Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

Make the Decision to Be a Woman of Strength

“You can make today great or not—the choice is yours!”

With a quick wink and point at the camera, our beloved elementary school P.E. teacher slides out of the shot. The camera then pans over to the fifth-grade anchors to cap off the morning news broadcast.

This whole segment lasts about five seconds, but the truth of the statement is lifelong. We alone possess the power to determine not only our attitude for the day, but how we handle the situations we come across in life.

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We can’t escape the uncomfortable circumstances, the sad occasions, the hardships, the loss, the stress, and anxiety. As much as we don’t like to admit it, these qualities are hallmarks of life. They must be acknowledged, they must be felt, and they must be endured.

It’s easy to be overcome by life. The bills are stacking up, but the paychecks fall just a bit short of what is owed. You may have just lost a loved one, and the memory of them is so vibrant that their laugh is still ringing in your ears. You’re trying to find time amid your full-time job, online classes, and family duties, but it seems as though there’s never enough time to just finish folding that basket of laundry that’s been sitting in the corner for a month. And that frustrates you. You begin to feel stressed that all the other little things you need to attend to are getting buried under the more pressing responsibilities.

And if we aren’t careful, these small frustrations will bloom into heavy burdens in our lives. We will get to a point where all we can focus on is our hardships. A coworker might ask, “How was your weekend?” And we may answer, “Oh, it was okay, but I was working on that client’s report until 10 last night, and I have two essays due tomorrow for that class I’m taking. Also, my daughter’s birthday is Saturday, and I just haven’t planned one thing for her party yet.” We will have released a stream of negative information on our coworker, who will no doubt be feeling sympathetic, and probably a little dizzy too.

It’s incredibly important to note that it is normal and healthy to share our feelings and worries with someone we trust. We would wear ourselves down if we tried to keep it all bottled in. What isn’t healthy, however, is using those tough circumstances to define who we are.

Once we allow all of our hardships a place of authority in our lives, we become exhausted. It drains our energy to keep revisiting our trials and circumstances and focusing only on the tolls they take on us. This constant meditation on the negative weakens our drive for motivation, and what used to be our strength is replaced by defeat. Once we are defeated, we have allowed our difficulties to get the better of us.

Defeat is like falling into a pit. It is a dangerous territory. The rain will continue to beat down, and life will not stop to pull us out and keep pushing us forward. We will either drown under the pressure or we will struggle indefinitely to find our way out. Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid that pit to begin with?

That is where we must make that affirmative, conscious decision to “make it a great day.” Decide that those trying circumstances will test you, but they will also teach you. Use what you have learned as tools and armor, to mobilize against any future circumstances that threaten to overtake you. What you have learned will become your strength.

If we revisit those circumstances mentioned previously and look at them through the lens of a resilient woman, they may look something like this:

“The bills are stacking up, and my paychecks fall just a bit short. But I have a job that is helping me pay for most of these expenses, and for that I’m grateful. I can cut back on some things to save a few extra dollars this month to get ahead.”

“I just lost a loved one that was very close to me, and I’m reflecting on our wonderful memories together. One thing this loss has taught me is to treasure each moment with those I love, before I am unable to anymore.”

“I’m overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities, including my job, kids, and the night classes I’m taking. However, I’m thankful that I have a job in the first place. My kids are still my greatest blessing, and I’m lucky enough to be able to further my education when there are many who cannot.”

We have the choice to look upon these circumstances and be miserable for what they are costing us, or we can be thankful for what they have taught us. Each new hardship that we endure makes us stronger. We are strong women when we choose not to be overcome and overwhelmed by our circumstances. We are strong women when we choose to step forward each day with a grateful heart, ready to tackle the next set of challenges. We are strong women when we acknowledge mistakes but allow ourselves (and others) grace in spite of them.

It is hard to stop a strong woman on her path to victory!

Are you ready to be that woman?

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