It’s said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But no one talks about the in-between stage before strength is formed.
When I’m in the thick of a character-building challenge, it can be both mentally and physically draining and even painful. For instance, when I started my first adult job in the early 2000s, I recall being discriminated against because of my age. On top of that, it was also an election year. Even before the discrimination, I went through what I can only compare to as culture shock. I went from an open-minded college experience, where all opinions were encouraged and welcomed, to feeling like I’d get in trouble if I didn’t conform.
I recall feeling worn down about my political beliefs. In a moment of weakness, after being asked point-blank from my supervisor’s boss about who I voted for, I shared which political party I was backing. I still remember his response. While laughing in my face, he said, “You’re young; you’ll learn.”
Feeling angry and belittled, I immediately began searching for a new job. I know I should have reported the discrimination to HR, but at the time, I just wanted out. I felt deflated and frustrated. Looking back, I can see how that experience gave me strength. I learned that regardless of whatever the majority thinks, I don’t have to give in to pressure to share and that I always have a right to my own beliefs.
I’ve learned the lesson, but as I went through this experience, I felt pretty darn defeated and weak. I even felt a sensation of tightness in my throat like someone was choking me. Psychologically I felt shunned and silenced. It weighed on me after work hours too and drained my energy, keeping me from wanting to speak my mind in other areas of my life.
Time was a good healer. I discovered through this lesson, and several others, that strength does eventually come. But until it does, during the in between time, I found that self-care is the key to survival and finding the will to keep going. If the concept sounds easy to you, it’s because it is. The hard parts are knowing what recharges you in times of difficulty and to make them a priority.
If you don’t know what recharges you, it’s time to stop guessing. Make a list of everything that makes you happy. Don’t just think through it. A physical list makes it real. It makes you think harder about what you love. It also forces you to reflect and remember how these things make you feel. This can trigger an emotional response of gratitude, which can motivate you to turn them into habits.