Inner strength

When I was 16, the guy I loved said that whatever happened to him or to us, he would be okay because there was a little part, right at the centre of his heart, that was his and would always remain happy. I remember the conversation well. We were walking across a motorway bridge that went from my house to his. There was a low roar of traffic. I didn’t really understand what he was saying. The words made sense but the meaning – the felt meaning – was absent.

Nearly twenty years on and I finally understand what he was getting at. You only really have you, in this world, and you have to start and end with that. It’s not romantic or easy, can be interpreted as either a terrible or a wonderful thing, but –

There we go.

I have been reading a book about growing your inner strength. It seems to be a theme in my life at the moment. Sometimes I think this is ironic – after beating an eating disorder that no one thought I could beat, I must have inner strength by the bucket-load; sometimes I think this inner strength is an elusive quality that I will spend much of my life searching for. I care a lot about what people think and even more so about how I relate to the people who make up my world. I am acutely aware that they are at the centre of it and I do not wish to change that but –

According to this book (which to be fair I’m only about a tenth of the way through), inner strength is a combination of innate qualities and those which you can grow in yourself. It is made up of things like self-compassion, self-regulation, tolerance levels, security, optimism – things I have historically been poor at developing.

Apparently this is not a life sentence.

This is a relief although I am unsure as to how long it will actually take me to get there. I have known for a while that the brain moulds itself to the experiences that you are used to and therefore focus more on. That it contains tracks (once described to me as being like the course of skis down a mountain) that are shaped by these experiences and expectations, and it is obviously far easier to follow trodden paths than forge out on new ones –

But not impossible.

I am beginning to think that this inner strength and this core that was spoken of are one and the same. I guess that some people realise, at 16, that the relationship that they have with themselves is the starting place for everything else. I guess some people only realise that later on and have to work just that little bit harder to find it.

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