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What Is Strength to You?

Shannon tends to ponder things a little more than in passing. Sometimes things are worth writing about in case others find interest as well.


Strength. That’s a word that has been on my mind and my heart for quite some time now. You might say it has become somewhat of a theme for me. Maybe it’s just because I have been pondering what it means to me personally for the past year or two, but the theme seems to show up more and more often. Someone posts an article or a meme online. Someone sends me a personal message. Movies, books, or television shows send a message about strength. You get the idea.

Then someone challenged the notion of what it means to me without even knowing she did so. I was called weak and given specific reasons for why I am weak in this person’s eyes. And at that moment, all I could think was, "what about the ways that I am strong?" After all, we each have our own strengths and weaknesses. We have all been weak and we have all been steadfast in ways that define us for the better. Personally, I choose to define myself by the things that I consider to be my strengths, though I am well aware of room for improvement, especially where my weaknesses are concerned.

“I think sometimes you get so busy, you don’t have time to wonder how you’re doing it all. You do it. And then sometimes you hit a wall, and you say, ‘Okay, that’s all I can handle.’ And you back off and try not to get near the wall again. There’s strength in admitting what you can’t do. Nobody likes it. But it’s self-preservation.”

— — Kate Mulgrew as Galina Reznikov (Red) on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black

But What Exactly is Strength?

One of the definitions Oxford offers for strength is as follows: the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult. Okay. So what exactly does that mean?

I decided to ask several other women a simple question with perhaps a not-so-simple answer: what does strength mean to you? These women are people I considered to be strong, beautiful, and courageous, each in their own way long before I ever thought to ask them about it. They come from different backgrounds, different locations, and different generations. The answers I received were all inspiring in their own unique way. What is striking, however, is that I did not receive one duplicate answer.

*Please note that there are also several strong men in my life whose answers would no doubt be just as inspiring. For the purposes of this article, though, I chose to ask only women. I have noticed that many women around my age, especially, may be able to benefit by learning what strength means to other women in particular. Although inner strength comes from within by definition, there are multiple sources to encourage that strength. Peers are a powerful source.


The Answers

Keep on going when the world is falling down around your ears. Holding your head up when you want to crawl in your bed and hide under the covers. Smiling through your pain and doing what has to be done because your kid needs you. Loving someone that doesn’t want to be loved. - Leigh Ann Gregg

Handling life's disappointments, which will come, with maturity and grace. - Angie Williams

Oooh, that’s a good question. I guess it depends. There are all kinds of strength. Mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. . .I suffer from anxiety so for me, it’s a lot of being able to look past what scares me and “do the thing.” But also recognizing that strength is something we can attain more of with work. We can go to the gym. Go to a counselor, or go worship. How we feel fulfills us. It can also be lost if we don’t constantly remember to “fill our cup,” so to speak. If I don’t feed my body the gym won’t do any good. If I choose to honor a higher power there needs to be a balance between what I give and what I get. So I suppose strength is also finding a balance in life. - Sara Curtis

Independence, but knowing when to ask for help or accept help. - Rhema Pierce

I guess I would say, Pushing past comfort, whether it is emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. Even if it includes crying, failing and starting over. Strength is the journey. - Leslie Fain

Picking up the pieces and making a comeback. . .crying gallons but still choosing life. - Julia Amling

Being able to be weak because to be strong all the time wears a person out! Being strong means relying on others and opening yourself up. Most of all, strength is biting your tongue and responding, not reacting to something said to you or about you. - Paige Norwood

Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, if you're strong enough to pull yourself back up from nothingness to something then you have strength. Man or woman, it doesn't matter. - Cyndi Adams

This is a hard one! There are a lot of variables. I would have to say love! Family! Family makes a woman strong too. The way she loves her family, the way she was treated by her family growing up. Sometimes it’s criticism from the world that gives pure determination to overcome the odds. But ultimately it’s the heart and soul! Hell I’m rambling so there are some things to ponder on. Will power! Could be shear hate (for the way she was treated) or could just be will to do good! - Rebecca Piekoff

Strength is believing in yourself even when those around you do not. It is learning how to keep a positive attitude through all of life’s adversities. It is accepting that when your inner peace and equilibrium are off-balance, it is still okay because “that too shall pass.” It is learning to accept your flaws. It is trying again and again, as many times as it takes to get it right. It is knowing that it is okay to put your own needs first sometimes in order to ultimately give more. Strength is realizing that our weaknesses do not define who we are. May we all continue to learn and grow stronger right up until the very end. - Shannon Henry

"Every Girl in This Town" - Trisha Yearwood


© 2020 Shannon Henry

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