A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.– Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
Wherever I go and whatever I do, I’ve been told countless times that I need to protect myself. To find and maintain strength, as it is just as easily lost once it is acquired. Where do I find strength, in all its brilliance and complexity? What does it mean to truly be strong – not physically, but mentally?
The first misconception is that strength is a skill, to be acquired through formal education. The ability to be strong is not taught through textbooks or classes, it is built from experience. It is a place in your mind which exists, and can be accessed only when you need reminding that it is still there. I often forget that it is also present within me, until a challenge returns to me once again. Why must it be proven through physicality or lack of emotions? Having such a quality is equivalent to the moments in which we dissolve into droplets, as a result of heartache, and where we choose to rest when responsibilities become too much to fulfill.
Gathering the courage to remain true to yourself in spite of the resistance you receive, is a true testament to strength. It is only when I am standing, with nothing but this bare scaffold of mine and thoughts laid out to share; that I can truly, embody what it means to persevere. When did we begin to believe that hiding the emotion and experiences we have is vital for acquiring strength? I am strong when I am overwhelmed with anger, I am strong when I am bathed in my own tears and I will continue to be strong even when my knees buckle under the weight of all the burdens I carry.
To persevere is to demonstrate great effort even in the dimmest of times. When there is no light to guide you, and no distinct path to follow. It is to continue whilst knowing that the hope you search for lives inside yourself, but can only live if it is carefully listened to. The day this voice, this being nestled between your head and heart, ceases to speak; is when strength abandons you, just as you have abandoned your true self.
Constructing a wall around the person you are and the thoughts you have does not equal perseverance, or progress. Protecting yourself is vital, but can be done in a much less harmful manner. Be vulnerable for those who have left this world without sharing their truth will remain unknown, as a result preventing the change they yearned to witness from happening. Be transparent in how your experiences have manifested into the thoughts and actions you exhibit today, so that you may increase understanding and lessen loneliness. Make a conscious decision as to whether protecting yourself in this way has limited you or helped you in having genuine interactions – with yourself, the people around you now and those you have yet to meet.
What does perseverance mean to you? How did you protect yourself when you last felt threatened? What would it take for you now to change?