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How do you define “strength?”

So I think I’ve been going through a little bit of a working out/healthy living identity crisis the last few months.

Actually I know I have. And I’m sorry if this post is ramble-y, but I felt I just needed to talk…er….write…through my existential crisis.

I’m not really sure what to do with myself. I don’t have anything specific that I really really want to train for right now.

I had thought about doing another kettlebell competition, but honestly, I don’t have a passion for it.

I just don’t enjoy the training process.

With working out, I don’t want to spend time doing something that I don’t enjoy….just so I can compete. I like to LOVE what I do.

So I’ve been racking my brain with what to do NEXT.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting and lifting heavy, which has been fun, but I don’t like not having direction.

So I’ve been trying to list out what I love…what inspires me…what drives me…what fascinates me and seems like a challenge.

It’s funny, but my list doesn’t keep going back to a sport or competition…

It keeps going back to the words…STRENGTH…EMPOWERMENT…

They have become my obsession.

But you can find strength and empowerment in so many different ways.

I mean…What really is STRENGTH?

We, women, are now told so many different things.

This is what came up when I  googled female strength...interesting...

This is what came up when I googled female strength…interesting…

We are told that “strong is the new skinny.”

We are told that real girls lift heavy.

And at the same time we are even told we shouldn’t be strong. That lifting heavy makes us bulky and unfeminine. We are told to do cardio and use Barbie weights.

We have so many conflicting expectations put on us that it is honestly impossible sometimes to know what do to.

There are so many definitions of what being female and strong should mean. But what does it really mean to YOU?

Does it mean lifting a ton of weight and showing the boys how it is done? Does “strong is the new skinny” speak to you?

What does STRENGTH mean?

For the longest time, I defined it by how many matches I could win. Then it was how much I could lift. Then it was whether or not I could complete the Versa Climber, Power Ropes and Kettlebell challenges.

I defined it by my accomplishments. When I proved I could DO something, that made me feel stronger.

But then I just wanted more. Yet…I didn’t have a desire necessarily to go any further with the challenges I had already taken on.

I love powerlifting…And yes would I love to be able to lift more?

OF COURSE!

Yet I don’t love it enough to want to work my butt off day in and day out to be the best powerlifter I could be.

And I don’t like doing anything half way!

So instead I do it whole-heartedly for a bit, compete, and then move on so that I can experiment and try something new!

And I guess I figured that eventually I’d find something that I’d want to commit to for the long haul. I mean…that is what I’m used to. I played tennis for the first 20 some years of my life!

And on top of that…II see all the “strong” women around me in the fitness field completely and utterly committed to one thing. They are all lifting heavy trying to hit the top numbers they can. And they keep going after it…day in and day out.

But as I’ve struggled this last month to figure out what I want next, I’ve realized that maybe what I’m after is something way less solid than winning a competition or hitting a new PR in lifting.

Maybe what I’m after is TRUE STRENGTH.

Because when I asked myself the same question I asked you above, “What is strength?”, I didn’t answer lifting 300lbs.

I answered, “I want to FEEL stronger.”

What a vague answer…GREAT.

At first I didn’t think it solved anything and it frustrated me even more that I couldn’t even describe strength to myself.

But then I realized that I had.

Strength wasn’t necessarily a lifting PR. It wasn’t running faster or jumping higher or proving I could win a competition.

It was a FEELING.

Strength was something I FELT because I’d overcome something. Because I’d challenged myself with something and had spent time working hard to accomplish it.

True strength to me was confidence.

It was my ability to believe more in myself.

To believe that I could do anything I set my mind to.

To me strength is the ability to put myself outside of my comfort zone and accomplish something beyond what I originally believed possible.

I’ve been so worried for the longest time about being the best at something…About lifting more or being physically stronger in one specific way.

But I realize that it wasn’t being physically stronger that really made me feel strong. It was the empowerment I felt when I could DO something.

When I could lift that weight I wasn’t necessarily supposed to be able to lift. When I could do something that I couldn’t do before.

So while I LOVE lifting heavy, strength isn’t measured by how much you lift.

Strength is measured by how much you challenge yourself and push yourself to do something outside your comfort zone.

To me strength has meant so many different things in terms of the physical, but only one thing when it comes to the mental.

Strength is how much you believe in yourself, not the actual acts that you do.

Strength can be gotten through so many different workout avenues…you just have to push yourself to go beyond what you thought possible.

So now I ask you one more time, “What does strength mean to you?”

Strength grows from vulnerability

Sometimes it is hard for me to want to do things that I know I’m bad at.

I don’t like failing.

But if I don’t make myself vulnerable to failure, if I don’t attempt the things I’m bad at, I will never grow stronger.

It sucks, but it is the hard truth.

And I want to be strong. AND you are only as strong as your weakest point.

So I work on my weak points. Sometimes I want to cry or puke. Sometimes I just want to give up.

But every time I push through, I get stronger.

Not only do I get stronger physically, but I also get stronger mentally. I become more empowered every time I make myself vulnerable and overcome an obstacle.

I actually think sometimes we focus too much on the physical obstacle without realizing how much pushing ourselves to do something will make us grow and become empowered as a person.

And honestly, isn’t growing stronger as a person really the most important part? I mean who really cares if you lift 45lbs or 300lbs?

No one.

The point is to OVERCOME something CHALLENGING to you. The numbers don’t matter. The exercise doesn’t matter.

All the matters is that you take on the challenge and make yourself vulnerable.

That in and of itself is success.

And sometimes that success is very hard-won and comes about in a form in which you didn’t necessarily intend. But that success is strength.

You made yourself vulnerable.

You took the risk.

You got stronger.

Lie to Yourself to Build Mental Strength

So true! Build mental strength to build a positive future.

Recently I’ve gotten into a ton of discussions about mental strength.

I think mental strength, which I define as having confidence in yourself and believing that you can succeed (and have the ability to overcome adversity), is one of those things that can be developed by lying to yourself.

Yep you did just read that…lying to yourself can help you develop mental strength. Ok, maybe it’s not so much lying as telling yourself how wonderful you are even when you don’t totally believe (I call it lying to yourself because it does really feel that way at the beginning).

Its sort of like imagery – like picturing yourself playing well so that you then go out and play well (which has been shown to actually help athletes perform better). BUT instead of picturing yourself doing something well, you are telling yourself all the things you are good at and why you should have confidence in your skills.

I started developing confidence in my tennis skills by lying to myself about how good I was. Every time I walked out on that court I told myself that I was going to play great. I didn’t tell myself I was going to win, but I did tell myself that I was going to play smart, and play well. I constantly told myself that I could beat anyone on any given day.

And guess what? I barely ever lost during our spring seasons. I think I lost under 20 singles matches my entire college career during the spring. One year I lost only two matches the entire season.

And how did I accomplish this? Because I had tricked myself into having confidence in my skills EVEN when I was facing opponents that were ranked higher than me or having an off day.

Me during college tennis

This may all sound like a load of crap, but it works. Think about how much you focus on the outcome of something…How often do you tell yourself “I don’t want to lose” or “I don’t want to do badly”? How often do you criticize yourself for mistakes that you make?

Now think…how often do you tell yourself “I can do it”? How often do you praise yourself?

You probably don’t say half as many positive things to yourself as negative. I know at points I’m definitely guilty of that.

We sometimes get stuck focusing on the negative, which…guess what…only makes us do worse or feel worse.

You need to start finding the positive in everything and praising yourself for it.

It’s what I’ve started doing with dieting and lifting since apparently I’ve been repeating too many negative things to myself. These negative thoughts have thrown my diet off at points and kept my lifting from progressing. They’ve kept me from believing that I can overcome plateaus or fully reach my goals.

So back to the grind of lying to myself.

If you are looking to getting mentally stronger, it can help to start with generic praise like “I’m pretty” or “I’m strong.” As you get more comfortable with it, try praising yourself for specific things right when you do them. If you hit a new max or stick perfectly to your diet one day, praise yourself for it.

Or if you are stuck on the negatives, try thinking about what others have praised you for. Repeat the positive things they’ve said to you to yourself until you come up with your own.

Like with Candy…this was a great text from her mom when she was going through a rough patch and struggling to see the positive. (In this text Candy’s mom is right…we work to strengthen all our other muscles, but too often forget to strengthen our minds or even recognize our own mental strength!)

good morning baby. I finally had a chance to read that email you sent to
me...don't forget the mind can be strongest muscle. Physically you are 
stronger than any woman I know but it's not just physical strength that's 
important, it's also having strengthen in the knowledge of who you are and 
how you want to be treated. It's also being able to see things as they 
are...not just the way you want them to be. Those were my weaknesses. I was
too young and immature to start life the way I did..with no knowledge or 
experience to be able to make good choices. I hope that you can see that as 
much as we are alike,  we're different in that way. You have a good head on 
your shoulders and can take pride in yourself and your knowledge..in other 
words, your mental muscles are in very good shape! lol I love you more than 
words can say baby. Hope you have a good day.

			
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