What is it that permits us to take that first step forward towards our dreams and aspirations, to keep going even when we might falter and 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 is 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 the ability to be confident in our decision-making, our capacity to act on it and influence our life’s trajectory. This strength 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 keying in to 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 make changes to alleviate 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.
By tuning into our emotions, fully experiencing them and then asking ourselves where they originate from, we can identify what in our life is fulfilling and what is not. This skill of staying in tune with our emotions enhances our inner strength as emotions do not lie, as they reflect the truth within. By embracing our emotions, we can 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. We want to ask for that raise, ask that person out on a date, or register for that marathon, but we hold ourselves back and succumb to our fears. However, by embracing worst case scenario thinking, taught by stoic philosophy, we can fully understand what is holding us back and find ways to work around it.
This process involves taking a step back and visualizing our goal. Then, without being pessimistic or self-sabotaging, we can analyze the outcomes, positive or negative, to determine the elements that are in our control and the ones that are not. Following this, we need to think about what the worst case scenario is if we pursue our goal, examine exactly why these consequences would be so devastating, and explore what abilities we have to control the outcomes.
This permits us to face our fears in a low-risk manner, analyze the reason behind our fears, and then evaluate what power we have to mitigate them. By doing this, it strengthens us, as through practice we can learn to deconstruct any fear and find our power to conquer it. This permits us to try to attempt things we never thought we would.
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 Cooley. It states that people behave based on how they think others perceive them, which reinforces these perceptions and makes them true. Author and speaker Simon Sinek demonstrated this concept when it comes to confidence. He asked his colleague to coach him and through his trust in her abilities, she was able to build her 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.
This effect can be immensely impactful in a positive as well as a negative way, as perceptions from the people around can also have the power to deteriorate our confidence and sense of self. However, by consciously filling our lives with people who think the best of us, we have the power to positively strengthen ourselves to feel more confident and capable.
Through engaging in accurate self-reflection, we can listen to our emotions to 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 leave us strong, confident, and ready to tackle the next hurdle.