Strength is quite rightly highly valued.
It helps turn us into more resilient, successful, and well-rounded individuals. But in our pursuit of strength, we can go chasing it in the totally wrong places.
Some people have misguided ideas about what it means to be strong.
So they don’t always realize that the very behavior they are turning to in order to exert power is the very thing that undermines them.
Here are some traits that people think make them look strong, but actually do the opposite…
1) Acting aggressively
Let’s be honest:
It’s that stereotypical display of “strength” we expect from meatheads who throw their weight around.
The people who like to solve their problems through violence and attacks.
It doesn’t always have to be physical either.
Some forms of aggression are verbal.
They may shout, scream, and antagonize others.
In their minds, they are telling other people that they shouldn’t be messed with. They believe they are demanding respect.
But in reality, it’s a sign they are out of control.
People who are self-aware know how to better keep a lid on their frustrations and extreme emotions. That way they don’t lash out.
But that certainly doesn’t mean they get walked all over. Instead, they protect themselves through clear and healthy boundaries.
2) Being stubborn as hell
Sure, sometimes being strong-willed can be a sign that you know your own mind.
But when it falls into stubbornness it says something else:
It says that you have a closed mind.
Being stubborn usually involves a certain amount of selfishness too.
It’s the unwillingness or inability to see things from any other side but your own.
It’s putting your own thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and opinions firmly above those of others.
This is understandably going to have an impact on the quality of your relationships. But it also is damaging to your own growth too.
Without the ability to change our minds, we are stuck where we are.
We lack the capacity to develop or progress because we cling to our limited way of seeing things.
Assertiveness is very different from bossiness.
Here’s what a healthy amount of assertiveness looks like:
Clearly communicating your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and needs in a respectful way to others.
Here’s what an unhealthy and bossy approach looks like:
Barking orders and expectations at others without any regard for their feelings.
There is an unfair sense of privilege that comes along with being bossy.
It’s not just about expressing yourself, it also takes a ‘my way or the highway’ approach.
Bossy people use the following tactics to try to control:
The main aim is to get their own way. If they do, the means don’t matter to them. They win, and that’s all that counts.
But rather than be a strength, you end up driving people away and doing damage to your relationships.
4) Being overly demanding
High standards are one thing, unfair expectations are quite another.
Sometimes, we don’t always know where the line lies.
We end up disappointing ourselves because of the unrealistically high expectations we place on others.
When someone is demanding they cannot accept the realities of life.
Those realities involve certain unpalatable truths:
- People don’t always behave the way we want them to
- Life isn’t always fair
- It’s not everyone else’s job to keep you happy
The people who complain the most are usually the biggest victims in life.
Rather than take full responsibility for themselves, they’re always trying to pass the buck and assign blame.
Through demanding behavior they make it clear that they need the conditions in their life to be exactly how they want.
But in doing so, they give their power away. They rely on feeling in control of things they can’t always control in order to be satisfied.
5) Keeping a stiff upper lip
In a nutshell, we’re talking about never showing how you really feel.
When they hurt, they keep it all locked inside.
When they’re going through hard times, they prefer to keep it to themselves than talk about it.
They never cry or show extreme emotions, fearing it is a sign of weakness.
But human beings are not robots.
It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect yourself to not feel and show the wide range of emotions we face in life.
When we try to repress them, they only have a habit of coming out in toxic ways.
It’s unhealthy to try to deny the way you feel. It takes much more strength to open up than it does to hide it away.
6) Never showing vulnerability
I think most of us struggle with vulnerability to a certain extent.
It feels so counterintuitive.
How can exposing yourself be a strength?
After all, we are taught that strength is about protecting ourselves.
Showing up authentically and letting people see the real you takes courage, which is exactly why it’s such a sign of strength.
We cannot expect to create sincere and deep relationships without the ability to do this.
If someone is forever wearing a mask, afraid to reveal who they really are, they are isolating themselves.
Building a wall around themselves may make them feel like they are keeping threats at bay. But those walls also prevent the opportunity for honest and meaningful connection.
7) Taking a condescending approach towards others
True strength comes from being secure in yourself.
Those who feel good about themselves are kinder to others. They don’t feel the need to act superior in order to boost their self-esteem.
They already have a strong sense of self that comes from within.
That’s why those who look down on people are usually hiding some insecurity that they may not even be aware of.
They are acting like a know-it-all because making others wrong helps them to feel right.
They are snooty and snobbish to some people because seeing someone as being lower in status makes them feel higher.
The strongest people in life don’t look to strip away at people to feel good about themselves. They see everyone as fundamentally equal.
8) Boasting and bragging
Whenever we’re feeling a bit vulnerable, we may find that we show off more.
It’s funny really, because we all know that arrogance isn’t a good look.
But we may not even realize that we’ve slipped into unconscious showing off in order to impress people.
Boasting, bragging, and trying to over-inflate your ego is always a sign that you’re feeling threatened.
If you weren’t you wouldn’t feel the need to spell it out to people everything that you have to offer.
True signs of strength
It’s usually the softer side of human nature than most displays someone’s strength.
It’s being able to admit when you are wrong. It’s showing understanding towards others and offering them your compassion. It’s being willing to be yourself.
That’s why if you recognize some of the traits on our list in someone you know, it’s likely that far from being strong, they’re actually lacking in healthy self-esteem.