If you've already perused this month's issue of Strong Magazine, you likely missed it, but my little face makes an appearance on page 11. Having been chosen as one of Strong Magazine's #MyStrongMoment pictures I decided to write a blog post. I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons. First, it has already been a year since my cancer diagnosis and I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you (and myself) about what being strong means. This past year has been a test of my strength in more ways than increasing my max deadlift. Second, this is a mini celebration because how KICK ASS is Strong Magazine?? What's even cooler is that they picked up on the post where I reminded you all to THROW AWAY THE DAMN SCALE!! *insert dancing emoji* Alright...alright...celebration over...onto reminding you about what being strong means.
The Image of Strong
Women are increasingly getting behind the image of being strong. More and more women are signing up for powerlifting meets, boxing classes, Crossfit WODS and obstacle course races. It has become a sign of self-empowerment and self-improvement. It signals to others that this woman has grit and power within. These high adrenaline training endeavors are a channel through which women give the middle-finger to society's expectations of them. I appreciate all of this. Even more so, I love that women are getting behind each other to support these training goals. Banging heavy weights and jumping over fires has become synonymous with the image of a strong female.
Take a look at these images below. STRONG. EMPOWERED. MOTIVATED. These are all words that come to mind when you look at these women.
There is one BIG problem with this.
What if you don't fit into this image of strength? What if banging heavy weights and jumping over fires isn't your thing? What if you are physically unable to do this? What will you then identify with to guide your own self-empowerment and self-improvement?
Are you then not considered strong? Are you weak?
As a trainer, my job is to help others reach their goals. I encourage goals that are ability and skill based (learn how to deadlift, lift more weight, get faster etc.). I am, however, highly aware of the fact that strength is much broader than this. This past year has been a constant reminder for me of the different ways that we are tested and the unique ways that we show our strength.
The Definition of Strong
A quick google search reveals two definitions for the word 'strong':
- "having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks"
- "able to withstand great force or pressure"
The first definition looks a lot like the above images. It, by definition, puts emphasis on physical ability. It is what most in the health and fitness industry would use to define strength. Unfortunately, the first definition makes no mention of mental or emotional strength. It provides no reference point for those who physically cannot move heavy weights or are unable to perform what others define as "demanding tasks".
The second definition, although not as popular by health and fitness standards, is inclusive of mental and emotional strength. It provides a reference point for those whose circumstances require them to be strong. It allows us to broaden the definition of strong and permits more women to identify with its image.
When we broaden the definition of strong we are then able to broaden the image of strong.
The New Image of Strong
The image of strong should be more generous and more inclusive than simply that of a person who lifts heavy weights. There are so many other things that make you strong:
- overcoming adversity
- caring for others and yourself
- raising and providing for a family
- living life to the fullest
- withstanding force and pressure
I think everyone would agree with the above as ways of being and becoming strong, but it is easier said than done to truly view ourselves as strong. With the image of a strong woman being that of an athlete do we actually see ourselves as strong if we don't physically fit the image?
What strong looks like
Take a look at these images. What words come to mind?
STRONG. EMPOWERED. MOTIVATED. That's what had better come to mind.
I want to challenge you to surround yourself with different images of strength. I want you to recreate the image in your mind of what being strong looks like. I want you to take the opportunity to appreciate your own strength and that of others around you. Strong isn't based on your appearance. I want you to remember that. I want you to remember that you are the image of strength with every mountain you climb and every road you travel.
Thank you for reading!
Want to share ways that you've surprised yourself with strength or seen others' strength? Comment below and let me know!