I’m Not Strong Enough

Every year I have some kids who break my heart.

It happens as soon as I task them with completing some assignment and they whisper to me with down-turned eyes, “I’m not smart enough.”

And my heart breaks for the broken spirit of the child.

Because the truth is, there are very few kids that are truly not smart enough to understand the math I teach and those are never even in my class.

But I can see how some may conclude they are not smart enough. After all, they see some of their classmates tearing through assignments like a kid at Disney World. They hear others volunteer answers before they have even processed the question. They feel their struggle while they see others’ successes.

But the problem is not that they aren’t smart enough.

Maybe they are not skilled enough, having missed earlier important concepts.

Maybe they are not present enough, excessive absences interfering with their ability to comprehend the material.

Maybe they are not supported enough, missing out on the help needed at home or at school.

Maybe they are not focused enough, allowing in outside distractions that make it difficult to think clearly.

Maybe they are not disciplined enough, forgoing homework for the call of video games and not participating in the needed practice.

Maybe they are not understanding enough, ignorant of their own ways of learning and demonstrating knowledge.

Or maybe they are not confident enough, perceiving themselves as lacking in some fundamental way that is fixed and rigid.

None of those things have anything to do with smart.

And all of those things can be addressed.

And overcome.

To expose the smart kid that was there all along.

Hiding behind those limiting beliefs.

———-

With adults, I rarely hear, “I’m not smart enough.” Yet I often hear, “I’m not strong enough.”

And it breaks my heart to hear the broken spirit.

Because the truth is, there are very few adults that are truly not strong enough to overcome the challenges that fall into their path.

But I can see how some may conclude they are not strong enough. After all, they see others speak and write and sing about their own journey and the conquering of it. They see others reach the finish line of their trauma before they have even finished processing their own. And they feel their struggle while they see others’ successes.

But the problem is not that they aren’t strong enough.

Maybe they are not skilled enough, having missed earlier opportunities to practice struggle and the overcoming of it.

Maybe they are not present enough, not able to put the time into healing that it requires because of other demands.

Maybe they are not supported enough, lacking the buttressing effect of family, friends and professionals.

Maybe they are not focused enough, allowing in outside distractions that make it difficult to think clearly.

Maybe they are not disciplined enough, electing to avoid the pain rather than face it and move through it.

Maybe they are not understanding enough, unaware of their own needs and what tools are effective for them.

Or maybe they are not confident enough, judging themselves as broken and somehow less than others.

None of those things have anything to do with strong.

And all of those things can be addressed.

And overcome.

To expose the strong person that was there all along.

Hiding behind those limiting beliefs.

———-

In the classroom, I work to help figure out what needs each kid has and then we work together to discover what methods and tools best meet those needs. I act as a cheerleader when they’re discouraged and a butt-kicker when they’re trying to avoid. I reveal my own struggles to them and help them to see their own strengths. I give them opportunities to shine when the quick-to-get-it kids often falter and I praise the effort that moves them forward. I highlight their progress, comparing them to themselves rather than to anybody else.

We talk about how everybody has some things that come easy and some things that don’t. And how often those that struggle become the better for it. They laugh when I tell them that math was my worst subject and that I almost failed Algebra II. They laugh, and then they smile because it gives them hope.

In the adult world, I do much of the same. I help people figure out their own needs and what tools will best match those needs. I encourage when the spirit is down and kick some butt when it is dragging. I share my own struggles (and the struggles that others have made public) and I help them to see their own strength. I look for opportunities for them to shine when maybe the quick-to-heal folks still stumble. I highlight their progress, comparing them to their earlier version rather than to somebody else.

We talk about how some people seem to move through trauma easier than others due to a blessing of biology, support, environment or prior experience. And that some may have to struggle more to get there.

And that struggle can make you better.

I had one client that had a life relatively free of trauma until a big one that sent her to me. She knew that it was harder for her to deal with the situation than others because as she was processing the pain, she was also doing the hard work of identifying her own strengths, weaknesses, needs and tools of best fit.

And she appreciated that effort even as it wore at her.

“I know this won’t be the only thing I have to go through in my life. If I do it well, it will serve me going forward and if I don’t do it well, it will become the thing that holds me back.”

And she’s right.

At the beginning, she wasn’t strong enough to reach the summit.

But she was strong enough to take the first step.

And then the next.

And each step built her strength.

Her confidence.

Her resolve.

YOU are strong enough.

I see it.

I want you to see it too.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Learn more.

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9 thoughts on “I’m Not Strong Enough

  1. What a beautiful caring entry from a beautiful and caring person. My son would thrive with a teacher like you!! Thanks for the parts is uou that you share….I always reflect and learn so much.

    1. How old is he? I have seen so many thrive around 8th-9th grade that have learning differences as they learn their own needs and get better at self-advocating. Sometimes a little later for boys.

  2. I somehow feel that you wrote this for me…though I know it is a common theme and will help so many see a different perspective. I love how you connected it to students and I see the parallels and how I use similar techniques with my own students (and even my own children) to overcome obstacles. Even if it wasn’t for me, thank you. I like your perspective…think I’ll incorporate it into my own and continue to work on my “limiting beliefs”.

      1. Thank you for your kindness…and seeing the good in me. I see it sometimes myself, there is just so often so much other “noise” that it often gets drowned out…too much responsibility and not enough hours in the day, money in the bank, or patience to go around! haha

      2. I hear you! I think it’s often easier to see the gifts in others rather than ourselves. You’ll get there. Just put on those headphones to block the noise and keep moving to where you want to be. Noise is just noise. You don’t have to listen:)

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