Featured Artwork: Levi Hastings
You sit in a full movie theater on a Friday night when the buzz of excited energy runs rampant throughout the venue. Tonight, the most talked-about action film of the year is releasing — maybe something along the lines of a quality Superman reboot (with emphasis on quality). The film lives up to the hype; you find yourself engrossed in the varying segments of cinematic action and dazzling computer-generated special effects. One segment, however, stands out more than most, and not in a good way.
As is typical in most modern action films, there is a scene where the male lead is partially naked for no apparent reason other than to show off his chiseled physique, the type that will make yourself conscious about your own fitness level. Making matters worse, you catch your significant other momentarily stunned by this male hero’s body. You want to be angry at them, but deep down inside, you know that doesn’t make sense. You know they are only doing what you do, what we all do when we come across someone we deem attractive. You admire them from a safe distance.
Disheveled by this, you do your best to put on a happy face as you walk out of the theater, caught up in the throng of moviegoers all making a beeline for the exit at the same time (someone needs to do something about that system). As you discard your shared popcorn and soft drinks, you conjoin hands with your date, but the embrace is tepid. They can sense that somehow, your energy is off. It’s negative.
The walk to the car now feels like a death row march, each step seeming to take an entire minute of its own. You’re unhappy, they’re unhappy, and it’s all because you believe strength is about physical appearances, like the barrel chest and brawny arms you laid eyes upon while watching that movie. So much for living up to the hype…
It’s moments like these that rob men all across the country, and the world, of a genuine understanding of what strength means. Sure, Captain America’s physique is a goal to aspire to attain, but way too many men have turned to shallow, outward displays of strength while failing to pay attention to where it matters most: within.
From my understanding, true strength isn’t about the size of your muscles or what they can do, nor is it about how much physical pain you can withstand or inflict. It’s not about the number of fights you’ve been in, or won, or the amount of weight you can lift. All of those things are impressive and worthy of acknowledgment but are merely one aspect of strength, the one that is easiest to spot.
What’s harder to do is open up about your feelings to those that matter most. The deep stuff that’s buried so far within you, the thought of opening those doors sends chills down your spine. It’s being vulnerable for the sake of maintaining meaningful connections — especially in intimate relationships. It’s expressing your emotions in healthy, constructive ways. It’s finding ways to continually grow all for the love of self-improvement. It’s making time to partake in hard, challenging, rigorous tasks, tasks you’d rather avoid for the sake of comfort. It’s uplifting those around you, all in the name of sowing good seeds and promoting good vibes. It’s taking leaps of faith in pursuit of dreams, goals, even love — all rooted in something bigger than yourself, something that makes the leap feel worthwhile, without backing down or walking away as a result of succumbing to doubts or fear.
True strength is being able to be your best, most authentic self, fully aware of how cold, cruel, and judgmental the world can be. True strength is not modifying yourself to please others, and, in spite of all of society’s negativity, still finding a reason beyond yourself to get up every day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to head out into the world to make a positive difference. True strength is being true to who you are. It’s not all brawn; brains are required, too. We all have the ability to exhibit amazing feats of strength, feats that leave people in awe, the type of awe that is usually reserved for the most heroic men — like Superman. His strength, however, doesn’t just come from his muscles or laser-beam eyes.
Sometimes, he’s at his best when he’s Clark Kent, the nerdy reporter and writer.
When you figure this out, you’ll start to see that every man has the potential to be Superman. Then, you’ll figure out how high you can fly; you will learn to embrace strength in all of its forms. So, what are you waiting for? Get up, lace up your boots, put on your cape, and let the world know that men are capable of Superman-esque displays of strength, the strength that extends beyond the capabilities of their physical body:
the strength that comes from within.