Another kind of strong

It takes strength to do what you love. 

Yes, yes it does. 

It takes strength to chase dreams, pursue goals and be willing to push your mind and body outside of its comfort zone. It’s embracing, if not welcoming, the invitation and journey. You want, desire and crave it. 

But, it also takes strength to show up when things aren’t okay, and we don’t get a medal for this kind of uninvited, messier kind of strength.

No one is waiting at the finish line of a hard conversation or job change or boundary you hold with a difficult family member saying, “Look at you! You did it! I’m so proud of you!” 

And there are so many of us in these types of races right now. It’s growth and inner work that doesn’t go on the highlight reel, and it’s a type of resilience we couldn’t explain even if we tried. It’s strength built from surviving things we didn’t think we could, overcoming challenges we didn’t invite and becoming a version of ourselves that we didn’t know was possible. 

It’s not strength we asked for, but we watch ourselves become warriors nonetheless.

I’m coming off a year where my strength — owning it and remembering it — had nothing to do with physical endeavors and everything to do with making big, transformative decisions. 

My strength was in the stopping; it was recognizing that I didn’t want to keep up or keep pushing, and all I wanted to do was stop.

My strength was in letting off the gas pedal and giving myself permission to change course.

I’ve also found so much strength in surrendering. 

Let me ask you this: What are you holding on to right now that feels heavy? What are you trying to control? What don’t you trust? What are you afraid will happen if you just … let it be?

We can trick ourselves into thinking that our strength comes from the effort it takes to control our circumstances. 

Do me a favor right now. I want you to clench your fist as tightly as you can for as long as you can. 

Keep doing it. Keep going. 

And let go.

Okay, now tell me: How did it feel while you were clenching? How did it feel to hold the intensity and focus of your fingers tightly gripped? 

And, how did it feel to release your grip? To let go. To shake loose. To open your fingers and watch your hands open to the sky. 

We think our strength is in controlling the tight grip, but a different kind of strength comes to life when we’re wise enough to let go. 

I practice this ritual with my girls (especially my teenager), with my work, with conversations, before every game I coach and with anything I wish I had the power to control. I remind myself with every clench and release that my only sustainable choice is surrendering to what is already happening. And then, letting myself enjoy and be with it. 

As we celebrate and honor the Strength message, I want to celebrate all the women who have stopped and surrendered. The women who said, “I’m not doing this anymore.” The women who decided to do something different. The women who put up a boundary. The women who took a chance on something that doesn’t have the bigness but that has the heart. The women who are letting go and surrendering to what is, even if it’s not what they envisioned.

This isn’t about crowding out the idea of working toward big goals. It’s reminding all of us that it takes equal amounts of strength to stop doing something, to change course and to let go. 

And remember: You’re still here. You found your way through. You did that. You built your strength in real time, moment after moment, in continuing to show up and surrender to what is. You are strong, just as you are. 

– Mel Charbonneau

Mel is the founder and chief visionary officer of Her Whole Story.

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