We live in a world where toughness counts. Maybe it’s a distant cousin to the “stiff upper lip” of our British colonizers, or maybe it’s the result of our immigrant roots where resilience and strength meant survival. Strength is admired and respected as a trait of winners; the weak are cast aside as not having what it takes. Perhaps we need to reexamine what strength really means in the context of our world today.
Sally’s eyes met mine. There was a look of blazing resolve on her face. “I am terrified of money. Every day is torture.”
Slowly exhaling, feeling the strength of Sally’s admission and knowing that a response was required, I felt unsure and a bit vulnerable. What if I say the wrong thing? What if my response makes it worse? What if I am not worthy of being the recipient of her message? The seconds ticked by slowly.
“Sally, your statement clearly demonstrates courage. I am completely in awe of your strength. While I can help you deal with the financial information, perhaps working with a therapist can help you unwind some things that are holding you in a state of fear?”
“But that costs money!” Sally protested. “I could never see myself paying someone that kind of money.”
“I hear you, Sally. You’re a very strong person, and your beliefs are firmly ingrained. Yet, you don’t sound satisfied with your life. In fact, it sounds as if you’re very tough on yourself in so many ways.”
Sally nodded. “I guess I am very tough on myself. I am so self-critical. No, I am not satisfied with how things are in my life.”
“How about I buy you a ladder, Sally?”
“Yes, so you climb down off of your back and live the life you deserve.”
“I’d like that!”
Barbara’s arms were folded in front of her as she stared at the table.
“Barbara, from what you’ve showed me, you have some important issues to confront in order for you to be able to retire. Your debt levels are pretty high, and the balances are not being reduced. Tell me more about this.”
” Oh, I’m not worried. It will all get handled. I’ve got it under control.”
“I’m hearing your words. Put a little meat on the bone for me.”
Barbara sat stoically, still looking down, and said, “Just don’t worry. You’ll see, by this time in a year or so from now, the picture will look much clearer.”
“Would you like to share how you see that happening?”
Barbara shook her head emphatically. “No, but I know in my heart it will happen just the way I said it.”
“I’ll be thrilled when that happens for you.” I offered.
“Thank you. I’ll contact you again in the future.”
Strength is not about bold words. It’s about truth and the courage to speak it. Find your truth and your voice, and let it flow in the world. It is too easy to allow your internal voice to become an obstacle too difficult to navigate. You can hide behind the limitations and your own self-limiting beliefs about your capacity. In the end, however, it is up to you to define your values, find the strength to make changes where appropriate and live fully. You cannot outsource your courage or find it in pill form. The capacity of the human spirit is wide indeed. Here’s wishing you strength, courage and joy!