Hands up if you think you’re a strong character? *I raise my hand quite confidently. How many people give you the compliment ‘you are strong?’ How many people comment on your physical strength or your emotional strength? How many of you have become stronger since succeeding whether that is in personal goals, career wise or as parents? How many of you take that comment as a compliment?
What do you perceive in your character that makes you strong? For me, I would say my determination, my drive, my passion, my ability, my stubbornness, my cognitive ability, my level of compassion to empathise and try to understand others, my idols, my interests, my successes, other people’s successes and also the extrinsic motivation of family and friends to succeed and push limits to grow in positive ways.
Strength. We can define strength on a physical and emotional level. You might be lifting an impressive amount of weight in a gym and you hear; “You are strong”. We can talk about natural materials in the environment, natural minerals such as iron. When iron or other metals are used as frames and foundations; we use them for their strength. Emotionally as we tackle our busy weekly schedules, intense stress at work or looking after a family, people may comment on your strength to take on the world.
Now here’s a question, how many of you or people do you know are strong because they had to be strong? Then there’s the comment/compliment that goes hand in hand with strength, “You can handle anything.” Strong isn’t about having a million strengths; it’s about facing and dealing with your weaknesses. It is at times about overcoming failures or traumatic events.
Strong doesn’t mean unbreakable, it doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where you feel like you may crumble. Being strong in character still allows room for a sensitive, emotional and compassionate side. If we take the metaphor ‘strong as an ox’ as an example; an ox is physically a strong animal, often used as a working animal. The sheer size is proof of that. However, for those who have ever come in contact with the mammal would know that cattle are generally such beautiful and calm animals and respond to the demands of humans. In order to work for humans, they need to be trained; they need to broken and trust in their owner.
I’m now going to talk about two women who I label as strong, who I admire for their successes and admire for overcoming their failures and trauma because they had to if their voices were to have power. I’m going to use two women; one African American woman and one Caucasian Australian woman. While this doesn’t include all cultures, it is fair in focusing on more than one. Oprah Winfrey. Germaine Greer. Strong women, would you agree?
Germaine Greer is an academic and a writer and is regarded as one of the most significant voices of feminism in the 20th Century. There is no doubt she is a strong and successful woman who isn’t afraid to voice her beliefs. Greer was raped as a 19 year-old, she also recalls nights as a young wife when she had to sleep on the floor. Did her success derive from her traumatic life experiences? I’m sure at some point she crumbled, who wouldn’t? Nevertheless, she has overcome incredibly traumatic events and has a voice, which she uses powerfully and for the good.
Let’s now look at Oprah Winfrey; one of the most (if not, the most) influential black American women in history. Her life as a child and young adult was traumatic. She has recalled moments as a child and young teen of being raped by her family members, a young pregnancy at just 14 where she gave birth to a premature son who died soon after birth. Just reading about her life is heartbreaking let alone living it. Yet, she is still seen as an incredibly strong woman; a woman who is not only strong but has compassion for so many. Strength is obvious but love, kindness, generosity and sensitivity is also so clearly instilled and portrayed. Many people have benefited from Winfrey’s acts of kindness.
Could these women and people alike have made it through traumatic experiences alone? I can’t imagine they could have. For Oprah Winfrey, moving to be with her father and stepmother is where her life seemed to really shift. The hand of her family is possibly what she used to really get out on top. What is also very evident is that these strong women do not tear others down. A lot of their purpose is defined in how they can build others up. This form of strength can be admired.
In these two women, their comebacks have been stronger than their setbacks. And this goes for many women out there whether it be a small failure or a life-changing trauma; the comeback is where the strength lies. I’m sure we have all experienced or felt failure at some point. Who was there by our sides? Who were cheering us on? Who were checking in? Who were holding our hands? Who were emotionally pulling us through? These are the people that we need in our lives. These are the people that understand that no matter how ‘strong’ we are, we all have a breaking point. These are the people that no matter how big your smile may be know that you may be breaking on this inside.
We are all human. No matter how strong we may be. We are social creatures, creatures that rely on others to give us purpose, identity, fulfilment and love. So while one person may be stronger than another and may be able to take on the world, we still need others in our lives in good times and times of challenge.
“I’m a strong woman but every once in a while I would like someone to take my hand and tell me it’s all going to be okay.” If you’re reading this and you feel like you are failing, you’re not alone. If you’re reading this and feel like you’re broken in some way, you’re not alone. These setbacks will fuel your comeback. If you’re reading this and know a strong woman; know all of her. We all need somebody. We all need love.