“The world breaks everyone, and after, some are strong at the broken places”

Ernest Hemingway


When you think of strength, what image comes to mind? What characteristics do you envision? Some may picture feats of mental strength whereas others may see muscles and physical force.

Such is the instinct to focus solely on physical strength, even the first definition on Google refers to it. Evidently, many benefits can be reaped from feeling strong, including improvements to our mental health[1]. Also, we are each capable of displaying force in a variety of ways within the physical arena. In fact, even if we feel weaker than others in certain disciplines, we may well be stronger than them in others. Imagine the contrasting levels of strength between a sumo wrestler and a morris-dancer! However, this is merely the physical side of the equation and a typical meathead gym-goer may be incapable of dealing with emotional and mental challenges which seem innocuous to a passer-by. This helps to illustrate how perceived weakness in one activity does not necessarily represent weakness across all disciplines.

Furthermore, where do we procure this strength? Without delving in to the nature versus nurture debate, it seems fair to suggest that our skillset is honed through a mixture of genetics, life experiences and training of some sort. Perhaps a vicarious experience provides the encouragement we need to succeed. Or perhaps we learn from a mistake and adapt accordingly. Also, we may prepare for an expected stressor by training the appropriate skills. Finally, unexpected moments of despair are also responsible for affecting our strength, both in the short and long term. Whichever scenarios we experience, it is clear that they all combine to create our individual strength capacity.  

Moreover, embracing situations where we are beginners and feel less competent can help us develop new abilities. Although it is easy to remain comfortable in our chosen field, taking a “one step back, two steps forward” approach can lead to some interesting self-discoveries. The challenge then lies in identifying which activities we choose to try. Whether it ends in miserable failure or triumphant success, the experience is bound to widen our horizons.


“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go”

Herman Hesse




[1]  Penedo & Dahn, 2005.