Mentally strong people seem to have it all together — as if they have life figured out before life happens. They seem to flow through things effortlessly, seldom rattled by life’s ups and downs. And when they are down, they seem to always bounce right back. Their lives seem to be rich with meaning, driven by purpose, and aimed at higher achievements. And yet, surprisingly they have learned something about contradictions that the rest of us are still trying to figure out. What they have learned is that life is full of contradictions, that contradictions are necessary to understanding contrasts. And that dialectical thinking — which many have likened to wisdom — begins with contradictions. Here are four main ones.
I am vulnerable, yet strong. Mentally strong people know that there is no avoiding vulnerability — it’s a part of life. But they’ve also learned that vulnerability is the backbone of strength. That being willing to take a risk, being willing to live wholeheartedly, being willing to be vulnerable, takes more strength than running from it. Mentally strong people have put down their shields long ago, and recognize that vulnerability and strength exist in concert and, unlike what many of us think, are not mutually exclusive. And so they live life both vulnerable and strong.
Life is fragile, yet precious. Mentally strong people know that life can be gone in a matter of seconds. And they have learned to use this reality as all the more reason to appreciate the life they do have. So they don’t waste time on things that don’t matter — senseless gossip, unnecessary drama, toxic relationships — and instead take time for life’s precious moments, like a child’s laughter, the knowing smile of a loved one, a beautiful sunset, and yes, smelling the roses. And it is because life is fragile that they do.
I am more wary of people, and more trusting of them too. Like everything else, mentally strong people have learned that people are not perfect. People — even the ones you think shouldn’t — can let you down. Yet, there are others still who surprise you, and come through in ways you never expected. And this is the contradiction that we all face, that some people will let you down, and some you will trust more than you ever thought you could. What mentally strong people know is that it is in being wary, in having to be cautious, that you also come to appreciate those you can truly trust on a much deeper level.
I have limitations, yet I also have endless possibilities. Mentally strong people know their limitations and they do not hide them. They are not going to pretend that they can do something that they can’t. Instead, they have learned that it is in accepting their limitations that they come to realize possibilities that they never noticed before. Because if they are busy concocting a delusion they are not really capable of, what they’re missing are the opportunities that are possible. And while we’d all like to fly to the moon, perhaps we need to learn to walk first.
Having it all together — being mentally strong — isn’t about making life fit into a perfect box. It’s about accepting life as it is — both good and bad, right and wrong, joyous and excruciating — and learning to live with life’s contradictions.