Contrary to popular belief, strength is not about the definition of your muscles, being averse to emotion, or having numerous digits in your bank account.
True strength comes from deep within.
And living through a distressing life event can often act as the driving force for achieving a high degree of it, with resilience and character not far behind.
Did your mom ever tell you “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? Well, the fact is, this bit of maternal wisdom was mostly spot on.
So if you’ve gone through these six difficulties in life and lived to tell the tale, I have news for you: you’re far stronger than you realize.
Let’s dive in!
1) You’ve lost a loved one
Real talk: there are few things in life more painful than losing a loved one.
True to cliche, grieving is a process–and an extremely excruciating one at that.
If you’ve had to endure a significant loss in your life, it means you’ve come face to face with some of the most profound and sorrowful of human experiences and managed to push through.
I won’t lie, that’s pretty badass.
Losing a loved one is a specific type of trauma. Speaking of which…
2) You’ve survived trauma
If you’ve gone through a particularly traumatic event or experience, then just by the laws of science, you’re a far stronger person.
Think about it: the person who has no pain or adversity in life may be well-meaning, but chances are, they’re vulnerable to the unpredictability and chaos of the world.
Not you though. You’ve gone through shit and made it out the other side.
Trauma can come in many forms: a severe accident, an abusive relationship, going through captivity or war, a bad breakup… the list goes on.
One common denominator though is the inevitable acquisition of strength.
3) You’ve experienced financial hardship
Here’s the thing: while the world can be beautiful, the reality is, it’s also a place deeply obsessed with money.
We all have money problems at some point–and some of us have it far worse than others.
Regardless, going through financial hardship can be extremely stressful for anyone; constantly worrying about feeding your family or putting a roof over your head is no way to go about life.
So if you’ve lived through financial hardship and have managed to stay afloat, then you’re in a rare class of people.
I promise you: not many people have the resilience and grit to deal with significant money issues head-on and emerge victorious.
Before the pandemic, I owned a chain of popular restaurants that, on the surface, seemed quite successful.
Inside though, we were suffering. I had made some poor decisions financially, including a string of short-sighted, ill-advised investments. Our cash reserves had grown thin.
When Covid finally came around, I couldn’t hide anymore: the business was in utter turmoil.
I spent the majority of the pandemic fending off creditors, waking up to subpoenas and demand letters, and having to consult overpriced lawyers.
There were times when I was on the verge of cracking.
I was so stressed and flustered, I convinced myself that I had given up.
But the next morning, I’d always come back and fight my way through the day.
Fast forward two years later, and I am in an exponentially better place with infinitely more wisdom, inner strength, and belief in myself.
Bring it on, world.
4) You’ve stood up to discrimination or prejudice
Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia–bigotry really does suck.
If you’re able to keep your head held high and speak up in a world where discrimination is the status quo, then you’re displaying some immense courage and power amidst a sea of apathy.
The late activist and writer Elie Wiesel once said: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
I hate to sound like your conspiracy theorist aunt, but I surmise that the majority of people are indeed sheep–a herd that collectively is afraid to rock the boat.
So, if you are able to defy the odds and make your presence felt in the face of prejudice instead of meekly retreating–by definition, this requires a high degree of bravery—a trait that, in the history of civilization, has been relatively rare.
Chances are, people will remember you fondly.
5) You have pursued your dreams amidst doubt
Speaking of sheep, the fact is, most people want security above all else.
They’re happy to play it safe and pursue careers as accountants, insurance salesmen (and women), dental assistants, etc as long as they’re able to pay the bills.
Few people have the cojones to dream big, and even fewer people will pursue those dreams.
In a way, society doesn’t really want you to succeed–it wants you to be another cog in the system.
So, maybe you’ve been doubted before. Maybe your parents have tried to talk you out of pursuing a career in fashion, standup comedy, or literature.
I won’t lie, this hurts: people who are, in theory, supposed to be your biggest cheerleaders doubting you, discouraging you.
So if you’ve overcome this and managed to still chase your dreams, whether successfully or not, this, by definition, is an incredible act of self-belief and you guess it… strength.
6) You’ve moved to a new place
It’s official: moving is the most stressful life event for most people.
While moving houses a few blocks away can be taxing enough, imagine how mentally and emotionally difficult uprooting your entire life and starting anew must be.
This is particularly true if you are alone, left to fend for yourself in a strange, foreign, potentially threatening land.
I know people who have left their spouses, kids, and entire networks just to work abroad in extremely lonely and desolate conditions–sometimes having to deal with exploitative and abusive employers.
All the while, they send their hard-earned wages thousands of miles away, to feed their kids and send them to school.
Having to endure such gut-wrenching circumstances isn’t just about adaptability, it requires an astounding level of strength as well.
Gaining strength can generally be quite a subtle process.
No, you can’t just wolf down a can of spinach and, like Popeye, instantly develop a bodybuilder-like physique.
The truth is, if you have lived through any of the situations I’ve outlined in this article, you ought to give yourself more credit.
Life’s trials, however difficult, can bring out the best in us and make us better human beings.
So take that as a silver lining to your struggles: you’re now ready to handle whatever comes your way with grace, strength, and resilience–qualities that no amount of money (or spinach) can buy.