/streNG(k)TH/

Women are nurturers by nature. There is something in us that calls us to take care of those around us. There’s something that beckons us to care, to help. Unfortunately, we often become the sacrificial lambs in our families and relationships. We are the mothers, the wives, the big sisters, the responsible ones and the strong friends.

We pride ourselves on being strong. We carry it all, even when it hurts. We grin and bear it, even when our hearts are breaking. We push and press on even when we feel broken. We are the epitome of resilience.

Many times, we give so much to everyone else that we leave little to nothing for ourselves. We are constantly trying to pour from an empty cup. Our “I’ll figure it out” disposition often creates a dumping ground for the burdens of those around us. Our “I got it” is often a signed permission slip in the eyes of those around us to do the bare minimum.

We are constantly somewhere between doing the most and not doing enough.

The problem with being strong is the way we equate strength with sacrifice. We think we have to offer up our needs, feelings, time, and energy to display strength.

True strength lies in our ability to recognize we don’t have to have it all figured out. Vulnerability doesn’t subtract from the sum of our strength. It’s okay to not be okay. The problem with being strong is that we often try to fight battles, carry burdens, and solve problems that weren’t meant for us.

The expectation and standards we have when it comes to what strength is and what it looks like are often distorted and defined by what others think and what others have done.

I was raised by a strong black woman; therefore, I am a strong black woman.

My mother and grandmother have always been the standard of strength in my eyes. I watched them both battle breast cancer. Even in her final days, my grandmother remained strong. I never saw her shed a tear, never heard her utter a complaint—I only saw strength and faith. I’ve watched my mother battle breast cancer twice. It wasn’t until my own breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 28 that I realized everything I thought I knew about strength was wrong. I realized that I didn’t have to be strong like anyone else. I had to redefine my strength through the lens on my faith. I realized that I was stronger with tears in my eyes than I was when I was smiling on the outside and hurting inside.

I found strength in transparency and my ability to admit when I needed a moment. I found strength in letting myself feel and not trying to mask those feelings. I found strength in recognizing that feeling afraid and frustrated didn’t mean I had any less faith.

I hope that anyone reading this, who is questioning their strength can find comfort in knowing you are stronger than you think. Be your kind of strong, flex your faith muscle, and fix your crown.

“Strong women aren’t simply born. We are forged through the challenges of life. With each challenge we grow mentally and emotionally. We move forward with our head held high and a strength that cannot be denied. A woman who’s been through the storm and survived. We are warriors.” –Unknown