Be Exceptional Blog

Be Strong Like Clay, Not Strong Like Rock

Dawn Abbott - Friday, December 02, 2016

Be strong like clay, not strong like rock. This is the difference between being hard and impenetrable versus vulnerable—being authentic, transparent, and sharing weakness is actually true strength.

I had to be strong. I overfunctioned my butt off. I tackled everything like I was executing an event. If I started to feel some grief, anger, guilt, or sadness, I thought of something else I needed to do or check off. I refused to think about it—just think about something happy. Be happy and keep on truckin’. If I stopped, felt the grief, I might fall down crying and they may have to scrape me up off the floor and put me in the mental ward because I might not be able to stop crying and get back up. I had to be strong because my kids couldn’t end up orphans. Then my therapist said, “Define strength.” I said strength is a mountain; it is like rock. She asked, “What happens to a mountain if it is broken?” I had the aha at that moment. If I thought of myself as a rock and I broke and fell apart, I could never be a mountain again. I would never be strong again. My counselor asked how I could redefine strength. I stated, “I want to be strong like clay. I want to be able to break into tiny pieces, smoosh into a puddle, and when I want to get up again, I will just reshape myself.”

Think of some modern examples where we have seen people being vulnerable and are seen as heroes and respected for sharing in a vulnerable authentic way. Like Ellen Degeneres coming out publicly so she could be herself and ended up being a champion of a cause and living a life as a role model. Her vulnerability was a risk, but we all see it as strength. Oprah Winfrey sharing her story of childhood sexual abusive changed the conversation forever and allowed so many others to come out of their own shame to heal. 

Brenè Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Marcus Lemonis from The Profit, the guy that is a business genius and goes into small businesses as the fixer, says, “The truth in life is connecting to people through vulnerability. Life is not and business is not just about business, it’s really about people. It’s about establishing relationships in a vulnerable way.”

Now my motto is “if it scares me, I need to run to it as hard and fast as I can.” If it feels hard or scary, it is the path I am destined to work toward. If I fail, I try to do it quickly so I can pick up the fallen pieces to remold myself. Sometimes I am scared to be myself or share how embarrassing it is that I feel jealous or scared or whatever, but every time I do, I make a connection, solve a problem, or gain a friend.


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