What is true strength?
True strength is just like the beautiful shapes and colours in a kaleidoscope: it comes in many forms, sizes and shades. There are examples of this all around us. The tiniest and most fragile of babies can survive the most adverse conditions, the most beautiful of flowers can find a gap in concrete and grow, and there are some ants that can lift 50 times their own body weight.
It is easy not to acknowledge or appreciate the beautiful and varying forms that strength can take, and rely on an idea of strength which is based on the British stiff upper lip, saying 'I'm okay' when we are not and forging on in the same way, regardless of what is happening in our lives.
What if I were to say that sometimes true strength is about doing just the opposite? Sometimes true strength can be doing that thing we haven't done before. It can be about asking for help, about saying 'actually, I'm not doing so well'. It can be about having the strength to reach out and ask for help because for some people it can be the most difficult thing they can do.
If you are struggling and find the strength to ask for help, it could turn out to be one of the best steps you have ever taken. Most importantly, it can vastly improve your mental health and sense of well-being. It can also improve the amount of connection you have in your life, and it can lead to conversations where important information is exchanged; it can lead to the words 'I've experienced similar too: I had no idea you felt like that!'. These can be the most affirming of words to hear or say. This can also lead to the exchanging of knowledge, and you may find that you are given contacts who can help you or new ideas for dealing with things.
Building more supportive communities and families
Asking for help and support or being honest that you are feeling vulnerable gives other people permission to do the same. Having a culture in families, workplaces and communities where people ask for support when they need it, and where people respond with compassion, helps to build stronger tribes and more resilient individuals. The current mental health crisis in both adult and children’s services shows that we need to teach our children to ask for help when they need it, as otherwise, mental health issues can escalate. One of the best ways to show this to children is to model it for them.
Of course, carrying on as you always have done is also a form of strength, just a different one. There is something admirable about it, but it often means that we are stuck or running on empty. When we run on empty in this way it is very difficult to grow, and therefore it is very difficult for there to be any change.
How can counselling help?
When we are feeling stuck or running on empty, counselling can help us to look at things in a different way and raise self-awareness. When this awareness is raised, we spot patterns that can be changed, and we can move forward in a way that is kinder to ourselves and more authentic. Then we find that things don’t feel so stuck, and we have more energy for the important things in life.
Perhaps reaching out for counselling might be a good idea for you, or maybe the type of support you require is different. Whatever the support you are looking for, remember that there is no shame in asking for it, and often being able to do so shows strength.
What colour and shape is your strength?