Last week, my friend has used a word “resilient” to describe my character. A few days earlier, my husband told me that I am the strongest person he knows. That made me think about what makes someone strong or weak. Are some people born strong and others weak? Can we develop inner strength?
After pondering these questions, I’m convinced that everyone is inherently strong, although not everyone can see their strength. We become what we believe ourselves to be. So when you believe you are weak, consciously or unconsciously, you begin to display the characteristics of weakness and look for the proof it is so in your life.
The good news is that inner strength can be reclaimed and restored in anyone, even if weakness and adversity is all that a person can see at the moment. Your mind is very powerful, and it always reinforces in you the values and qualities that you consistently put your attention on.
Below are six main characteristics of a strong person. This is my own list that is not exclusive. There are many other qualities that can be associated with inner strength. For example, Linda Durnell focuses on resiliency, self-esteem, love, faith, and acceptance in her article in the Huffington Post.
1. Inner Authority
Strong people are not dependent on other people’s opinions and don’t need other people’s approval. They are their own authority. Their confidence comes from knowing who they are. They know that not everyone is going to like how they look, what they say, or what they do. And it’s okay. They radiate inner peace and contentment wherever they go, because they learned to love and take care of themselves.
Inner strength implies open-mindedness and ability to question the status quo. Our mind wants to be in control of the situation by identifying with a specific point of view or idea. Strength means trusting that I will be okay even if I let go of the need for control through fixed ideas. When we allow ourselves the freedom to get outside of the comfort zone and think differently, we feel powerful and liberated.
Maturity is defined as the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. It takes time and experience to develop maturity. Maturity has nothing to do with age. I see it as the process of finding your inner center and learning how to be your own parent. Unless we resolve all inner conflicts related to both parents, we cannot proceed to maturity. Mature person can adequately perceive the situation and choose an optimal course of cations. Instead of living in a dream world, a mature person consciously and intentionally creates his or her life.
This is a big one. Taking responsibility for everything in your life is the opposite of victim mentality. As long as we blame anyone or anything for what happens in our lives, we give away our power to affect our own life. Taking responsibility for your life means taking responsibility for your thoughts, words, feelings, and actions, and realizing that only you are in control of them.
5. Commitment to a purpose
Commitment to a specific purpose or mission in life is an important characteristic of strong and successful people. I wrote an article a while ago about commitment to yourself. I highly recommend you to read it, if you are ready to say “yes” to your deepest dreams. As Art Turock said,
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
So I started thinking what can make a person strong. Do we really need to go through extreme challenges to learn to be resilient? Probably not. At the same time, you might agree with me that we often find ourselves learning the most from the situations that take us outside of our comfort zone. Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone. We can find many people whose lives were rather challenging, but who couldn’t find their own inner strength yet.
This brings me to the next question. Are we affected by specific circumstances in our lives or by our interpretations of these circumstances? I think our character is shaped based on our decisions, attitudes, and interpretations of various events that happen to us as we move through life. Two different people might interpret the same event very differently and, as a result, will make different conclusions about themselves and the world. Important turning points in life are usually those times when we form new beliefs and opinions about ourselves, other people, and the world.
It is very hard to make generalization about how these attitudes are formed for everyone. Therefore, I will only share my own experience of what I think contributed to my inner strength and made me who I am today.
1. People Who See Your Strength
When someone has faith in you, it makes you believe in yourself too. I was lucky to have teachers who noticed my talents and reflected my strength of character back to me. In particular, I remember my physics teacher, who believed that I have what it takes to master physics, a subject I didn’t notice existed until 10th grade. He just saw that I could dedicate myself to learning, and that was enough for him to have faith in me. Of course, he was also a stellar educator and he knew that too.
As a result of working hard for a year, I have learned enough physics to graduate high school with an A in it. I was so fascinated with this science, that I decided to study in further at the University and subsequently received my B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Physics. That was hard to believe in even for myself, because I was always good at learning languages and writing prior to that. My physics teacher was the one who showed me that with some dedication and discipline I can be good literally at anything. A lesson for which I’m still grateful to him!
2. Important Turning Points
Important turning points in life offer us opportunities to learn something new about ourselves and develop inner strength. When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed with pneumonia too late. Untreated pneumonia resulted in complications that affected the functioning of my heart. So I had to spend one month in a hospital. I don’t recall it being a very challenging time of my life. I actually enjoyed getting to know other kids there. I do remember, however, that this was one of the first instances when I missed my parents.
In retrospect, I can see that I began to learn how to satisfy my own needs for love and attention then. I continued to learn the lesson of detachment when my parents got divorced a few years later. By detachment I don’t mean distancing yourself from people, just establishing healthy boundaries and getting to know your own truth.
3. Diversity of experiences
Meeting new people, seeing new places, adjusting to new environments challenges you to get out of the comfort zone and start anew. For example, moving a lot forces you to detach from people and circumstances that became conventional. For example, I moved with my family four times between the age of 6 and 12, and switched schools two times between the age of 12 and 16. Of course, each time I had to meet new friends, learn new rules, and adjust to a new environment. Not every time that was a very pleasant experience, but I learned a lot about myself in the process.
As a result, I can call adaptability one of my strongest character traits now. Being around a variety of people allowed me to appreciate diversity early on in life and helped me to understand people from different walks of life.
4. Desire to learn
Deliberately investing time and financial resources in yourself pays huge dividends at the end. It is also a part of making a commitment to yourself. We can grow and develop our inner strength in a variety of ways. I have always been a lifetime learner. Learning something new about myself, others, and the world nurtures my soul and inspires my creativity.
Here are a few ways we can develop our inner strength:
This summer, one of my long-time dreams came true – I met a wise and resilient Angel Oak during our trip to Charleston. This amazing being has seen a lot and can definitely teach us about inner strength and power!