This past week, the world acknowledged and celebrated women on International Women’s Day. We all took a day out to recognize the strong women we know. I love this day-I love to thank the women in my life I know for being amazing role models, overcomers, and all around truly good people.
I’ve been blessed my entire life to be surrounded by strong women. I had a mother who had me in college and still went on to graduate, successfully help provide for our family and raise not only her five biological children, not only two adopted ones, but foster others and love so many through the school system. We have a Mema who can kick your bottom at an arm wrestling match while whipping up a dinner with the other hand and simultaneously being the most gentle human you’ve ever met. And then there was a Nana who showed what strength was beyond imagine as she kicked cancers butt and came back with the more grit and passion for life than before.
I have friends who have overcome trauma and struggles I cannot begin to fathom. Ones who have chosen forgiveness and grace over obvious and in my opinion, justified, revenge and anger. We know women who left abusive marriages, who have doctorates after being told they never could, and who have fought and won the war against mental illnesses, addictions, cancer, and more.
You could say I specialize in surrounding myself and my daughters with strong women.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was raised amongst them, my daughters will be too. My prayer for my daughters is for them to know the world can and SHOULD tremble at their feet. That they are capable of all things they put their mind to. I am so passionate that my kids are aware God created them for a special purpose, whether it’s to cure cancer or kiss booboos, and that they are strong in which they choose. Beauty pageants or crossfit challenges-I want them to always see their strength.
But I know how daunting that it can be-I know that we don’t always feel strong.
I struggle often with feeling like I’m not. Strong, that is. It’s so easy to see the failures, the weaknesses, the areas in life I’m less than spectacular. And I think many women, moms especially, feel the same way. We’re imperfect people and despite our strength to overcome some hardships and battles, we are often too close to each situation to see the magnificent strength it takes to beat them.
I’ve said to a friend, “You were so strong to leave this relationship” and the response I got? “No, I was weak to stay in it so long.” How different our perspective is when on the outside looking in versus being the one in the story.
Sometimes people focus so intently on our perceived weaknesses, they forget how strong we truly are. I know I do.
I’m not saying this to induce a plethora of messages telling me how strong I am. I have plenty of people who tell me that anyway, and while I appreciate them, I hope this article doesn’t come across as just that. No, I want to share with all the women (and possibly men!) out there who sometimes feel weak a few ways I remind myself just how strong I really am in those moments.
Thank them when someone compliments your strengths and stop apologizing for your “weaknesses”
When someone tells you you are smart, strong, kind, resilient-say thank you. I know it’s so easy, so quick, to dealing with “Oh no I’m not.” But here’s the kicker-you probably are. Yes, yes, yes you are. Most people don’t simply say “Oh you look beautiful,” with the intent of lying to you or faking it. They say it because it’s true. So OWN YOUR STRENGTHS. When someone compliments them, nod. Say thank you. Tell them something you think is a strength they have back. Strong people have no qualms about complimenting another on their strengths.
On the flip side, stop apologizing for your weaknesses. This is one I do far too often and one I am trying so hard to overcome.
Surround yourself with people who validate you and build you up. For example; y’all I can’t sing. CAN NOT. I’m talking a chorus teacher once told me to consider playing an instrument instead of being in chorus.
I’ve spent years at church apologizing for my inability to sing when in actuality…no one even notices! Unless I’m standing next to our minister of music or up front belting it out into a microphone…NO ONE NOTICES. When you apologize for your weaknesses it draws more attention to them while reminding you all the areas in life you don’t feel strong. So stop that! Right now! The people you surround yourself with shouldn’t mind the small and insignificant things you aren’t especially strong with. Which brings me to…
Surround yourself with people who validate and build you up.
I’m not about the life where you only surround yourself with people who agree with you and let you do whatever you want while cheering you on. Accountability is something I think is necessary, so necessary that I’m currently writing a post about finding accountability partners in the church. No, I’m not talking about only hanging out with yes (wo)men.
I’m talking about spending your time with people who know your value and see your worth.
Who we are around builds up or destroys who we are. It’s really that simple. If you spend your time with people who actively pick apart your choices, who insult your strength, who refuse to acknowledge the effort you put into things…you will begin to believe those things are true about yourself. Be with people who build you up. Who tell you the strengths that you are forgetting. Who want you to know how truly worthy of love you are.
Keep a journal of all the reasons you are strong and able.
I was actually taught this in therapy when I was struggling with PPD. My therapist had me write down reasons I was a good mom and I kept this little book to look back on, as a way to reframe my thoughts before they got off the track and spun out of control. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Find a little journal and keep track of your strengths. When someone compliments you on one, write that in there. Write what you’ve overcome. Write all the things you’ve done that have proven those who doubt you wrong. Then keep this book somewhere where you can pull it out and look at it whenever you need the reminder.
Be okay with being weak, with failing, and with not always being able to do things.
The simple fact of the matter is this-we will not always be strong. There are some times in our lives we will be weak, we will feel weak, and we will struggle. Times will come when we aren’t able to succeed. Talents exist out there that we won’t have. I can’t do everything-can you? I’m not always kind, smart, perfectly made up with a bow on top. None of us are. At some point we need to sit back and be okay with the areas we are “weak” in or the ways we “fail.”
If you don’t have a talent, that’s okay. As long as you have a love. I’m going to bring us back to singing. I love to sing worship songs. When I am home or in the car, I have them blasting and I am jamming along. I’m not winning any awards. But I love it. I enjoy it. If you enjoy doing something it’s okay to just enjoy it-to not be the star, to not have a God given talent, but to love doing it anyway.
Recognize the One who makes you strong.
For me, as a Christian woman, this is the most important one. I am not strong on my own and I will not succeed separate from God. He is the one who gives me strength through all things He has predestined in my life. When I am feeling weak, I often forget to pray. In the moment, I want to do it all, be it all, succeed at it all. I don’t want anything to get in the way of perfection and something really big already has-me. I will never be perfect. But possibly, even more importantly, I will never be strong without Him.
A favorite of mine in the Bible is Ephesians 3:17-19(NLT)