On Adversity and Strength

What is strength to you?

As humans, we all have some amount of strength in us, no matter how much or little, and whether physical, mental, and/or emotional.

I’ve been pretty public about the fact that I struggled with concurrent depression and Anorexia Nervosa when I was 14. I never thought I would be as candid as I have about it, but in all honesty, there is more depth and truth in my writing when I share my story, learnings, and growth since then. Moving forward, I hope to help educate and raise awareness of eating disorders while promoting healthy body image.

It’s also taken me years to live by this, but you’re truly not able to love anyone, anything, or anywhere in your life unless you love yourself first and foremost.

Transitioning to a new chapter in my life has been highly rewarding yet challenging in many ways. For one, I achieved my goal of living outside of my comfort zone and stepping out of the norm.  On the other hand, I was my harshest critic when I first arrived (and in some aspects, still am). Constantly comparing myself to other travelers, bloggers, young communication professionals, downplaying things I’ve done…

Yet, moving – and not just a hop, skip and a jump to a new city, but a new country – is also the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

In moving here on my own, I discovered a whole new world of confidence. It’s something I may not have discovered had I stayed in my home state, in my little bubble, surrounded by everything I was used to.

I had a choice of what to do with this new confidence: ease into it or learn to fake it with each passing second. The more I faked it, the more anxiety bubbled up inside of me. Gradually, I realized I began changing – for the better.

You see, my current life isn’t all about just running around in green Hobbit hills all day. Traveling, as many know, is an adventure. While exciting, it’s always filled with challenges that push you to your limits. These challenges, from getting lost to almost falling off a cliff, have given me endless amounts of strength and confidence to “keep calm and carry on.” Cheesy? You bet.

Confidence is far different from aloofness or being conceited- this confidence pertains to strength. From waking up every morning to wandering off on a new trail, each action in a new country yields great responsibilities and rewards. Slowly but surely, I’ve noticed how much happier I am when I just live – free of worry, free of thinking about all the work I need to get done, free of my mind’s comparative attitude. It’s a similar theme to overcoming adversity when I was 14.

My point is to show that everyone is human. No one is perfect and no one has a “dream life.” You are who you are, and you are the only one who is in control of your choices, your money, your future. It’s normal to feel anxious, uncertain, scared, frustrated, angry, etc. You’re allowed to feel, and by golly, you SHOULD feel. You are challenged and shaped by the mistakes and twists in your life, but they do not define you. You learn from each step or misstep, and every experience is a valuable one.

So go on, I give you permission to make a fool of yourself, be comfortable in your unique skin, and be proud of who you are:

If my present-day self could bestow words of wisdom onto my 14-year old self, it would be this: You need to believe in yourself and have confidence that you will achieve your dreams, that you will lead a life that you love, and that everything will work out no matter what. Your future is you – if you want to have an optimistic, happy future, think less negatively and more positively. 

To me, that is strength: to overcome, grow, and reach beyond your greatest potential to the point of even surprising yourself, no matter what path you take.

life

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