Be Smart, Not Strong

A saying I incorporated into my everyday thinking. I worked in the drug and alcohol setting for a short time. To say the least, it was not the right fit for me, but I learned several valuable lessons in those few short months. One of those lessons is a lesser known saying that comes from substance use recovery and is utilized in Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA).

Be smart, not strong.

Such a simple quote with such a powerful meaning. When I first heard it, it took me a second to process what I was hearing. I thought being a strong person was a good quality. Our society values individuals who have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to take on the rigors life throws at us. We idolize people who have been able to push forward and sometimes put them on the same level as a demigod.

This was not what the saying meant at all.

It was another way of saying to use your brain rather than to test your willpower. Think about it. Let me use the example of addiction. Let’s say there is a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for maybe two months was invited by his/her friends to the bar. If  this individual was to test their strength, they would follow through with their friends’ request and test their strength by putting themselves in a risky situation. Understanding his/her limits and using his/her tools though, it would be wiser for them to communicate to their friends that it might not best for them to go to the bar and to offer an alternative activity.

How does this relate to self-care? Use your brain. We will often neglect ourselves and test ourselves. We procrastinate on activities that will benefit our well-beings. We push ourselves to the limit. We will put ourselves in risky situations that harm us rather than help us.

Simply put, be mindful of yourself. Reason with yourself. Walk yourself through the steps. Weigh out the pros and cons. Set goals for yourself. Outline what you will do.

It could be as simple as knowing when to take a break  versus pushing yourself to the tipping point. It could be replacing a glass of soda with a glass of water. It could be taking a five-minute break in your workday rather than power through it. There are countless examples I could give. The point is to not test your willpower. You will be a stronger person for being smarter.

-The Caring Counselor


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