You are Stronger than You Think
*The following is an excerpt from my new book All The Things I Wish I Knew, 101 Life Lessons for Women, release date 2022
You are Stronger than You Think
How to understand your power and tap into your strength.
Do you understand how strong you are, lady? How capable you are? How brave you can be? I’ve gotta say, many women don’t know their own strength, until it’s tested. That was defiantly the case for me.
I’d always known that I’m a pretty scrappy bitch. I mean, I was raised dirt poor and as a result have never been a stranger to hard work and “figuring it out.” But I never considered myself especially “strong,” or even all that capable. Until my life exploded in 2008.
At the time I was a stay-at-home mom, married to my high school sweetheart, my days spent taking care of our five-year-old son and one-year-old twins, just trying to survive. It was the recession and we’d lost our home in foreclosure less than six month prior, filed for bankruptcy and were barely keeping the lights on, when I discovered my husband’s double life. I learned of his affair through one simple text, a light blinking “unread” on his phone one evening in September while I cleared the dinner table as he showered. It read, “I can’t wait ‘till you’re finally free, all mine, no more sharing :)”
Since that day, the one where everything I ever believed about my life burned to the ground, people have told me, “Sarah, you are so strong. Where did you get the strength to pick up the pieces and rebuild your life?” There’s only one answer to this: primal strength exists within all of us. We have it, it’s there. I wasn’t built with a “strong” gene that you don’t have. I had no choice but to figure out a way to survive with my children, on my own. I didn’t have the luxury of family to fall back on, or a savings account to help me smoothly transition out of my marriage. Instead, I had no job, no income, no savings, bills past due, and not even a car in my name. It was basically every woman’s worst nightmare. And trust me, I did not feel strong. I felt helpless, alone, and very weak.
But that night, after he kissed our kids goodbye and tossed his wedding ring in my general direction, I realized I did have a choice. I could give up and fall apart, or I could fight like hell to survive.
Strength comes when we stop listening to doubt. We don’t get stronger by telling ourselves we can’t do it. We get stronger by listening to that voice which lives inside each of us, the one that says, “you can.”
You are stronger than you could ever imagine girl. Your power and strength are part of your genetic code, and it pumps through your blood and lives in your soul -- you just might not know it yet. Sometimes we don’t tap into our strength until we’ve been thrown into the fire, but it’s there all the same.
If you knew your strength, would you make different decisions? If you knew you were capable of building your life from scratch, all by yourself…would you? If you believed that you could make good decisions, take care of yourself, do “hard” things…would you take those chances and make those choices?
When we doubt our strength and our abilities, we make decisions based on fear. We marry the wrong guy because we’re afraid he might be the only one to come along. We stay with said wrong guy because we’re afraid we can’t make it on our own. We settle for the job we don’t want because we don’t believe we can land, or excel at the one we deserve. We put off adventure, travel, experiences because we don’t feel strong enough to do them on our own.
When we don’t believe in our strength, we feel vulnerable and weak. We seek out other people or situations to make us feel “safe” and “secure,” but girl, the strength you seek is within.
TIPS TO BUILD YOUR STRENGTH
Start with a motto. Mottos are one of the most powerful, effective, and fastest ways to re-train your brain, change your beliefs, and re-write your story. If you are diligent and use them often, they will work magic. I’ve been teaching clients how to write and use effective mottos for years and am still constantly blown away at how effective they are at creating new outcomes and changing negative beliefs and behaviors.
My favorite motto is the one I used when my ex-husband left. It literally changed who I am and how I view myself as a woman. Remember how I said that I felt weak, helpless, and incapable of rebuilding my life alone? Well, every time I felt that way, I began telling myself, “I can do it, I am strong.” I would say it over, and over, and over, until I felt stronger in that moment. I said it so much that before long, I began to believe I was strong. The stronger I felt, the more confident I became, and the more capable I was at dealing with all the new situations I found myself in as a single mom.
How to write an effective motto:
1. Identify the “thing” (fear, feeling, belief etc.) you want to change. The clearer you are at naming the exact “thing” the better.
2. Then answer the question, what is the NEW outcome I want? Hint: it should be the opposite as your current fear or belief. This is SUPPER important. You must identify the outcome you WANT in order to get it.
Example: In the example above, I felt weak and incapable. So, the motto “I can do it, I am strong,” was the antidote to that feeling or belief. It created an outcome that did not exist before, one in which I was strong and capable. It did this first through words alone, then over time those words changed my belief, which changed my actions, which changed my outcomes. Get it?
The genesis of all change starts in our mind, starts with what we tell ourselves. There are endless scientific studies on how the brain can turn a lie into truth through repetition, and we normally think of this in negative ways, like how pathological liars use can’t tell the difference between “their truth” and a lie. But we can use that same brain pathway to create new, positive outcomes for ourselves by rapidity telling ourselves the outcomes we want, as if they were true, long before they actually are. That’s why a good motto is so effective, it’s convincing your brain that a new outcome is possible.
Silence the doubt. The more time and energy you give to the voice in your head that says, “you can’t,” the weaker you will feel. Good news alert, you can control that voice! You don’t have to listen to it anymore. Start replacing it with “I am capable. I can do it.” Stop looking for all the reasons why it’s “too hard,” and start trusting your instinctual ability to do more, be more, and achieve more than you’ve ever imagined possible.
Test your strength, be brave. The best way to begin understanding your strength is to do something you previously thought was impossible. And trust me, it’s way better to electively test your strength than to be forced by the explosion of your entire life!
There are all kinds of ways to do this effectively. Scared of heights? Push those limits by taking a cliff hike, a hot air balloon ride, eating in a sky view restaurant, or walking across the foot path of the tallest bridge in your city. Think you can’t make it through a spin class? Take one and see. Think you could never travel alone? Take yourself out to dinner in your city, and prove you are brave, then take a solo trip to the nearest big city.
In other words, all those things you’ve been putting off, or have been afraid to try, or think you could never do… do them. You will see how truly capable and strong you are.
And if you REALLY wanna prove what a badass you are, run a marathon! That was my ultimate test. I’m not a runner, and that was the one thing I honestly believed was impossible, for me. But I did it. And let me tell you, after running for 7-hours on a 90-degree day, there was zero doubt in my mind that I was one strong-ass bitch! And yes, I get that most people finish in under three hours…and yes, I crossed the finish line as the clean-up crew was breaking it down, but hey, I proved my point, to myself.
Let your instincts kick in. I truly believe that in the core of every woman is all the strength they will ever need to get through anything. It’s just part of what makes us so freakin’ amazing. We are worriers and strength is in our DNA. It’s our instinct to feed our children, to take care of the ones we love, to find food and shelter if stranded on a deserted island, so start listening to it. Start acting on those instincts. Trust that when you need it, your secret power will rise up and get you through anything.