We are all weak at times.
There’s no need to deny or sugar coat it. Of course we’re weak sometimes.
I run marathons. I can tell you without any question, I’m weak after running 26 miles.
I’m weak in my body, I’m weak in the mind, and I’m weak in the spirit at that point.
There is absolutely no shame in weakness. We human beings are actually DESIGNED to be weak sometimes, and strong at other times.
Our relative levels of strength and weakness at any given time do not have to do with our fundamental character.
Rather, hey have to do with the level of training we’ve done, the amount and quality of rest we’ve had, and the amount and quality of nutrition we’ve fed our bodies and minds.
Many, many people make the mistake of generalizing a moment or period of relative weakness to themselves as a person.
Because they either felt weak or WERE weak at a particular point, they make the leap to labeling themselves as a “weak person” who cannot withstand the stresses of everyday life.
This type of generalization is what cognitive therapists correctly call distorted thinking.
It’s thinking that is unnecessarily black and white, and which leads to anxiety and depression…none of which is necessary, because these are the exact types of thoughts that do not hold up when we learn to scrutinize and reality test them.
Let’s first do away with this myth that there’s something wrong about either being weak at times, or acknowledging our weakness when we are weak.
Any bodybuilder can tell you that after they perform a tough lift, their muscles are weak, sometimes to the point of shaking.
The reason for this isn’t because their muscles are inadequate. If you look at the physique of a serious bodybuilder, it’s obvious that their musculature is usually more than what any of us would consider “adequate.”
Rather, the reason for their relative “weakness” after doing a tough lift is because they have temporarily exhausted the energy reserves in their muscle tissues.
That’s all weakness is— a temporary exhaustion of energy. No more; no less.
Do bodybuilders, or marathon runners, berate themselves because their muscles are depleted after competing in their respective events?
Of course not.
What they do is acknowledge that they’ve expended a great deal of energy over a certain amount of time, and that their comparative weakness at that moment is a completely natural consequence of that energy expenditure— and they get about the business of refueling.
There is a lesson to be learned here about how we can think of emotional strength and weakness.
If you’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, addiction, or any other emotional or behavioral difficulty, you likely know that feeling of “weakness.”
And you likely also know how easy it is to blame yourself for that weakness, and to assume that this weakness is just part of your basic character.
(For that matter, our culture is often very good at reinforcing the idea that mental and emotional weakness stems from a basic character flaw.)
What I’m suggesting is that you look at your relative “weakness” through a different lens than you may be used to.
I’m going to suggest that OF COURSE you’re weak— because living with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or addiction is exhausting.
Living with these conditions requires a MASSIVE energy outlay nearly every single day, just to function.
That weakness you feel isn’t the result of some character flaw. It’s the result of having had to expend a lot of energy just to get up every morning and deal with your symptoms.
The good news is, just like bodybuilders and marathon runners, we can learn to condition ourselves so that our moments of weakness and exhaustion don’t last as long and are not as debilitating.
We can learn to train. We can learn to rest. We can learn to feed ourselves the right kinds of emotional and behavioral “nutrition” in order to expand our capacity to deal with our weakness.
But we can only do that if we accept that we ARE weak at times…and there’s nothing wrong with it.
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