In our world, I notice that strength shows up in one way that is not always recognized. It shows up in our ability to be real and present with our feelings.
There is this typical and overwhelming cultural idea that a ‘strong’ woman is extremely confident and unmoving. She can do everything and not break a sweat. No one can mess with her. She is above all things and is non-emotional. She doesn’t cry. She is strong enough to hide her personality, which makes her mysterious and passive. She can push through any pain and is totally independent. This is not the type of woman I want as a role model for my daughters, or myself.
To me a strong woman is honest and present. She is imperfect and sensitive. She cries. She doesn’t pretend to understand everything or always have her stuff together. She believes in herself. She is vulnerable, which helps her be more aware of her internal world and emotionally mature, as well as present and open with people who are close to her. She takes responsibly for what is her own, and can do this because she identifies what is not hers. She is self defining and self regulating. She can be solid and fluid. She has boundaries. She asks for help and understands that she is independently interconnected to everyone around her.
I believe that being honest with how we feel helps us discover a part of who we are, and the women we want to become. It brings real confidence. Strength grows when we let ourselves experience deep love for others even when it is terrifying, and like having our heart walk around outside our body. There is strength in vulnerability and I see it being revived in women everywhere. When we are passionate, create dreams and goals, and let ourselves feel, we are part of this revival. It takes courage to feel, and it is a gift.
We experience a huge variety of feelings. Remembering that we are more than our feelings allows us to actively sit with them yet be separate form them. Feelings visit us, and sometimes are un-welcomed guests. Our negative emotions can teach us something new about who we are and what we are going though. We don’t need to own them, but we do need to choose how to respond. We can ignore, indulge, and witness them. We can also raise our awareness and respond to our emotions in healthy ways, like speaking to a trusted friend or therapist, expressing the feelings though writing and creativity, or praying to the Lord. I believe it is a strength to feel the negative emotions, to feel hurt and let ourselves be hurt, blunt and honest. Allowing ourselves to feel upset may give way to greater happiness. Emotions that are usually seen as weak or negative, can be experienced in a clean and open way.
When we let emotions be, they will have less of an opportunity to manifest in hidden ways or be projected on the people we love, especially our families, and most importantly our kids. When we take care of our own emotions in positive ways we can have more opportunities to connect with others and understand them better.
I happened to go though the intense experience of having my husband die. I cannot describe the way it felt. I do want to say that I am grateful for the numbness and shock that follows a trauma like this. I know for a fact that numbness can help move us through tough times. There is a protection that comes from pausing and shutting down for a while. I knew that I could not let that numbness take root in me though, or keep me asleep. I have always believed in being present and open with my emotions. If I lingered in a place of non-feeling and remained shut down, I knew it would be more difficult to become the thriving resilient woman that I hoped to be.
“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
I love this quote. It gives me courage and a new perspective on difficult experiences. It helps me enjoy growing older and becoming more seasoned. I believe that people find out who they are and who they want to be by going though this life and its hardships. Emotions bring richness to our lives.
When my mind reflects on feelings, especially ones of suffering and pain, I can’t help but think of the Lord. I believe He felt the deepest hurt that anyone or anything could feel. He experienced complete abandonment and intense suffering when He came to earth. He knew that He had a personal mission He was devoted to, and a Divine love for us that was unconditional and everlasting, and worth the sacrifice. He used suffering to step though every evil temptation and rid it of it’s power and influence on the people He loves. He felt it all, and by doing this He taught me how to be brave and trust my heart and feel this life. I know I am never alone and everything I feel has been felt before by God.
I can be present with my feelings and let them help direct me toward becoming my best self. Not fearless, but brave and present amidst the negativity and fear. If we did not feel, then we would not be as alive, so thank you for hurting.