Life throws a lot at all of us. We all have challenges and since our struggles loom large in our lives, there is no way to say that one person’s hardship is greater than another’s. Far more important than the magnitude of our struggles is how we respond to our challenges. We don’t have the choice to live lives without some form of struggle. And, frankly, if you have nothing that tests you, you could probably be doing more. What we do have control over is how we meet our challenges. I have found that it helps to cultivate a fierceness in life.
Life is messy. It is not the perfection that Hollywood presents us and neither is it filled, for most of us, with the tragic challenges and glamorous solutions that the TV and movie industry condition us to expect from their feel-good stories.
Furthermore, we often look at other people and marvel at the apparent ease of their lives. I am guilty of watching others and feeling envious of what I see as their smooth, effortless ride through life. We all need to remind ourselves that many times the challenges that people experience are not immediately visible to the rest of us. We live in a society that values perfection, the appearance of a glossy-magazine-life over all else. As a result, we simply don’t walk around with signs that say, “Flunked Algebra, Single Mom, Cancer Survivor.” Maybe we should. Since we do not see other people’s challenges, we tend to assume we are part of a slender minority who are suffering. But we are wrong in this assumption.
We all face challenges.
There is no comparing our challenges with those of other people. For each of us, our challenges loom large in our individual lives. Sure, we can say that the person just diagnosed with terminal cancer, facing a painful, dignity stripping death has greater challenges than the kid who is looking down the barrel of a C in algebra. But who is to say that either person is affected personally to a greater or lesser degree than the other. To the kid who has the C average that she knows will make it impossible for her to get into that college she has her heart set on, it may feel like a death sentence. Sure we all know it is not the end of her world, but for her, at her stage in life, it might seem very much so. Maybe her parents went to that school and they have made it pretty clear that family members are only successful when they are accepted by the great alma mater. There is just no way to know the intricacies of the stressors in other people’s lives.
I’ve noticed in my life, and the lives of others, that how we face our challenges and deal with them is clearer. I spent a lot of time prior to and during High School being fearful and hesitant. The school work was challenging and I had serious health issues. It was a prodigious battle and eventually, I decided that I had to Be Fierce.
I made a conscious decision not to let anyone tell me what I was capable of, how I would use my God-given gifts, or what I would contribute in life. I had to work hard to silence the voice in the back of my head that told me that I could not do the things I set out to do. I still have to tell myself, on occasion, to stay strong. Like everyone else living on this planet, I am still under construction.
I have found the power of visualization to be useful as an exercise in building the strength to be fierce in the face of life challenges. At a crucial point in my life, I began to think of myself as a tiger. I even roared into a mirror a few times. It sounds silly, but it gave me the strength to overcome one of the most challenging times in my life. You can visualize anything that gives you strength. It can be an animal (like my tiger) or even a person who you admire, who has stood by you in life.
It is critical to remember that to be fierce you need to acknowledge, not ignore, your fear and move forward in spite of that fear. (Fierce can mean an intense, ferocious aggressiveness. I don’t think of the aggressiveness in the negative sense, but in the sense of being relentless, committed, and dominant over personal struggle. The word has made it into colloquial use with this sense.)
Be Fierce! Don’t let anyone, including the voice in the back of your head, tell you what you can become. You can become exactly what you want to be and are willing to do the hard work to get there.