I received quite the string of compliments last night from a woman I respect, who I think is strong and capable, but then she had a question for me that was hard to answer. She wanted to know what made me such a strong woman. I know she desperately wanted a real answer, but I think I gave her the wide-eyed owl blink/stare and then a laugh (okay, perhaps more of a guffaw) and told her whatever she saw was all a facade! I know. Totally helpful, right?! This morning I recounted the compliments she gave me to another woman who is a mentor to me, and my wise mentor mom said, “You don’t see yourself like she sees you. Is that the problem?”
Friends, why do we have such a hard time seeing ourselves the way others see us? I KNOW I’m strong, but I don’t always FEEL it. I can project confidence, but I’m often insecure. I appreciate compliments, but they make me uncomfortable because they’re hard for me to believe. (Ironically, this is why I’m so good at giving compliments. I know people NEED to hear and believe them.) It’s so hard to shut out the thoughts that we’re not good enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, just not enough.
These conversations all worked perfectly into my therapy this morning. (Yes, I see a therapist. I’m pretty sure you should too. There’s NO SHAME in having a trained professional help us untangle our thoughts and feelings.) My therapist gave me “homework” this week. She challenged me to sit a minute and internalize any compliments I get, and try to believe them. If you struggle with this, too, I want you to do the same. If this works, we’ll all be stronger, more confident, and maybe we’ll discover that we’re simply enough just the way we are!
So, my friend still deserves an answer to her question even if it’s an IMPOSSIBLE question. She might as well have asked me how my empathy for others became my super power. I don’t frickin’ know! That’s just how God made me. But, for her, I’m going to tackle it anyway.
What makes me a strong woman? I think these three things have something to do with it:
1. I don’t give up. I’m tenacious. Stubborn to a fault. I learned the definition of obstinate in Kindergarten when I asked my dad what it meant and he said in a complimentary/proud fatherly way, “You.”
This oft annoying trait comes in handy when I feel almost defeated and definitely not strong enough. I remember I’m HIS and I’m LOVED and I dig my heels in and fight back against all of the self-doubt and outside influences that would have me believe I’m not enough.
2. LOVE. Is there anything else worth tenaciously, stubbornly fighting for? I do my best to let my heart lead and my words and actions follow. I love people. ALL people. I know what it feels like to feel not enough, so I fight for people to KNOW that they are loved and are enough. LOVE WINS. It’s always stronger, so it’s the best “weapon” I have, and I’m not afraid to use it.
3. YOU all. My family and friends who believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself. We humans are wired for connection and relationships, and if you don’t have an awesome support system of people who can help you see the best in yourself, then it’s time to get outside your comfort zone and make some new friends. (That’s how I found all of my amazing, supportive, strong women friends who help me understand that I’m enough. I don’t even know what a comfort zone is anymore, and my life is richer for it.)
So what about you? What makes you strong? If you can’t see it in yourself, sit with the question a bit, ask a friend, because I know you are. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.