When I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost four years ago, I was bombarded by people telling me how strong I am, and how I am brave, a warrior, etc.

How many times has someone said, “But you’re such a strong person, you’ll get through this” or, “You’re stronger than you think…” or something to that effect?  They mean well, but don’t you just want to stop one of those people in their tracks of “Pollyanna-ish” building up and just choke them?! 

There are so many clichés out there: “You don’t know how strong you are until you haven’t got any other option” or “You’re stronger than you think”, yada, yada, yada…Sure, those sayings and phrases are inspirational to a point, but you know what they fail to do?  Scratch the surface of what it really means to have inner strength.

Inner strength is like an iceberg. I’d say an onion, with the peeling back of layers bullshit, but really, the iceberg is a better analogy here.

An iceberg is a stoic ice mountain, jutting out of the water in all its majestic glory.  It’s impressive on the outside, but underneath- that’s where the real stuff is.  Did the Titanic get taken out by the top of the iceberg?  Hell no- it got hit on its underside by the massive expanse of what the iceberg really is- the inner workings of an ice force, with unmatched strength.

With strength comes fragility, though- you can’t have one without the other.  I can’t, at least.  The iceberg, as stoic and strong as it is, has weak pieces that break off.  If it held on to those fragile pieces, the iceberg as a whole wouldn’t be as strong as it could be.  And so, it is like that with us- we can’t have true inner strength, without moments of fragility. 

I can’t count the times when I’ve had to face something terrifying and didn’t first go into a room by myself, sob, scream, fret, etc., and then put myself together, came out of that room and did what I needed to do.  Allowing ourselves to feel the vulnerability is a strength in itself.  We must be able to feel and acknowledge our weaknesses, then let them go, in order to find the strength within. 

Each of us IS strong, IS a warrior, CAN get through anything we need to- but we need to do it in our own ways, in our own time, and realize that sometimes being strong means simply getting out of bed that day.  Don’t be afraid of your fragility.  It’s just as much a gift as your strength and bravery.

Be good to each other. 

Jennifer Angarano Ricci is a wife, mother & creative soul-searcher.  She is a musician, artist, and baker, and runs her home business Baked By Jen, in addition to running her local community theater group.  She loves to sing, create and help others and tries to connect all three passions whenever possible.

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