You Are Your Own “Strong Friend.” So, How’s It Going?

By: Denitresse Ferrell

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I really want each of you to take a moment and think about what strength means to you. Take a look at the first picture of strength that automatically pops into your mind.

If it’s from your childhood, does it match who you grew up to be? Is it a favorite character from your latest Netflix marathon? What about that character actually resonates with your daily reality? Maybe it’s a friend or family member. But is it really appropriate, or even fair, to hold them up as the gold standard all the time?

We can go a long while before asking these kinds of questions. That’s probably because we’re surrounded by ideas of what strength can, or rather ought, to be. Unfortunately for us, some of these ideas are not just cliche; they’re actively harmful.

Worse, some of these ideas are so pernicious that we don’t even realize when they take us over. It’s critical for both our material success and our sense of wellbeing that we take the time to examine (and reimagine) what we think of as “being strong.”

[Related: Five Leadership Strategies for Women in Business]

We’re ambitious, dedicated, and driven people. We know what it means to work hard, and we’re proud of it. So if that first idea in your mind sounds like “Go hard or go home!” “Sleep is for the weak!” or “25/8/366!” I understand.

And I don’t blame us! Motivation and consistency are key in our big plans. But this year, in 2020, we need something different too.

You are your own “strong friend.” Check in with yourself.

2020 upended a lot of plans. If it was just a trip postponed, or an event or two cancelled, maybe we could just shake it off. No big deal. Just keep going. But that’s not the case.

If you’re reading this, I genuinely hope you’ve been spared the worst. But I’m also confident that you’ve been through some intense changes. And it’s completely understandable, and expected, that your career goals might have taken a big hit. Caregivers, super-parents, and team players — I’m looking at you. 2020 piled it on.

And guess what, I’m proud of you. Whatever you’ve taken on, or had to put down for a while, that took real strength. And if no one else has given you that acknowledgement yet, here I am giving it to you now.

Don’t finish out this year judging yourself by pre-pandemic standards. Now is a great time to carve out a little space — just a little — and look at everything you’ve accomplished this year. (Make sure you call them accomplishments, and not just “getting by.”)

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Give yourself credit for the creativity, adaptability, and, yes, the strength that you’ve shown this year. If it doesn’t match that picture in your mind, that’s okay. My hope is that you start to see a vision of strength that’s grounded in what’s true for you right now.

You still deserve your “better.”

Let this new idea of “strong” — one that actually reflects and honors you — build up in your mind. Give it a minute! And then check back in with your goals. Whatever 2020 added, upended, or interrupted — it didn’t change that fact that YES there is a BETTER for you.

Maybe the possibilities you imagined in January look different now. But you still deserve the space to imagine and to strive toward what most excites you. So go back to your plan, take an honest and non-judgmental look, and make the adjustments you need.

Don’t think of it as compromise, think of it as strategy. And in a year like we’ve been having, don’t stress the destination. Focus on the next step that gets you closer to your “better,” and commit to that one step as we close out 2020.

That’s it. You can do it. You can still finish strong.

[Related: Three Ways to Support Women at Your Workplace]

Denitresse Ferrell is a Transformation Strategist and Success Coach. She helps ambitious professionals gain clarity on their career goals and develop strategies to get there.

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