Sunday, December 1, 2013

On strength and being strong

I have since a while now fancied myself getting a tattoo and I realize that more than the thought of the tattoo itself, the thrill is around what this tattoo should be – should it be a wise line in an ancient language in its own script or should it be a cryptic symbol that represents an aspect of my personality? As I keep dilly-dallying, I remember once having come across a symbol for ‘Strength’ in the Chinese script.

Besides it seeming to be a rather simple image to have etched on my skin (read: lesser pain), I think I have been fascinated by the word itself.

Strength. Being strong.

If you’ve been following this blog on being ‘Not So Ample’ you will realize that I’ve brought up the innumerable references to my skinny frame by everyone I’ve known and met and how that has immediately demoted me to a frail, lesser being almost – only because I haven’t ever been ampler, larger, bigger.
Weird, misplaced fixations.

And all the while – all throughout childhood, early adulthood till this point - I’ve rather consciously tried to search for something else to centre my notion of strength around. I guess that’s where my fixation with the word and everything it means might actually stem from!

To my mind there had to be more to strength than just the physical aspect. Don’t get me wrong – biceps, abs, 4 and 6 packs, triceps, calves et al are impressive and sexy! I had my own stint at the gym a couple of years ago and loved the shape I got into. I agree that being in shape does wonders to your sense of self-esteem for sure because for a while thereafter I couldn’t care anymore about people making any remarks about my skinny frame well because skinny had some shape and could also flex a muscle or two!
Now of course lethargy and laziness have completely taken over and despite that niggling voice in my head to get back to training I seem to be an absolute disappointment. Nothing. Nothing seems to get me to get back to some discipline – not even the thought that I can have those flat abs once again! *sigh*

Being a woman – yeah, I’m bringing in a gender perspective – physical strength isn’t quite expected out of you. I mean that. Even during that short stint at training at the gym, I once had a middle aged woman (aka the local neighbourhood aunty) express disdain at me flexing that lone single muscle. 
“As a girl, you shouldn’t be muscular”, she said to my face. Like I said, I had already surrendered to the I-couldn’t-care-less mantra.

And yes there is a blind eye approach to the biology of a woman that actually proves the physical strength of women – think child birth if nothing else and you have to ask yourself why women are referred to the weaker sex. Answers anyone?

Still moving to another realm is that of emotional strength.
Softer aspect. I know. I hear the sniggers. Can it even be considered as strength?
I had come across this line a while ago and it appealed to me: "Strength is nothing more than how well you hide the pain"
Well, what else would you attribute society’s outlook that men aren’t supposed to cry to? Or lately a statement like ‘big girls don’t cry’? Or that ‘strong is the new beautiful’? 

For the longest time I have upheld these myself. Not only did I think and believe but also imbibed these through my own disposition and actions.
Being strong was a good thing.
And I had to prove that I was strong.
I pushed my own limits. I couldn’t think of looking back.
And I didn’t.
For quite a long time.

Somewhere I was also beginning to realize that being strong almost necessitated that one is emotionally void and therefore capable of demonstrating strength!
So is every notion of strength – physical, biological, emotional, spiritual (for those who believe in an external being) –  actually quite skewed, then?

Not quite. Not if you acknowledge and accept that the above is a uni-dimensional force-fitted view towards whatever it is that we think comprises of strength.

And this is what I set out to discover by myself.
What did I find?
I’ll share that in my next post… But I’m curious to know what your experiences have been around “being strong” – What according to you is strength? 
What roadblocks did you overcome (if any)? 
How has your own mind-set changed if at all?

Oh! And should I really get that tattoo now?


  1. Elita! I liked the turnaround on the word - I've also used and heard of strength being talked about in positive terms. And I do think it is positive, particularly emotional strength. But your post made me reflect upon the downside of being strong, and the downside of being too focused on being strong. I think sometimes you can make yourself go through more pain by trying to be strong, especially if you're really working for it. If you're not naturally strong in a particularly situation, you're going to strain your muscle and cause long term damage even if you succeed in your effort then. Thanks for the food for thought!

    1. Thank you for reading the post, Megha and you're welcome -- this post got continued on my second blog & here's the link to the post:

  2. Trying to be gentle in my dealings with all situations...I find it harder to do than wearing a tough exterior & it makes me FEEL stronger! Thanks for sharing this post Elits!

    1. Acknowledging what we're doing (or not doing) is that first step towards trying to make a difference for ourselves and others around us :)