It’s been more than a decade since I went through my divorce and during that time I’ve forgotten how tough life felt. It all came flooding back to me when I started coaching a woman who was smack-dab in the middle of a divorce. The stress, the worry, the feelings of failure, and the edges of hope and freedom. The inability to imagine who I was if I wasn’t fulfilling the role of wife was terrifying. The number one thing that propelled me through to the other side of it was finding what I didn’t quite know I had: inner strength.
Inner strength is that ability to cope with the challenges life presents and the difficult emotions we all experience.
It encompasses a dash of emotional intelligence, self-control, resilience, mindfulness, and good old-fashioned grit. Inner strength is what allows some folks to manage situations with seeming grace.
Each one of us has a deep well of inner strength in our souls, even when you don’t think you do. The secret is that like any habit: inner strength can be grown. See, just like exercise, sleep, and eating well can help us grow our physical strength, it’s possible to not just access, but develop our inner strength.
While a crisis calls us to access it, choosing to recognize and develop your inner strength when you are crisis free is smart. When that next challenge arises, you can see it as not just an obstacle, but a growth opportunity. This is where that mindfulness piece of inner strength comes in: deciding that we are going to overcome any obstacle that comes our way.
Sounds great, right? I know it also sounds impossibly hard. And you may be thinking that you’d just much rather not have to deal with the hard stuff. I wish we didn’t. I wish we didn’t deal with loss of loved ones, a job change, or divorces. Yet, simply being human means that there will be moments of pain.
Choosing to do some small things now to help grow your inner strength allows you to be more resilient when the inevitable challenges of life appear. Looking back at time from going through that divorce, I was able to remember several tools that helped me strengthen that inner wherewithal.
Eleven Ways to Grow Your Inner Strength
One: Know Thyself
It’s not always easy to look in the mirror and take stock of who we are. That’s because humans skew to a negative bias, so the invitation seems to be to pick yourself apart and note what needs to be improved. I want to challenge that view for you and make clear that the only way to get from one side of a crisis to the other side as unscathed as possible demands that you know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Two: Awareness is Your Friend
There are other ways to understand more about who you are naturally. You can also dive into awareness with a simple inquiry method. (I share thirty questions to grow your awareness in this article). Also, make a list of all the acts and actions you are good at. Like sewing, creating a great meal, listening, or picking the perfect paint color for a room. When you take part in these acts, it gives you feel-good endorphins, reminding you that you already have some true strengths.
The clearer you are on who you truly are means that when a challenge arises, your inner strength will help you survive it.
Three: What’s Your Type?
One of my favorite tools is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Take one of the free personality tests (Some free online ones: HumanMetrics / Keirsey / 16 Personalities). Then, read through the full description of your type, noting both the strength and the weaknesses. This is simply your starting ground.
So, to grow that inner strength of yours, it’s important to take stock of who you are.
To get a jump-start on growing your inner strength, take note of the strengths that ring truest to you. Especially the ones that feel like a blessed reminder that you are a Child of God and deserving of a good life. Then, decide which strengths you are going to enhance.
Four: Recognize Weaknesses Don’t Negate Your Strengths
By the way, the so called “weaknesses” of your personality type aren’t weaknesses, but merely soft spots. Choose to see them as simple facts, rather than as a criticism or an assault on your character. Recognizing so called weaknesses as areas of your personality or life that you want to polish is helpful.
Knowing your weaknesses don’t necessarily make you weak can help you grow your inner strength.
Five: Have a Gratitude Practice
I’m sure you’ve hear it before, but never underestimate the way gratitude can help you grow your inner strength. Having a gratitude practice has been scientifically shown to retrain your thoughts from going to the negative to shifting to the positive. Because I have learned that putting pen to paper access a different area of your brain than speaking or typing, by keeping a written gratitude journal, you infuse your practice with mindfulness.
It allows you to recognize what inner strength you already have by immersing you in the thick of your own life.
Six: Create a Compliment File
The flip side of a gratitude practice is paring it with compliments. See, a gratitude practice focuses on your inner world, right? Compliments, however, come from the outside world towards you. I had gone years without positive words flowing from my (then) husband’s mouth. So the first time someone complimented a meal I made or told me I was pretty was a big WOW moment.
You can grow your inner strength by seeing compliments as part of your gratitude practice. Anytime you receive a compliment, record it. You can print out emails, write about it in your gratitude journal, or even keep an electronic file of compliments. Don’t forget to compliment yourself, too. When you celebrate your successes, you are not just honoring your accomplishments. You are finding and growing your inner strength.
Reading through your gratitude journal and compliment file reminds you how fierce you really are.
Seven: Grow Your Inner Strength by Clearing Clutter
It’s hard to focus on growing any part of your character, personality, or life when you’re surrounded by clutter. You should be able to walk into your home and discover a haven that feels supportive, and supports you in your growth. So, tidy up your spaces and get rid of anything that doesn’t serve you. You should live in a space that makes you feel happy and proud.
And clutter isn’t just about physical clutter; clear that mental clutter, too Clear swirling thoughts by making lists. Take up meditation. Get clear on your desires, needs, and goals.
Getting rid of things that don’t serve you also means looking at your relationships. If any of your relationships – romantic, professional, and friendships – feel like a drain, then they aren’t going to help you grow your inner strength. Make a decision to either fix those relationships or end them.
Eight: Become a Sovereign of Your Time
How often do you take on obligations and extra commitments, even when you don’t want to? As caretakers and nurturers, women are especially prone to taking on more than they can possibly handle. One of the best ways to become a sovereign of your own time and grow your inner strength is to learn to say no.
See, saying “yes” to everything drains your energy, leaving you with less energy for what’s truly important to you. If you use all your energy to do for others, you’ll find yourself deflating like a balloon that’s has a slow leak. By saying “no” to the things you really don’t want to do, or things you know you don’t have time for, you create a sense of inner strength while freeing up your time and energy to do the things that are going to serve you best and that allow you take care of your body.
Nine: Stop Being So Busy
Just like saying no to others helps you grow your inner strength, sometimes the person you need to say “no” to is yourself!
It’s impossible to grow your inner strength if you’re always on the busy train. I’m all about productivity, not busyness. Growing your inner strength is going to feel easier when you have breathing space. So, stop being so busy!
Ten: Shift Your Thoughts
It’s so easy to get lost into the stories of how we’re a failure. A crisis throws our thoughts into overtime:
You should know better than to….
If you were smarter…
If you were prettier (thinner, taller, blonder, etc), this wouldn’t have happened..
Practice shifting negative thoughts to more positive ones. Or at least fact based. For example: “If I were thinner, my husband wouldn’t have had an affair with that aerobics instructor…” This can be turned around. “No matter how much I weigh, my husband CHOSE to break his vows and have an affair.”
Taking responsibility for your part in any challenge will grow your inner strength as well, just don’t beat yourself up.
Eleven: Rewrite Your Stories
In addition to turning negative thoughts around into a more fact-based recital, focus on the story of your life beyond any particular crisis. Practice seeing yourself rise above the pain, looking back and peering forward at the values, experiences, and goals of your whole life.
Just as knowing yourself helps grow your inner strength, rewriting painful stories of your past helps as well. Research shows that rewriting painful stories to ones that have a more positive spin lead to happier lives. This allows you to understand that a crisis doesn’t define you. Old stories don’t have to be a part of your future.
When you take part in owning your story when life is flowing smoothly, you grow your inner strength and will be more resilient when a crisis does arise.
Resilience helps us to lead happier and more satisfying lives. No matter what’s happening in your life, remember that you have overcome hardships in the past. That means that you have tapped into your inner strength before and can do so again.
When you remind yourself that you already have inner strength, it means that you can choose to grow it. And like any habit, the more you grow it, the strong you will feel!
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