How tough are you?
I have been watching Alone Sweden on SBS in Australia. Eight individuals are placed alone at lake edge in a Norwegian forest as winter approaches. They have a backpack of supplies each. Their task: Stay and suffer longer than the others. Weeks pass as they struggle against cold, hunger, anxiety, and lack of social interaction.
They entered the brutal competition to test how tough they are.
The situation is an artificial one — a game. I reckon there are more realistic ways to test how tough we are.
Maybe you found your way out of a desperate situation where you were lost in the wilderness for days. That is impressive. In a real situation, there is no panic button.
But there are other ways to be tough.
Have you beaten a serious drug addiction to the extent of avoiding the drug for years?
Have you risked your life to save someone from drowning?
Have you spent years caring for a family member who has Alzheimer’s?
Did you recover from an awful event like being sexually assaulted?
Did you engage in combat in a war zone?
I have never done any of the above. I did help to raise two children. Does that show toughness?
My other claims to toughness: I have outlasted (or successfully fled) overbearing work supervisors. I have donated blood dozens of times.
Wait, I just remembered something interesting I did. In year 9, a boy sucker-punched me in class for no reason. Another boy, a hoodlum, insisted that my assailant and I fight outside the building when school ended that day.
I spent the rest of the school-day anxiously planning my attack. I still remember the plan: Tackle him, get on top, and pound him. The sucker-punching boy never showed up for the fight. I heard later that he ran home.
Some people withstand verbal bullying by peers while in school; others experience shocking rejections, failures, or losses. They still go on to lead a productive, enjoyable life. That shows mental toughness.
You need not be tough like Dirty Harry or Rambo or like the folks in the survival show I am watching. If you face the big challenges of life by doing your best, I will call you tough.
You may have your own ideas of how you have shown toughness — physical or mental. Think about those experiences. Tell others. Maybe then they will tell you about their experiences.
Photo by Norbert Buduczki on Unsplash