Does Hurting Yourself Make You Stronger?

Does Hurting Yourself Make You Stronger?

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Most of the time, this is a positive statement; it helps people make sense of the difficulties they’ve faced, and find something good to take away from some of the worst moments in their lives. But does hurting yourself make you stronger?

Does Hurting Yourself Make You Stronger?

I’ve written before about how my past self-harm was largely driven by my desire to prove that I was « strong enough » to shield others from my problems and bear all of my pain on my own. Scars may be ugly to some, but to others, they tell a story—they are proof of survival. It’s true, of course, that to survive anything difficult takes a certain amount of strength. And I certainly agree that all of us standing (or sitting) here now, still alive in spite of the crushing weight of emotions and experiences that could have easily driven us to give up, are survivors—and we are strong.

But does hurting yourself make you stronger? No, I don’t think that’s true at all.

Why Hurting Yourself Doesn’t Make You Stronger

Here’s the thing about strength. Physical strength is variable—you may be born with a certain talent for increasing it, but everyone has to put the work in to build up their muscles and improve their physical prowess. But that’s not the kind of strength I mean here. You can’t punch your way through surviving self-harm. You don’t build muscle tone by injuring yourself. Surviving and recovering from self-harm requires inner strength, and to a certain extent, inner strength is innate.

Therefore, hurting yourself does not make you stronger—or weaker, for that matter. It is simply one of many very human reactions to what can sometimes be a difficult world to live in. Rather, it is the strength you already have that you draw on when you make the choice to move forward. It takes strength to ask for help, and to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after a relapse.

If you’re worried, as I was, that you are weak—maybe too weak to ever recover—remember this. Inner strength can be built up, too, one small step at a time. Instead of lifting weights or doing squats, it takes emotional work like going to therapy, changing bad habits, and doing the right thing, even when it’s the hardest thing to do. If all of that sounds like too much right now, start simple: start by asking for help. Any weight, after all, becomes easier to bear when you share the load.

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