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Published on August 5, 2019

How to Find Your Inner Strength and Let It Shine

How to Find Your Inner Strength and Let It Shine

Your inner strength is best defined as, “stable traits, an enduring source of well-being, wise and effective action, and contributions to others.” [1] In other words, your inner strength is your ability to do the right thing, the right way, without any concern about what others think.

In this article, we’ll look into how to find your inner strength so you can stay strong even when you face adversity.

How Do You Handle What Life Throws At You?

Think about the one person (may be more than one for some of you) at work who annoys everyone because they seem to lack emotional intelligence. They are always talking about controversial topics or stereotyping people in the worst kind of way.

You probably have two thoughts flowing through your mind. The first is telling them why no one likes them and why you wish to be left alone. The other is going to be a more compassionate approach to better understand them and see if you can address the root of the problem.

Think about the last time someone cut you off on the road while you were driving home. Again, you probably found yourself dealing with two possible choices. You were not sure if you were going to react in an aggressive manner and race around them, cut them off, and then slam on your brakes in front of them. Or you could always take a more thoughtful approach and decide to let it go. You assess the situation and realize you were not injured, and consider the possibility that they genuinely did not know you were there.

In one last example, how would you react if you felt like you were overlooked for a promotion? Even if you were the most qualified, does allowing yourself to get upset and quit abruptly help your cause? Instead, consider the many opportunities you were afforded throughout your career.

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There is a level of contentment, consideration, calmness, and patience found within someone who uses their inner strength. Just as the word “strength” traditionally implies, there is also a level of endurance necessary to use such restraint throughout your life.

This is important to understand because your inner strength is essential to you living your dream life. Your inner strength helps you to deal with the obstacles life is going to throw your way. When you think of words like resilience and perseverance, they are both tied to a deep sense of inner strength and purpose.

You know how I love to reference comic books, so think about the Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War. Captain America (Steve Rogers) is willing to fight against the authorities and fellow Avengers in order to protect his friend Bucky Barnes. This escalates to the point that some of his friends are imprisoned; while others are fighting him at ever corner. In a moment, Rogers goes from beloved hero to wanted fugitive. His fall from grace is encapsulated when he even has to surrender his famed shield.

However, you can tell that Rogers is at peace with his decision to stand by his Bucky against all opposition. He likely wishes there could have been another way, but he knows there is nothing he would change.

You are going to find yourself dealing with situations where you are standing against the grain. Where conventional wisdom is going to push you in a direction you are not excited about going.

Your inner-strength or fortitude could take the form of compassion against someone everyone dislikes. Yet, it could also present itself in the form of strong action in the face of indifference.

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Think of your inner strength as your ability to handle whatever life throws at you in a compassionate and thoughtful way.

How To Tap Into Your Inner Strength

If you are like me, you have plenty of voices inside your head at any given moment. These voices can represent a variety of reactions, thoughts, and emotions you could utilize.

For example, how would you feel if you had to present information in-front of a group of colleagues or superiors? Some people will feel nervous and apprehensive, while others will feel confident and excited.

Now, consider the words each emotion may convey to you…

  • Someone who is apprehensive may wonder if they still have time to back out.
  • While a person who is nervous could be worried about getting a question they do not know how to answer.
  • If you feel confident, you are telling yourself that this is your opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.
  • And someone who is excited may be visualizing themselves receiving a standing ovation at the end of their presentation.

Even though you have a variety of voices reacting to every situation, they really come down to two voices, your inner strength and your inner critic.

If you want to increase your ability to listen to your inner strength, you need to work on staying present in the moment. Mindfulness is a great way to allow yourself to respond, instead of react to the events in your life.[2]

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In the examples earlier, you could react to someone cutting you off on the interstate by cutting them back off. Or you could take a moment and realize that the issue has not impacted you in anyway. However, if you escalate the situation, there is now the possibility that you have compromised your well-being.

Be Mindful of What Is Going on Inside of You

It is best to think of mindfulness meditation as the practice of creating space for your thoughts.

When you take a moment and ponder how you want to react to a situation, you are tapping into your inner strength. Moreover, by practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis, you will improve your ability to hear your inner strength.

The good news is you don’t need anything special to practice mindfulness mediation. In fact, all you need to do is follow these six simple steps:[3]

  1. Take a seat. Find a place to sit or kneel that feels calm and quiet.
  2. Set a time limit. It can be as short as a few minutes or as long as a few hours. Recommend 5 to 10 minutes when starting out.
  3. Notice your body. How does your body feel in the position you chose? Do you feel any pressure on your joints from sitting or kneeling?
  4. Feel your breath. Follow the path of your breath as it moves through your body.
  5. Notice when your mind has wandered. You cannot keep your mind from wandering. Instead, whenever you notice it has wondered, simply return your focus to your breath.
  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t worry about where your mind wanders. Allow yourself the ability to experience the moment and once the moment passes, return to the present.

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, the only thing you should be thinking about is, “what now”? If you are worried about the future, you are thinking, “how can 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“.

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Empower Your Inner Strength To Overcome Adversity

Once you have trained yourself on how to hear your inner strength, the only thing you have left is to let it shine. By this, I mean you have to listen to what your inner strength is telling you.

You may find yourself in a situation where your critical voice is cautioning you about the cost of following your inner strength. Think back to Captain America’s story I mentioned earlier. It literally cost him everything to follow his inner strength, yet he did it anyways.

It would be a disservice for me to tell you it is going to be easy to listen to your inner strength. I am not saying that by any means. However, you will find that by ignoring your inner strength, the cost is much higher than you expected.

When you ignore your inner voice and do not employ your inner strength, you will face regret. That quick reaction may have caused you to say something that you cannot take back. Or your concern about how others will react to your authentic feelings may have saved a relationship you were better without.

Think back for a moment if Captain America did exactly what everyone else wanted and turns Barnes over to the authorities. Two things would have likely happened. One, the authorities quickly find out Barnes was framed, he is released, and Barnes is understandably upset with Rogers for giving up on him so quickly. Two, the authorities do not find out in time and Barnes is executed for crimes he did not commit. In either case, Rogers is left with the regret of knowing he did not use his inner strength and do what he knew deep down was necessary. Instead, he succumbs to the pressures of society and now someone he cares about has to suffer for no reason.

Final Thoughts

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.

More About Inner Strength

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Bishop via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Grow Your Inner Strength
[2] Reflection Pond: What is Inner-strength and how do we cultivate it?
[3] Mindful.org: How to Practice Mindfulness

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Undre Griggs

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

Why Am I Not Happy? 5 Steps to Figure Out the Reason

In our diverse world, where everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and has their own opinions just about everything, there is a rather universal idea we all – regardless of age, race, location, gender — embrace…

We all want to be happy.

We want to feel that we matter, are loved, appreciated, problem-free, care-free, and financially secure. And this has become one of the most obsessive quests of our society—to be happy, at all cost, by all means.

Happiness has undisputed benefits—supported by countless studies—to about pretty much everything in our lives—from our mental or physical state, to careers, relationships, finances.

Although the self-help industry is still having a sunshine moment with its advice on how to get to this coveted state, no one (that I’m aware of) has come up with The Magic Potion—that one thing or action or thought—that can make us all content and whole for good.

Of course, we also all are knowledgeable enough to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And that it’s often a combination of things that each one of us should intentionally do daily in order to reach that enchanted place where everything is intensely bright and upbeat.

The reason that there are multiple antidotes to feeling gloomy is that there may be a million different explanations and their nuances of why someone is unhappy. It’s pretty much a different cause, path and experience for everyone.

Top this with the “hedonic treadmill” phenomenon[1] —and you end up with an incessant (and rather tiring) pursuit of something that, quite frankly, no one has been able to define in concreate measurable terms.

The second problem with happiness is that all of us become so hung up on the goal itself—that utopian state that we want to get to “one day.”

Naturally, you can spend your whole life waiting for happiness to finally come knocking on your door, hoping, anticipating, existing in perpetual discontent—and the moment may never come.

And then, looking back, you may ask yourself—was I truly that miserable or did I fall a victim of the happiness craze?

That is—how can you know if you are really unhappy, if happiness means different things for everyone, it’s impossible to measure directly, and it’s rather fleeting?

So, let’s start from the beginning— and examine the cause of why you’re unhappy, the symptoms and the treatment.

Symptoms of Unhappiness

According to the wellness site Mind Body Green, some of the most common manifestations you are not happy are:[2]

  • Feeling like you’re not as good as other people
  • Feeling like a victim of circumstances that are beyond your control
  • Feeling like your daily life is meaningless and task-driven
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic
  • Protecting your heart with steel walls
  • Trying to fit in and belong, but rarely feel like you do
  • Feeling beaten down by the challenges you face in life
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or chronically worried
  • Feeling like you’re not appreciated enough

If this sounds like you, on a regular day, then you are not a happy fella, my friend.

Reasons for Feeling Unhappy

The most important indication that things are not great (at least in your mind) is the sense of “something missing.” You may not know what it is, but you feel hollow, incomplete. And you are aware that something needs to happen to make you come alive again.

Of course, finding the reason for your woes is vital to prescribing (to yourself) the right steps to make it all better.

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So, here are some of the most common reasons why you may feel heavy-hearted, or “like the joy has been sucked out of my life.”

Lack of Meaning

Everyone who’s someone in the happiness-advice trade will tell you that this is one of the main causes (of not THE biggest) of feeling blah. Especially relevant for our professional lives, lack of significance can be a dream-downer.

An excellent piece in the New York Times talks about Harvard graduates who make $1.2 million a year in salary, but still feeling miserable and trapped in what they describe as “wasting my life” existence.[3]

Simply put—you may feel unhappy because you need the “Why” in your life, as I also wrote in a previous post How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life.

Happiness Disruptors

Even perceived problems can feel quite real to many of us. Undeniably, though, any personal, financial, career, physical complications can make your happiness aspirations plummet.

The constellation of all the issues or walls you can run into can be quite vast. For instance, you don’t like the way you look, you don’t make enough money, don’t have any friends or significant other, your health is fragile.

All these can be serious impediments to an undisturbed-joyfulness type of life.

Lack of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

Few years ago (2003), a paper by the psychologist Roy Baumeister rocked the science world. Titled “Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?” it presented the idea (supported by research) that self-esteem and happiness are linked.[4]

Specifically, high self-esteem leads to greater happiness.

In addition, according to the famous American author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, the main reason people are unhappy is because they lack self-respect—that is, they value others’ opinions above their own. Of course, it makes sense—and surely, it rings true with many of us too.

Personality

Linked to the above is another hindrance to becoming relentlessly upbeat, which may prove slightly challenging to overcome, if even possible—your personality.

Of course, not per the self-help industry which thrives on the assumption that you can, with your own willpower, become a different person altogether. Namely—a much better version of the current you.

But what the Wise Men also tell us is that you are either born to be a silver-lining kind of person or you are not.

You can, of course, work on yourself to start seeing the glass half-full (vs half-empty). But you may never reach the gregariousness of someone who is just born with a more care-free temperament.

Unreasonably High Expectations

Having high expectations of yourself can be beneficial, according to research.[5] It leads to higher performance—a phenomenon called the Pygmalion effect.

Having too high expectations of yourself, though, may be counter-productive. You can run into all slew of mental health issues—depression, self-sabotaging, self-punishment, etc. And it can spill over all areas of your life.

It’s certainly a case for future investigation.

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It will take perhaps at least few articles to list all the reasons why we can feel unhappy (a book even!).

So, some of the other causes of being disgruntled with your life can be: long hours at work, “always-on” culture bread by the internet, increased screen time,[6] or boredom with one’s life (i.e. lack of excitement).

Addiction to Unhappiness

Apparently, you can also develop an addiction to unhappiness[7] —that is, some people like negative feelings and are “happy to be unhappy.” Rather disturbing, indeed.

Unexplainable Reasons

Or, sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on one thing, or on anything, for this matter—you don’t know for sure what makes you feel unhappy, nor what will make you happy. It feels like it’s everything—your whole life is a mess.

But that’s not the end of the story. The most important questions you should be asking yourself are:

Why? What’s the cause of my unhappiness?

Because you can’t fix it when you don’t know what’s broken, right?

5 Steps You Can Take to Figure Out The Why

So, if you tick most of the symptoms above, it’s very likely that you are not living in Dream-land right now.

Here is my advice on how to find your lumps in the batter.

1. Mull over What “Happy” Means to You

Happiness can take different shapes—hedonic pleasure, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment.[8] All of these—separately or together—can deliver to us sprinkles of joy.

And because our lives are so diverse, the above will translate into different pursuits for each one of us.

For instance, my hedonic weekend happiness means reading a book or writing, while for someone else—it’s socializing, taking a walk, or going on a shopping spree at the mall.

Or, my life satisfaction can be to have a big family and leave a mark in the world this way. For others, it may be going after fame and fortunes. But either way, don’t fall for the society’s “narrative traps”[9]—that a bigger pay check, house, a certain job, person, etc. will give you a never-ending stream of bliss. It won’t, science confirms over and over.

So, once you know what your happiness vision board looks like, you will have a better idea of what’s “missing” in your life.

2. Re-Visit Your Expectations

As I already mentioned, unreasonable expectations you or others have set for yourself can be deterring you from feeling gleeful.

For one thing, aspirations often can become outdated. What you wanted ten or five years ago (or even six months ago) may not be relevant to your situation today and will need to be filed into a mental cabinet.

Another issue is that our culture is putting an exponential pressure on all of us to perform more and better, to try and stretch the 24-hours a day into 30, to chase kudos and recognition. Any outcome that has earned less than the gold is punishable by exclusion for the cool crowd, by receiving less in perks, bonuses, and appreciation even.

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As a result, anxiety, depression and all their dark friends start creeping into our minds and tint everything else that may be giving us joy and satisfaction.

So, taking periodic audit of your expectations—their validity and importance place on your happiness list, is pivotal to stopping unhappiness spread into your life.

3. Examine Your Way of Thinking

At the heart of the so-called Rational Emotive Behavior Theory (REBT),[10] which was established by the American psychologist Albert Ellis in 1956, is the idea that it’s never the actual event that upsets us.It’s our interpretation and thoughts about it. By inference, changing our thoughts will reduce (and hopefully remove altogether) our anxiety.

Let’s take this a stretch further. Positive (not delusional) thinking has been long proclaimed to be a winner when it comes to mental health. If you find yourself going down the spiral of negative inner dialogue, you must stop yourself immediately. It’s unhappiness trap.

But it’s not easy-breezy, of course, to do such conscious policing all the time. It can become a habit, though, psychologists tell us. We can teach ourselves to quell negativity, and there are many things that can be done: How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

And don’t forget to be grateful. It’s the best happiness shot there is.

4. The Good Old Pros and Cons

Although it may appear to be a less fascinating way to figure out whether you are unhappy or not, the pros-and-cons list has been around for a long time—and it’s still an excellent tool to let you examine things closely, evaluate alternatives and come to satisfactory answers.[11]

Interestingly, as history tells us, this invention is credited to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Notorious for his productivity, he applied the pros-cons exercise to almost everything in his life.

The beauty of the method lies in its simplicity too. So, go back to the drawing board and start penciling down the things that you like and don’t like (make you unhappy) about your life, and the things that you know with certainty to make you happy today.

Of the “things-that-make me-unhappy-about-my-life” subset, have a think what you can do to move these along the continuum—to the brighter side.

You may be surprised to discover that you have much greater say in the building of your own happiness than chance, circumstances or others.

5. Mental Cleansing

Mental health is in the limelight quite often these days. And rightly so.

The way we care about our bodies and minds directly links to many of our life outcomes.

Mental clutter can become a well-being stumbling block. Overthinking, old grudges, past events, can all make it very challenging to feel elevated and content.

Doing a mental cleanse once a month can be the remedy to set yourself on the path to happiness recovery.

Pay a visit to the past to confront your fears, get rid of the people who bring you down, free yourself from any emotional baggage. It will help you silence the bully in your head.

Take a periodic stock of all the things that make you anxious and declutter. Why hold on to the things that you know to bring you grief anyway?

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Unless you are one of those unhappiness addicts I mentioned above (which calls for a more radical intervention), carrying emotional baggage without doing anything to unload it, is a anti-glee behavior.

Bonus Advice

Finding our Achilles’ heel of happiness can sometimes be a tall order. It takes time, conscious efforts and an honest desire to make it better. It also alludes that we are ready to take the plunge into the self-help territory and take actual steps to improve our situation.

But it’s not a lost cause, the research tells us. It’s possible to make yourself happy on a consistent basis.

Here are few universal suggestions:

One of the things you can do is to inject some meaning back in your life. And the best way to go about this is to flip the narrative. Case in point—the story of John F Kennedy’s visit to NASA in 1962. He ran into a janitor and when asked him what he was doing, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

The happiness guru Gretchen Rubin tells us that there are two major path that lead a more fulfilling life:[12]

One way is through our relationships—having strong bonds and feeling that we belong.

The other route is through developing better self-knowledge—i.e. what things make us us, or glad, or sad. And base our way of living on our own values and goals, not others’.

The feeling that we are not making progress is a definite joy crusher. We should compare wisely, find our passions, and diversify our experiences. These are not magic pills but more so opportunities to make our time here worthwhile and fulfilling.

Final Thoughts

Happiness is notoriously hard to pin down.

There is no one definition of contentment, nor one way to ‘fix’ it. It’s one of those things that you can’t quantify and it’s idiosyncratic.

More and more we hear a murmur from the science world that perhaps the best way to happiness is acceptance—of your failings and shortcomings, of the fact that life is imperfect.

Knowing what makes us disgruntled is, of course, needed to find the right remedy for each one of us. Feeling constantly unhappy is not good and necessitates closer examination.

Finally, beware of the narrative trap that if you are unhappy, there is something wrong with you. It may be normal, for a while at least. Otherwise, how would you appreciate the highlight moments of your life if you don’t see them against the backdrop of the gloomy times?

Or, as the great singer Leonard Cohen tells us:

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

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Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

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