I talk with my clients about inner strength. This phrase is used fairly widely within the coaching sector but it is open to interpretation. I thought I might explain what I mean when I talk about tapping into your inner strength.
What is inner strength?
If I asked you what inner strength meant to you, you might suggest words like resilience, confidence, self-belief. You might say it helps you in your life (and career). When you think of words like resilience and perseverance, they are both tied to a deep sense of inner strength and purpose.
Psychologists use the term “finding inner strength” to refer loosely to the wide range of mental and emotional resources (behaviours, skills and attitudes) that keep us stable and adaptable in life.
I saw a description that described it as the strength of the soul - which I love. It is the power you have to deal with difficult situations; to give your all to a development goal or dedicate yourself to taking care of others.
How we show our inner strength
The source of your inner strength comes from within. It’s the capacity to assess a situation, observe our own thoughts and emotions as a response and it’s the ability to respond wisely and compassionately to what we are experiencing.
To do this we use resources - some are practised, like gratitude, compassion, mindfulness. Others, like resilience, empathy and wisdom are learned as we experience life. Then we have those innate resources like our capacity to love, be humorous and be generous. We all take these attributes and skills and focus on them in unique ways to create and show our own inner strength.
It’s the perceived strength one must have to overcome life’s challenges. From dealing with a grumpy child to a colleague who’s always running late on projects to the customer who seems to be communicating with us with anger and impatience, to dealing with our own feelings of not being enough - and then all of this and more happening all at once!
Benefits of tapping into your inner strength
When I talk of inner strength, it’s often in the context of using it to achieve your goals. But it’s more than that; inner strength can give you meaning, peace of mind, energy to keep you going when times are tough. It can give us patience, self-confidence, determination, tolerance and enthusiasm.
If you are able to tap into your inner strength you might find that you are more able to forgive others because you know you are only in control of your own actions and that your happiness is not dependent on others. You might feel able to take back your power and change your story. And, whilst inner strength is often tested in tragedy, it doesn’t have to be.
Inner strength can take the form of compassion when dealing with an unruly child. Or kind words spoken to a worried stranger. It can be silence in the face of insulting words. Or it can be in the form of strong action in the face of injustice. It can be the choice of non-violence in response to aggression.
Mindfulness as a way to cultivate inner strength
If you want to increase your ability to listen to your inner strength, you need to work on staying present in the moment.
When you stay focused on the present moment, you disable the critical part of your mind. In the present, there is nothing to worry about (like the future) and there is nothing to feel guilty about (as in the past). In the present, the only thing on your mind will be - what is the next best decision I can make?.
For example, if you lost your job, a mindful thought might be - what now? If you are worried about the future, you could be thinking - how am I going to pay these bills? If you are in the past, you may be telling yourself - you messed up again and you can never get things right. (This would be your inner critic)
When we are present, we can observe our own thoughts and emotions and this allows us to respond mindfully rather than react. This means that we are able to bring compassion to any situation - the grumpy child is easier to engage with; the colleague doesn’t upset us as much and it’s easier to be curious about the irate customer. We are able to be gentler, kinder, leading with compassion and taking constructive action. Who wouldn’t want that?
Like mindfulness, establishing inner strength is a practice. It requires a journey of self-discovery through reflection; an examination of limiting beliefs and a commitment to self-care. Inner strength is something we can work on and refine over time.
Following your inner voice and being yourself is the key to finding and building your inner strength. The path is not always going to be the easiest, but it will always be the most fulfilling. Find your inner strength and be courageous enough to let it shine.