Despite the difficulties, the obstacles that at first seem insurmountable and the problems apparently irresolvable, we have an incredible ability to overcome adversity and move forward. What guides us through the toughest situations in life is our inner strength.
Inner strength helps us recover from a serious illness, to get out of the black hole in which we fell after the the loss of a loved one and get up after a failure by recomposing the broken pieces to move on. Thanks to inner strength we not only resist adversity, but we are strengthened from the most complicated circumstances.
What is exactly the inner strength?
Inner strength is a psychological resource that promotes well-being and facilitates healing. It is the ability to protect ourselves against adversity by maintaining a positive, hopeful and optimistic attitude that allows us to project ourselves into the future, relying on our resources to deal with the problem.
Inner strength rests on three fundamental pillars:
1. Resilience. It is the force that pushes us towards survival even in the most difficult conditions, which feeds on the confidence in our capacities and resources to move forward. It implies a balance between perseverance – keeping our course in spite of everything and everyone – and the flexibility to adapt our thinking and behavior to circumstances, however hard they may be. Resilience allows us to bend without breaking, becoming survivors.
2. Meaning of life. It is the ability to find meaning in life, to explain what happens to us and understand the most difficult circumstances, so that we can choose the most appropriate coping strategies to deal with stressful situations. It also implies the full awareness that we are free to choose our attitude towards what happens, which allows us to empower ourselves and maintain a certain degree of control over the situation.
3. Self-transcendence. It is the ability to move intra, inter and transpersonally beyond the self. It implies transcending personal interests, so that we can assume a psychological distance that helps us put everything that happens to us in perspective to go one step beyond worry. Thanks to self-transcendence we can expand personal boundaries and even take the apparently more negative experiences with a sense of humor. In this way we manage to go through the difficult periods without falling apart, assuming the difficulties with greater integrity.
Why do we need to develop inner strength?
The inner strength is one of the most valuable tools for life. It is what keeps us hopeful and encourages us to move forward, which subsists when everything else has collapsed. Not only does it allow us to overcome adversity, but it helps us to better weather the storm, maintaining a more positive attitude that allows us to continue to rely on our capabilities.
A study conducted at the University of Åland, for example, found that as women age, the risk of depression increases by 20%. However, inner strength is a protective factor that not only keeps them safe from depression, but also leads them to engage in positive and meaningful activities that improve their health.
Another research conducted at the University of Utah revealed that inner strength is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of life of people who survive cancer because it allows them to face the disease with greater integrity and positivity.
We must think of inner strength as an investment for life. The more problems we face, the more we will rely on our potential to get ahead – whatever happens – and more prepared we will be to deal with future problems without falling apart. Although we do not have an action plan, even if we have never faced that obstacle, inner strength gives us the necessary thrust not to faint.
7 characteristics of people with inner strength
1. They have a locus of control internal. “Pray as if God takes care of everyone, but act as if everything depends on you”, says a popular saying. And people who have a great inner strength put it into practice to the letter. They develop a locus of control internal, which means they take charge of their lives and assume their responsibilities. They don’t blame others or the world for their problems, but try to solve them.
2. They avoid the things on what they have no influence. We tend to think that willpower is an inexhaustible source, but it is not like that. If we have spent all day exercising a strict self-control, during the night we will be more likely to fall into self-indulgence. That means that willpower is a quality that we must learn to dose. That is why people with inner strength tend to concentrate on what really counts and go beyond lost causes or those things that escape their control. This attitude allows them to focus their energy and achieve their goals. They are pragmatic people who contribute as far as they can and don’t get martyred when they can’t do more.
3. They do not complain continuously. Occasionally, complaints may have a cathartic power but the continuous complain – an endemic feature of our society – only serve to focus on the negative aspects of situations and lose extremely valuable energy and time. People with inner strength assume a different attitude: they do not sit down and cry over spilled milk, use that energy to reorganize their strategy and return to fight. They are able to focus their resources on what is really worth it.
4. They are able to adapt to circumstances, however hard they may be. People with inner strength are very flexible. Even staying true to their value system, they manage to reorganize their behavior as circumstances change. Instead of fighting against wind and tide wasting precious energy, they follow the flow and the natural course of things to achieve their goals. And when it is not possible, they are able to change their goal by considering a more affordable and rational objective. It is not about resignation but about maturity and wisdom, knowing how to distribute resources in those things that will really bear fruit.
5. They don’t try to impress anyone, their goal is to outdo themselves. In a culture as competitive as ours, many people act driven by an extrinsic motivation. That is, they look for achievements as if they were medals to hang on their chest, medals that win the approval or admiration of the others. People with inner strength do not pretend to impress anyone, they have enough confidence in themselves to pursue their own dreams. Their goal is not to be better than the others, but to overcome their own limitations.
6. They consider the past a source of information – nothing more. Most people live tied, in one way or another, to their past. However, often the past becomes too heavy a burden that prevents them from moving forward. People with inner strength, on the contrary, do not stay tied to the past, learn from their mistakes and move on. The past does not define them. They understand that failure is just an opportunity to learn and strengthen their resilience. In this way the past becomes a source of empowerment, rather than a bale of blame.
7. They apply gratitude. People with inner strength are aware of the enormous power of gratitude, so they practice it daily. That allows them to focus on positive things, instead of focusing solely on the problems and obstacles of life. It also allows them to better understand their potential and take advantage of their strengths to face adversity. By taking advantage of the effects of gratitude, these people find the tranquility and courage necessary to face any problem from a more balanced perspective.
How to develop inner strength?
– Choose a problem. The key is to choose a specific problem. You may think that life is not fair – and you are right, sometimes it is not – but that will not help you focus on your psychological resources and develop inner strength. Focus on a specific situation and analyze how it is affecting you psychologically. Check its impact on your body. How do you react physically when you think about that situation?
– Assume a psychological distance. All problems are not solved following the same path. Assuming a psychological distance from what is happening will allow you to evaluate things in perspective. You may ask yourself: What would I do if I had that problem when I was a child? What if it will show up when I’m an old man? It will also help you put yourself in someone else’s place and imagine what they would do.
– Decide, without delay. Many times we get stuck in problems because we don’t make decisions. In this way we run the risk that the problem continues to grow, and what is even worse, it will remain active as a focus of attention in our mind, causing great emotional wear. Therefore, you must ensure that you do not delay too much the decision. Do not wait for the “right” moment, because it is likely to never come. And pay more attention to your Intuitive Intelligence.
– Empower yourself with the past. You can use the past in your favor to activate inner strength. You just have to remember another difficult situation in which you also felt equally bad and remember how you got out of it. This memory exercise will help you reduce the impact of what is happening to you, will allow you understand that in the end, everything comes and everything happens, and it will help you activate trust in yourself, in your ability to go ahead.
Boman, E. et. Al. (2015) Inner strength – associated with reduced prevalence of depression among older women. Aging & Mental Health; 19(12): 1078-1083.
Dingley, C. & Roux, G. (2014) The Role of Inner Strength in Quality of Life and Self-Management in Women Survivors of Cancer. Res Nurs Health; 37(1): 32–41.
Lundman, B. et. Al. (2010) Inner Strength—A Theoretical Analysis of Salutogenic Concepts. International Journal of Nursing Studies; 47: 251–260.
Dingley, C. et. Al. (2000) Inner strength: A concept analysis. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing; 4(2): 30.