep going even when we might falter, and to pick ourselves up even when we might fall? Some might call it resilience, while others call it inner strength. But, what is inner strength? How does it keep us motivated to keep going when life gets difficult? And how can we fortify it to further increase our capabilities?
What Is Inner Strength?
Inner strength is the ability to deal with adversities as they arise by taking responsibility for ourselves and others. It is acknowledging and accepting our circumstances, the ability to be confident in our decision-making, our capacity to act on it and how it would influence our life’s trajectory. This strength promotes wellbeing and is influenced by our connectedness to others, our ability to be grounded in our sense of self, and our flexibility to readjust our skills and expectations to adapt to our environment.
There are three areas in our lives that can help us solidify our inner strength and better tackle challenges. These areas include processing our emotions, deconstructing our worst fears, and ensuring that the people who surround us build our confidence, instead of tearing it down.
Being in Tune With Our Emotions
In a world full of distractions, it has become very easy for us to bury our unpleasant emotions and ignore the signals they are giving us. Suppressing emotions and not exploring the reason behind their presence leaves us ignorant as to why they are there, and it inhibits our ability to manage them. For example, if we feel tinges of anxiety every morning before we go to the office, perhaps there are elements in our job that make us nervous or uncomfortable. If we feel ripples of frustration every time we spend time with a friend, perhaps aspects of the relationship are amiss.
Tuning into our emotions calls for bringing awareness to their root origin and fully experiencing them. It involves recognizing the stimulus provoking these emotions, processing our thoughts around them, foreseeing our management of the situation along with the positive and/or negative outcomes, acknowledging our degree of comfort and the obstacles that may emerge, and then deciding on the effort that we are willing to grant as a response to these emotions. This skill of embracing our emotions enhances our inner strength as emotions reflect the truth within and help us determine what in our life is meeting our needs and what is not.
In addition to fully experiencing our emotions, we can also expand our opportunities and strengthen our confidence by deconstructing the fears that limit us. The initial step is recognizing the domain and then identifying which of its two opposite aspects the fear is emerging from: physical (fear of or for the body), social (fear of or for significant others), behavioral (fear of taking action or of not doing anything) or mental (fear of knowing or of not being informed). For instance, when we want to ask for that raise, launch that business idea, ask that person out on a date, or register for that marathon, we can tend to hold ourselves back and succumb to our fears. However, by acknowledging and effectively coping with our fears, we can fully understand what is holding us back and find ways to work around it.
One renowned intervention that may be useful in facing our fears is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This process involves taking a step back, visualizing our goal, and redirecting our thoughts and behaviors accordingly. Then, without being pessimistic or self-sabotaging, we can analyze the outcomes, whether positive or negative, to determine the elements that are in our control and the ones that are not. In agreement with this recommendation, a mindset shift to foster growth and self-efficacy in spite of fear is most advantageous through coaching interventions.
Deconstructing our fears entails analyzing the origin and severity of the threat(s) behind our fears, reframing these fears, then evaluating the power we have and elaborating behaviors based on positive emotions, such as hope and empathy, to conquer them. Some might be more challenging than others and require support from our surrounding. Yet, in all cases, facing our fears is only possible when we determine our response action based on our intrinsic protective motivation rather than our avoidant and negligent behavior.
The Looking-Glass Self
The final area in which we can strengthen our sense of self is by filling our life with people who treat us like the person we want to be. There is a sociological concept called the looking glass self, developed by Charles Horton Cooley. It states that people behave and view themselves based on how they think others perceive them, which reinforces these perceptions and makes them true. Author and speaker Simon Sinek demonstrated this concept using confidence. He asked his colleague to coach him and through his trust in her abilities, she was able to build her own confidence. She believed that, because Simon trusted her coaching skills, it was as if he held up a mirror for her to see her knowledge and gain confidence in her own abilities.
The agreement between how we see ourselves and how others see us can be immensely impactful in a positive as well as a negative way, as perceptions from the people around us can also have the power to deteriorate our confidence and sense of self. However, by consciously surrounding ourselves with people who think the best of us, we have the power to positively strengthen ourselves to feel more confident and capable.
In brief, listening to our emotions can help us identify what is holding us back and not contributing to our wellbeing. By deconstructing our fears we can liberate ourselves from them to pursue our goals. And by surrounding ourselves with people who reflect back the best possible version of ourselves, we can stand strong and grounded within ourselves. The combination of all three will solidify our inner strength and confidence, making us ready to face any hurdle that comes our way!
Tapping into our inner strength starts one step at a time and rediscovering ourselves takes patience and practice. Confidence and resilience are fostered by our encounters, and how we choose to confront our emotions and fears. Remember, you are strong enough, it’s all about stimulating that side of you to really let it shine!