In my time, overwhelmingly, I have been lucky in life and love. This doesn’t mean I haven’t seen my fair share of storm clouds and seemingly impossible obstacles.

Cancer, losing loved ones in a horrific manner, mental illness, and other tests of my mental, emotional, and physical stability have taken place in fewer than 30 years. Though I never saw myself as a strong person while going through these situations, strength in retrospect becomes more apparent. In addition, I know that I would call anyone else by that title if they had experienced these scenarios, especially if they came out as I have: reasonably unscathed.

With the loss of loved ones, illnesses in friends, and other adverse situations, I have had friends and family lean on me for support. For more than 29 years, I listened and attempted to relieve their pain, but instead just held it in and let it fester alongside my own. This left me feeling weak and inadequate, every time.

Recently, in dealing with hardship, I learned how to handle being the go-to person for others in a productive manner. Instead my usual routine, I realized that I can encourage solutions for forgiveness, self-care, and returning to everyday life, while teaching myself, as well. Previously, I had a hard time reaching a healthy position, but in learning to communicate and assist others, I am able to reach that space of peace faster.

This makes me strong.

I hope that people recognize the strength of their character, as well. So much of it is based in the perception of others. Because of this, I strongly suggest everyone to not discount the offered words of encouragement and praise. When you are able to assimilate these words into your own train of thought, it is easier to see yourself as strong.

It’s also important to realize that there is strength in so many little actions; it’s not all in doing cross-fit, running marathons, swimming miles, and bench-pressing weight.

To those who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, but do it anyway: you are strong. To those who find it difficult to leave your home because of crippling anxiety, but do it anyway: you are strong. To everyone who has had their heart shattered, but chose to love again: you are strong. And, to everyone who has been turned away from casting agents, publishers, employers, but still chose to pursue what you love: you are strong.

Just as nearly every fingerprint is unique, and no two snowflakes are alike, we are all strong in our own ways. The quicker we realize this, the quicker we can all be strong for each other.