Strength in Vulnerability

Is it weak to seek help?  Do feelings of vulnerability, fear, or helplessness signal that you are not strong enough?  If you lose an ability because of illness, injury, or aging, does that mean you are now weaker?

One of the things I frequently hear when people first start therapy is that they feel “weak” or like a “failure” because they couldn’t figure things out on their own.  I typically respond to this by insisting that seeking help is the smart, not weak, thing to do, and that it takes tremendous courage and strength to acknowledge vulnerability or limitations.

We live in a culture that equates strength with fierce independence, physical prowess, and being unstoppable (i.e., limitless).  Yet, some of the hardest things we cope with in life call for different qualities.  When someone you love dies, or you realize you can’t walk as fast as you once could, or you lose your home because you can’t find a job, ferociously plowing forward is simply insufficient.

Some experiences in life cannot to be “overcome” so easily.  Instead, they require acceptance, humility, and the courage to reach out for help.  The only way through some moments in life is to literally surrender to them, allowing them to shape your character and reveal to you the most precious lessons about life.  Healing, especially, requires patience, gentleness, and a hopeful stance because you are literally “growing” new wisdom.  For the average person, this process takes real strength to endure.

So, next time you look at someone with an exposed “weakness,” be careful about automatically assuming that they are not strong.  Their spirit may be stronger than you ever imagined.

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Licensed psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.
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