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You Don’t Have to be Strong, Just a Little Stronger Than Before

Sometimes telling ourselves to be brave invokes fear. Here's why you don't have to be strong, just a little stronger than before.

When Inspiration Becomes the Standard

We often tell ourselves or others to ‘be strong’ or to ‘be brave’. Instead of instilling inspiration, these statements can sometimes provoke the opposite effect. It becomes another standard we have to meet, and triggers more ripples of fear. But the fact is, you don’t have to be strong, at least not all the time.

The expectations of ‘strength’ is a colossal ideal that sits atop the shiny, elevated pedestal erected by society. It’s unreachable by the average person, and a desired possession for our egos. The path to get there can even be harmful at times, as we sacrifice important aspects of ourselves along the way.

A Sense of Stolen Identity

I was feeling down the other day, as I felt that I had lost a lot of the fire I possessed in my youth. When I was going through the most painful experience of my life at 17, I didn’t really take any painkillers, as I had bought into the belief that they’re bad for you. I thought that that was an act of strength and character.

Now, I take a painkiller whenever I feel that I’ve had enough. I’m sick of being in pain. Whilst that makes sense, I’m also somewhat disappointed, as if I had lost a quality I admired in myself. I was no longer ‘strong’ or ‘brave’, just a weakling who relied on painkillers for pain that was much lesser than what I had experienced before.

But a thought sliced through that despair. I realised that you don’t have to be strong, just a little stronger than before. You don’t have to be brave, just a little braver than before. A little kinder, a little gentler, a little better than before. I felt a sense of courage jolt through me with that thought, all within the span of a few seconds.

“You don’t have to be strong, just a little stronger than before. You don’t have to be brave, just a little braver than before. A little kinder, a little gentler, a little better than before.” #strength #ChronicallyIll #MentalHealth Share on X

You Don’t Have to be Strong; Set Realistic Milestones

The problem with trying to be ‘Strong’, is that we’re comparing ourselves against an impossible standard. We’ll know when our intentions are wrong, when we worry about how others will judge us should we fail to meet them.

Instead, we can take that standard to meet us where we are in life right here, right now. By doing so, we turn that impossibility into a possibility that we can meet.

Life is large, everchanging, and tethers itself to no one society, thought or perspective. It encompasses all ways of living. We don’t have to worry that we’re degrading into worthlessness, as long as we keep moving in the right direction.

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The Problem with Trying to be Strong, and How to Reframe It

What’s the Point to Courage Without Fear?

The word ‘courage’ would probably have no meaning without the existence of fear. Courage is to look fear in the eye (or in the corner of your vision!), and to walk past that dragon’s lair anyway. If that demon doesn’t frighten you, then you could stroll by without the need for bravery.

Even if all you take is one small step forward, it is still a powerful act. It is to have some faith in yourself, to know that you can traverse this travesty, and survive this tragedy.

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The Powerful Act of One Small Step
“Even if all you take is one small step forward, it is still a powerful act. It is to have some faith in yourself, to know that you can traverse this travesty, and #survive this tragedy.” #ChronicLife #LifeLesson #ChronicPain Share on X

When I feel overwhelmed, this thought inspires me. I feel a sense of relief, as if the heavy weight of that gold standard is lifted, so that I can move and actually get going. Once again, you don’t have to be strong, but just take a small tiptoe forward in faith and courage.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

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You Don’t Have to be Strong, You Just Have to be a Little Stronger Than Before
You Don’t Have to be Strong, You Just Have to be a Little Stronger Than Before

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Anne
March 26, 2023 00:05

Sometimes I really wish that people wouldn’t use the word strong. It’s certainly not the word I would use for myself. But I like the idea of little steps and just being a little stronger than before. Beautiful words Sheryl, as always.

Lucy
August 13, 2021 17:41

I love this post! It’s so true, focussing on a long term goal and big progress feels so overwhelming and out of reach most days. Instead, small steps in the right direction feel so much more achievable. It’s those small steps that all add up to make big improvements in the long term 🙂

Claire
January 21, 2021 00:10

I find it frustrating when people (including doctors) tell me to stay strong. It’s giving a standard that can be insurmountable. Why should I be strong when I am in pain, or having a horrible medical test? It’s ok to be scared or feel fearful I think.

Carrie Kellenberger
June 4, 2020 14:28

Loved this! It’s so important to remember that we can’t meet impossible standards. I do say ‘stay strong’ a lot, but I also give myself room to move with things as they come and go. I try not to be too hard on myself because sometimes expectations are truly impossible to meet. I think that as long as we stay in the present and try to take it one day at a time, it all becomes a little more bearable. Baby steps, one step at a time, be ready to bend with it when you need to.

Kathy
May 22, 2018 22:38

I can relate to your thoughts in this post. “Even if all you take is one small step forward, it is still a powerful act.” So many quotable sentences, and inspiration to keep taking small steps forward.

Lowen Puckey
May 21, 2018 14:05

Awesome read 😀 I think our sense of needing to be strong can be destructive in some instances, for example when we pretend we’re not in pain or don’t admit the extent of our suffering to doctors. We need to redefine what strength is and does for us x Lowen @ livingpositivelywithdisability.com

Lydia
May 21, 2018 12:04

Wow, I really needed this right now. I mean at this very minute. I am fighting symptoms I haven’t had to in a long time and dealing with pain levels I have never had before. I was beginning to think I was becoming a weakling and submitting to everything I have been dealing with for a long time now. This post really reminded me of who I am and where I have been. You are right, I just need that little extra strength, not a whole boat-load! Thanks, Sheryl.

Emma (Not Just Tired)
May 15, 2018 16:47

Great post Sheryl. Really inspiring. I like your thinking that taking one small step forward is enough. Phew! When I first became ill, I remember thinking about just taking baby steps, and that helped me a lot. It’s easy to forget this sometimes though, so thanks for the reminder!