I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving this year with my sweet grandmother. The older I get, the more I come to appreciate quality time with people I don’t get to see often. At 88 years young her spirit radiates joy, positivity, and love that she so willingly shares with everyone she encounters. From the sound of her laugh and the conviction in her voice when she tells a story, my grandma has a presence that warmly pulls us in closer together. But most importantly, the quality that shines the brightest is her strength. From the stories she and my dad have told me, she has lived a lifetime as a strong, empowered woman to positively impact her children, grandchildren, and the greater community in which she lives. She has shown that womanhood in not a limitation, but rather a source of independence and power. My grandma is a true example of a woman that gets things done and lives out loud.

My week with Grandma and a recent conversation I had with someone else inspired this post today. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about strength and how we don’t all define it the same way. I think it’s common in our culture to define strength as being tough. “Toughness” can mean many things – getting up when you’ve been knocked down, fighting back when someone hurts you, not letting emotions get the best of you, or even sticking it out when times get hard. I don’t disagree with that definition but it’s not the whole story. Strength looks different to different people depending on their perspective. For example, in a recent conversation I had with someone I know very well, it became clear to me that we had conflicting definitions. The things I perceived as strength, she perceived as weakness and vice versa. Our life experiences have shaped each of us into building a model of strength that we all aspire to be. We all want to be strong, right? In getting there, we discover the values that mean the most to us.

So, what does strength mean to you?
Here’s what it means to me:
-       Asking for help even when it seems like everyone knows what they’re doing
-       Not being afraid to mess up or get it wrong
-       Taking a risk even when you’re scared or insecure
-       Owning your mistakes and apologizing to the person you wronged
-       Being open about your flaws, insecurities, & weaknesses with others so they know              they’re not alone
-       Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, even when it’s not expected
-       Advocating for yourself and others
-       Knowing when to speak up and when to sit back & let things go
-       Setting boundaries for your relationships
-       Knowing your limits so that you can say when enough is enough
-       Making yourself a priority and not feeling guilty about it
-       Not apologizing for being your authentic self
-       Letting of the people & things that no longer serve you
-       Embracing the people that are not only nice to you, but also challenge you to grow              while supporting you every step of the way
-       Not needing to prove yourself with words, but choosing to prove it with actions instead
-       Holding your head high even when life is throwing you curveballs
-       Allowing yourself to feel emotions, good AND bad
-       Choosing courage to take a leap of faith over what is fast or easy
-       Unapologetically telling people what you need from them (politely of course)
-       Having an opinion, even when it’s not the popular one
-       Not settling for less than you deserve
-       Listening to your mind & body so that you can pause to take care of yourself first

I know this is quite a long list but it shows just how complex strength really is. My life experiences thus far have informed my definition into something much more complicated than “being tough”. While I feel like I have mastered some of the examples above, there are definitely a handful that I’m still working on every single day. I encourage you to choose one of them and make it your mission every day to go after it. My favorite one as of late has been “Being open about your flaws, insecurities, & weaknesses with others so they know they’re not alone”.  Recently I have taken every opportunity I can to share my struggles with anxiety. And you know what? It has only made my connections with people stronger. By sharing something so personal to me that most people choose to hide, I am revealing a strength within me that can possibly help others know they’re not going through it alone.

What does strength mean to you? I hope my story and my grandma’s story inspires you to seek the strength that you ultimately deserve.