We spend most of our twenties just trying to figure out who the hell we are. We go through various personas and goals, stumbling from one path to another in hopes of learning where we go from here. We want confidence. We want assurance that what we are doing today is going to pay off tomorrow. We want to know that we are capable and strong. It’s a decade full of major setbacks and major forward leaps that can feel slightly dizzying.
As a teen, I was so unsure of who I was. I tried to jam pack my entire personality into whatever everyone thought I was supposed to be. It never fit well and I always felt like there was a big part of myself that I couldn’t reach, even though I really wanted to. I had no backbone, but deep down I was envious of the people in my life who made it seem so easy to be assertive and get what they really wanted.
Then eventually, like most of us, my life knocked the wind out of me. We all have those catalyst moments that change everything. We walk into it one way and walk out of it as something completely different. It’s the type of change that gives no room to revert back to old habits. You wake up with a different shade of lenses to view the world with and realize that these new colors are here to stay for now. That is, until your next catalyst moment comes that shakes up your whole world all over again.
Through all of this, it’s a back and forth tug of war between wanting to be soft and strong. One moment you are in touch with your heart and looking for ways to fill the world with more love. The next moment you are fighting off painful realities with a stone cold fierceness. It’s self-preservation versus risky optimism.
Through it all, I’ve seen that living in either state for too long just winds us up in the same place over and over again. If you lead with too much softness and an open heart, you get stomped on. If you lead with harsh self-protection and a spitfire method of holding your own, you put yourself out in the cold. Being both soft and strong are good things, but as you know, we as humans tend to live in extremes instead of balance.
As the years go by, I am slowly learning that there is beauty in being both strong and soft.
I don’t want to live my life acting like I don’t care just to spare myself a few heartbreaks. I do want to be my own advocate and stand up for what I know is right.
I don’t want to be so soft that the world bulldozes me and crushes my potential. I do want to be soft enough to use my compassion as a strength and see people for how good they really are, even at their lowest.
There are going to be days when you wonder if you’re doing it all wrong. Am I being too hard on myself? Should I have fought back in that moment? Was I too nice? Or was I too harsh?
The truth is that we need both. We need to be both soft and strong, because every challenge we face is going to call for both. We need to love ourselves and love the people in our lives and allow those soft spots in our hearts to stay open. In other moments, we need our strength to pull us out from our setbacks and help the people around us do the same. There is nothing more beautiful than a person who is unapologetically themselves, with the softness and the strength to take life one day at a time in stride. Let yourself feel it all, even the hard parts that seem intimidating.
Our lives will call for different versions of ourselves. Let both your strength and your heart answer, trusting either one to take the lead as needed. After all, the most beautiful way to make it through this life is with our hearts on our sleeves and strength to lead the way.