I was recently asked, “What makes you feel strong?”  The question caught me off-guard, and I did a quick analysis of my life.  I thought about my job, being a volunteer, public speaking, relationships, travel, the programs I’ve been part of, the opportunities I’ve had, and being a leader.  Without much conscious thought, I replied, “I feel strongest in my weakest moments.”

Then I got caught off-guard by my own response, and I’ve been thinking about it since.  I’m realizing how true the statement is.  

There have been times where I am curled up in a ball, crying, feeling every piece of my heart break 💔, experiencing extremely deep hurts that translate into actual pain.  In these moments of complete emotional vulnerability, there is something empowering in knowing that I. will. make. it through.  It’s absolute faith in God’s greater plan.  It is resilience in action.

It seems to me that almost everything we equate to strength in our culture today is actually the opposite of what strength is.  Strength is the power to resist force or attack. Read that slowly, intentionally, and take it in.

I don’t want this to be a political post, but there are so many examples in our political climate.  Truly peaceful protests are a sign of strength.  When it takes a turn to violence and vandalism, it is no longer a demonstration of strength.  It is a sign of weakness, because we have not resisted the urge to fight or attack.  Consider how much effort (aka strength) it takes to hold back emotion when we are angry.   I had to have a courageous conversation with my boss a couple of weeks ago, and it took everything I had to not burst into tears.

There is a big difference between leaning into our emotions and letting our emotions control us.  There is a right time and a right place.  There are healthy and unhealthy ways to manage our feelings.  

I’m not really much of a runner anymore, but a couple of months ago, I was going through some tough shit.  I decided to go pound pavement; I needed my body to feel the pain my heart was feeling.  I talked it out and I cried it out, but I still wasn’t feeling any better.  So I ran it out.  And man, did it help. 🏃🏻‍♀️  

I ran hard, and fast, and for a surprisingly long time!  When I stopped, I thought my lungs were going to collapse.  I let out all of my pain in that run.  Kind of like Phoebe…only angrily…🤪

Not only did the run make me feel emotionally strong, but it made me feel physically strong. I’m not saying running is the solution for everyone. Now, I will literally only run if I’m experiencing that kind of hurt. (Running is not fun. 😂)

In leadership, you must lead yourself, before you lead others, before you lead organizations. This is why self-awareness is so important. When we become more attuned to our own emotions, we naturally (and unconsciously) gain the ability to recognize signals in others increasing our empathetic ability to hopefully respond with kindness and compassion. Leadership requires a strong foundation, and it all begins with you.