How I Defined Strong

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By: Becky Gay

For so many years I thought I knew what it meant to be “strong”. I saw pictures of women that had strong shoulders and defined backs, all I could think was that’s what I wanted.

I wanted to be strong like them.

I was TIRED of being Skinny Becky, I wanted to be fit because I had always felt tiny and weak. So when I began my fitness journey, I was on one mission; stop getting referred to as skinny by other people.

As I got older and moved away from home to Texas, somehow the “Skinny Becky” name still followed me. So I started the journey of becoming “strong”. I was out to prove to everyone that ever doubted me that I was stronger than they thought. 

But as time progressed, I wasn’t doing it to prove people wrong anymore—I had fallen in love with the process. I became addicted to how much I could do for myself and how I could control change. 

I changed how I ate, how I worked out and I began to notice the changes in body and so did the people around me. After some time, they started saying I was the fit one and I felt like I was becoming who I set out to be. I was becoming strong. 

Fast forward 2.5 years and here I am at 141lbs from 118lbs and I had never felt better. I felt like the world was at my fingertips. I thought I had arrived. 

I received a phone call around 10am on Friday, November 18th that shattered EVERYTHING I thought I knew about being strong.

My thoughts, my understanding, my life as a whole was picked up and shaken like a toddler’s baby doll. 

The first person I had ever REALLY fallen in love with had killed herself.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around the words that came out of the phone from her mother. “Becky, she’s dead. Lacie killed herself”.

Those words didn’t make sense, they kept echoing and bouncing off my brain but I couldn’t digest them sitting there on my knees in the middle of my restaurant with my Fry cooks arm on my shoulder. This beautiful human that at one time was the love of my life, left. Killed herself. Gone.

In that moment I realized I had NO idea what being strong meant. It felt like my soul fell apart right there on the floor. 

SHE KILLED HERSELF? SHE KILLED HERSELF?! It’s all I could say, I was stunned, lost, fighting for answers I knew I may never get, imagining things in my head, I fell apart. I felt weak in who I was, what I believed in, what I wanted out of life. I couldn’t see who I was anymore when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know that girl.

——

Being strong has nothing to do with physical strength. It has everything to do with emotional and mental strength. 

This I know: strength is born when we are at some of our lowest moments. It’s found when push aside the idea of what should be, to what is.

It’s when you choose to be kind instead of mean. It’s found in acceptance and understanding. It’s in the choices we make to get our two feet out of bed when we want to curl up and hide from pain.

When you decide to roll over and close your eyes instead of giving into the mad thoughts in your head that tell you it too would be easier to stop hurting by leaving.

Strength is found there.

It’s getting to the gym when it’s the last place you want to be. It’s doing things that hurt. It’s deciding to do the right thing for you and no one else.  It’s saying “no” for the right reasons to protect your heart. You find it in the ability to try understand anger instead of retaliate against it. Strength is found in so many different ways. I think the purest form of strength is found in the one thing most people struggle with; being vulnerable. 

Some of the most positive experiences come from the most negative and we must first learn to bear pain before we can understand it.

Being vulnerable or raw is the gateway to another dimension of being human that so many of us hide from. We fear dislike, criticism, abandonment, the truth. God forbid, we were just honest with ourselves and others. Where we didn’t hide our true feelings, hurts, wants, discomforts and struggles. Imagine what that could do. Being vulnerable sparks honesty, to which it creates conversations that leads to connection to change and growth. 

You see, the whole time I thought I wasn’t “strong”, I was blind to what was already inside of me. I had a false sense of the word because of how everyone else defined it.

Incredible strength has been inside me since I was young. I was kind to my bullies, I tried to understand my dad’s anger instead of walking away, I loved hard and gave patience to those that couldn’t understand my heart. It was there when I made choices to better myself and to step outside my comfort zone, to say “I love you” even when I knew I wouldn’t hear it back, when I took chances on people that disappointed me, and when I decided that being exactly who I am is enough. 

For so long I thought being told that I was “too much”, “too sensitive”, “too invested”, “too” whatever else people have told me I was for them was a bad thing. Because I now know that my strength outweighed there capacity to love and be vulnerable by lightyears. So now, I’ll take being too much, because at least it’s not too little.

I have grown in more ways than I can verbalize in the last three years. I have struggled in more ways than I can count. 

It took something like death and suicide to rattle, and tip over the cage of my soul to release the “strong” woman inside of me. The first person that I lost in my life was my first love; to a death of unimaginable pain. One of empty answers and heartbreak. I have chosen to be as open and honest about the hurt and struggle that has come with it in hopes to show another human being that it is okay to feel. To show those struggling with thoughts to take their own life, what the other side looks like.

My world has never been shaken on this level and I have found that the only way to cope is to go through the pain rather than around it. 

I am exactly who I am, exactly where I’m supposed to be, feeling everything I’m supposed to be feeling. I’m different, and not even close to who I was before that day but if I’m being honest, I am glad I’m not.

When I look back on what I thought strong was…I thought wrong.  

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