Strength vs. Weakness

Something I’ve learned is that strength can appear weak and weakness can appear strong. It shows strength to hold your tongue and not react emotionally to another person who is pushing your buttons, even though it might feel like weakness at the time or be taken as weakness by others. On the other hand, it shows weakness to give in to an unnecessary squabble and allow yourself to become emotionally overwrought, even though it might feel like strength at the time or be taken as strength by others. This is something I struggle with a lot and constantly have to remind myself. Most situations aren’t worth getting involved in a dispute with someone and letting your inner peace be jeopardized. Although there are times when it’s necessary to speak up and it would even be immoral or dangerous not to do so, speaking up and giving one’s opinion usually comes from ego. And ironically, not letting other people outwardly ruffle you can show them you are strong enough to ignore the drama and encourage respect for you.

Intellectually, I know the more things I “let go”, the wiser and stronger I am. However, getting to the point where things “don’t bother you” (or at least bother you much less), takes a lot of practice, self-restraint, and taking the “high road”. Emotionally, it is not easy. Like a muscle, it must be used often to become strong and remain that way.

Here are some tips I’ve used to help me in this regard. First, realize that your own viewpoint differs from those of other people and colors the way you interpret something. You are probably looking at a situation with different experience, understanding, and knowledge than another person.

Second, understand that people don’t necessarily see you in the way you see yourself or the way you believe others see you. It is human nature to believe that other people think about you more than they really do or that they are more critical of you than they actually are. This often comes from low self-esteem and insecurity.

Third, decide not to take things personally. Because you cannot be sure of where someone else’s opinions, feelings, or attitudes come from, there’s no reason to assume they have ill intent or motives towards you. Even deciding to not take something personally that was in fact personal can help alleviate a lot of the anger, stress, and energy expenditure you’d experience by pursuing the issue.

Fourth, ignore everything that is possible to ignore (and that is most everything). By filling your life with positive people, activities, and work, it is easier to tune out negativity without feeling like you must react or “do something” about it. Also, I have personally experienced that being slighted stings less when I have other, better, more important things going on in my life. I also have less time to stew about them and for my anger to build. It’s when I am idle, perhaps unemployed, don’t really have any direction, have too much free time, that I am more likely to pursue every small perceived slight.

Fifth, feelings fluctuate constantly. You might be steaming mad over something you just found out about, especially if you were already in a down mood, even though the issue doesn’t justify extreme anger. Spend time on things you enjoy or that make you feel productive (like chores), and you might just realize your anger has reduced significantly or even disappeared.

I hope this post helped someone out there who struggles, as I do, with self-restraint and not letting emotions take control. I know I admire those who are always able to be “above it” all, and I view them as some of the strongest, most noble, and independent people I know. On the other hand, people I know who constantly require others to “walk on eggshells” around them seem small, fragile, and scared. I will continue to try to be a strong, noble, independent person instead of a small, fragile, scared person.

Is Sensitivity a Good or Bad Trait?

“Being sensitive” is an interesting trait because it’s often thought of as positive and yet also often thought of as negative. It is sometimes used to describe someone who is empathetic and can easily tell how others are feeling and how their actions/words affect others. Yet it is also used to describe someone who is too thin-skinned, weak, and prone to become hostile at the slightest provocation. In fact, I recently heard the same person use “being sensitive” as a criticism of one person and a compliment towards another in the same week (she probably didn’t even realize she had done it). It’s interesting, because when I Googled the definition of the word, two of the first synonyms to appear are responsiveness and reactivity.

Responsiveness seems to have an inherently positive connotation to a lot of people. For example, someone who is responsive is bound to be considered caring, responsible, organized, and not afraid to lead. On the contrary, being reactive seems to have an inherently negative connotation. When one is reactive, they are often acting on emotion, without first applying thought, and not altogether in control of themselves, almost explosive.

I think if we all were less sensitive when it comes to our own emotions (which are often fleeting) and our own egoic reactions to situations that come up or things that are said to us, while being more sensitive when it comes to other people’s emotions and reactions to what we do and say to them, this world would be a better place. In doing so, we’d all grow into stronger people who are less swift to anger, less given to making assumptions, and more caring towards each other. In short, let’s all try to practice more responsiveness and less reactivity.