TOUGH OR TENDER


There are many ways to define strength. I have used multiple definitions in my life, depending upon where I was at any given time. I have also realized that how I look at strength has put most of the descriptors in two different camps…..tough or tender.

I grew up with tough strength. With tough strength I had rigidity. I put up my wall and used whatever force I needed to hold my spot and show how strong I was. I stood firm in my convictions and was not open to alternatives. Power to me was how strong I could hold my position in the face of uncertainty…….which I now see is fear. And this type of strength is born out of controlling the fear versus having faith in myself. This was a very black and white existence for me and one that I put a lot of energy into.

As I have grown older, I have discovered the tender side of strength. This side is in the gray. It is not a black and white existence for me, it is what is in between. This side of strength is a boundary, not a wall. It feels different and it does not take as much energy to hold my position. It is a lot more fluid, subtle, and most of all vulnerable. This type of strength requires trust and faith in me. This type of strength is not driven by fear but by the awareness of how when I trust and have faith in myself, I can handle what comes up, I don’t have to walk around flexing my muscles all the time…….I can relax.

So tough or tender……this is a choice I still deal with daily because I still convince myself sometimes that if I plow through a situation and put up my wall with tough strength, I will be OK. There is a chance that is true. What I give up is all the subtleties of tender strength such as kindness, compassion, and most of all the possibility that I don’t have to control a situation to get what I want, I just need to believe that vulnerability is the real sign of strength.

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