The Biggest Lie about Strength

The Biggest Lie about Strength

Nature vs nurture… which has the biggest influence on how our identity is shaped as we grow up?

There is no denying that our genetics has a significant influence over the biological processes within our bodies. This being true, the environmental conditioning we experience does also have a significant influence too.

We have all heard stories about people being born with severe physical challenges, and how with love and support they have grown to overcome all of that adversity and go on and achieve great things in their life.

In my opinion, while nature does have a part to play, nurture is the key to unlocking our true potential.

What is gender?

In society, there are accepted norms for what a “man” and a “woman” should behave like. Now when I am talking about male and female, I am not referring to the sex of an individual i.e. biologically determined sex or sexual preference. What I am speaking of is the stereotypical definition of male and female behavioural traits.

Little boys and little girls are conditioned by their parents to adopt behavioural patterns that align with these socially accepted definitions of what males and females should behave like.

One example of this conditioning is how parents react if a child falls over and hurts themselves. If it is a little boy, the parent may just stand the child back up, dust them off and say to carry on with whatever they were doing. If it is a little girl, the parent may be more inclined to expect the child to be upset and then look to console them. The child sensing this expectation will live up to the parents’ expectations.

Now, I accept that this is a massive generalisation and is severely oversimplifying the complexity of how individual identities in terms of gender are formed. The key point I am trying to make is that the stereotypes that were imparted on to our parents when they were children, were then imparted on to us by our parents when we were children, and will be imparted by us on to our kids too. All of this happens subconsciously.

Remember the conversation in the post about the default dream of happiness? This is the same process at play just in a different context. You could call it subconscious gender bias.

So What?

To be clear, I am not saying that this is either a good or a bad thing. It is simply a thing.

We have evolved the neurological systems that support these behaviour patterns because they have helped the human species to survive and thrive. Rather than propose some grandiose change to how these systems are used, I would suggest that the first and most key step is to elevate them in to the conscious mind of society.

Simply to acknowledge that these processes exist and discuss them.

When our subconscious biases become general knowledge, we will be able to have effective collective debate about how best to positively use this physiological trait to benefit society.

This needs to be a conscious conversation happening collectively rather than something purely debated by small groups of academics or emotionally charged individuals that are too poorly informed to offer a valid opinion on the best ways forwards.

Collective consciousness giving rise to collaborative conversation is key.

Are you Strong?

One particular example of how these subconscious biases can take hold is what we are all told about strength when we are growing up. I appreciate that this will differ from person to person and again, this is a bit of a generalisation; but I can only comment from my experience: this is a trait that is taught to more to boys than girls…

A strong person is one that:

  • dominates other people
  • wins at things
  • does not show emotions (because emotions are weak)

If you do not exhibit some or all of these traits then you are weak. Weakness is bad therefore you should not be like that, or want to be like that.

Does this sound familiar?

This is a stock definition of strength that perpetuities in society as a result of subconscious social conditioning imparted by parents, and which is reinforced through media stereo types.

The problem with this definition of strength is in its true meaning. What the statement above actually means is this:

A strong person is one that:

  • dominates other people = is self-centred and does not display compassion or kindness
  • wins at things = sees loss as a bad thing
  • does not show emotions = hides from emotions and becomes ignorant

This definition promotes a blinkered view of the world that when adopted, will only ever give rise to a life which is devoid of meaningful social connections and pure authentic living.

There is another way

Humans evolved emotions to help keep us safe and to guide us to have effective relationships. To deny our emotions is to deny what it is to be human. Choosing to become ignorant to our emotions is much easier than learning to become aware of them, accept them and then work with them.

What choice do you think a truly strong person would make?

Kindness and compassion cultivate a mindset that enables us to develop trust in both ourselves and the humanity of others. Though this mindset we can raise our own energetic vibration and that of everything around us. Self-compassion and compassion for others leads to growth.

It is pretty easy to draw a line between us and other humans; making it an us and them situation and then focusing on binary states of dominance. When we do this, it is a simplification of life. It is much more challenging to develop a mindset where we are able to interact with compassion and kindness to all around us, even when it is not being reciprocated.

What choice do you think a truly strong person would make?

I have a mantra that I previously used when it comes to winning and losing: “Only losers like losing!”.

It is a sentiment that I still standby today, the meaning of it however has been subtly adjusted. The actual experience of losing or making a mistake is never nice. I have learnt that it provides several opportunities for my growth and development though:

  • Learning to accept what is,
  • Learning to be humble and graceful,
  • Discovering where I need to improve so I can win/improve next time,
  • Being honest with myself and others about the reality of the situation – this both helps me practice awareness while strengthening my social connections.

This alternate view of winning and losing come about from first accepting that I was responsible for the situation. When I accepted responsibility for the situation; I also accepted my responsibility to make a choice: stay in the pit of disappointment, or climb out. The growth opportunities I have outlined above represent the rungs on the ladder.

Climbing out takes more effort than wallowing. What choice do you think a truly strong person would make?

Your Choice

Life is all about making the distinctions between what we can and cannot choose, then accepting responsibility for the choices that we can make.

You can now choose to update your definition of strength to one that is empowering.

A strong person is one that:

  • Can show compassion and kindness at all times
  • Is optimistic and seeks opportunities to grow
  • Embraces who they truly are and engages the world with honest authenticity

The greatest strength lies in vulnerability.

Enjoy, for now.

Previous Post – Vitality : Physical Health

All Posts