Lately I have been thinking about what it means to be tough.
I have never feel very tough. I stand about 5 feet even, I’m shorter than just about everyone I know. I don’t have a lot of muscle. I can’t lift much and my joints hurt sometimes. I’m sensitive too. I’m easily frustrated and upset. My stomach is usually in knots and I have terrible anxiety about everyday things. I get depressed and putting one foot in front of the other can feel like swimming upstream. I feel get tired easily and I often want to give up and just stay in bed forever, where it’s safe.
I feel afraid a lot. I am afraid to fail and to look stupid. I am afraid people will hate me or that I will do something wrong. I am afraid to be hurt and I’m afraid to hurt others. I’m afraid life means something and that it means nothing. I am afraid to live and more than anything I am afraid to die. Around every corner I see new dangers, new chances for bad luck to find me or my loved ones. New chances for The Worst to happen.
I know I feel more afraid, more sensitive, than other people do, but I also know I am probably wrong about that. Maybe everyone feels small and scared all the time, they just hid it better than me.
People say I am tough and I don’t understand why. They say I am tough because I don’t hide my fear and feelings but what they don’t know is that I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I was born without a tough shell, so maybe I am tough because I navigate life without it. It’s not so much bravery as it is necessity. They say that is what bravery is though, doing what you must even when you are afraid, because you have to.
I don’t know yet what true bravery is. I haven’t been faced with The Worst that I always fear but I have had a taste. Whenever I drive (which isn’t as often as I should), when I write, when I meet new people, when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes the fear isn’t so bad, just a dull anxiety in the background. Sometimes the fear makes my palms sweat and my mouth go dry. Sometime my heart beats to hard and my stomach get shaky until I am sure I am going to throw up.
I try to be tough though, and I try to remember that nothing is ever as bad as you think it will be. Being tough means to stop thinking so much and just take action. Being tough means doing what is hard to do and what might even hurt. Being tough means knowing who you are and what you are about and never compromising that because you are afraid. Being tough means never doing less than your best. Being tough means being honest with those around you and yourself.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are being tough or weak. Sometimes being tough makes you tired and you lose focus of the point. Sometimes you won’t even want to be tough because its too hard and it hurts too much. When that happens you just have to be tougher. But remember sometimes being tough looks a lot like giving up, the difference is you are only retreating so you may fight again another day.
If you feel afraid, if you doubt you are as tough as nails, just think about all you have been through and all you are capable of making it through still. Remember that nothing thus far has held you back. Now puff out your chest, hold you head high, and walk like you know that you are one badass individual. You are brave and you can do anything.