‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is a well-known saying, which has become quite a hollow phrase that people often throw at others going through a hard time. But what does it actually mean? And is there any truth to it?
I’ve recently started therapy because of some personal and family issues I’ve been going through. Like many people I was a little sceptical when I started; how was this stranger going to help me? Interestingly though, therapy has changed my viewpoint on a lot of things and has allowed me to see some things a little differently. What I’ve come to realize is that the statement ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is in fact true. There’s a reason you go through something and you really do come out of it a different person (better or worse). In this blogpost I’m sharing three things I’ve experienced and how they’ve changed me and made me much more resilient to whatever else comes my way.
1. Moving & living on my own
>>My first room as a student in The Hague (what a mess!)
Until I was 18 I lived abroad, in Italy and Belgium. I was born in the Netherlands and I am Dutch, but I didn’t live there until I was 18 and going to university. I was excited but it was a really hard time for me. I grew up in a very protected environment as I went to private school and never had an after school job. It wasn’t the ‘real world’ and I soon realized that when I moved to the Netherlands and lived on my own for the first time. I had to fall down many times and made many mistakes, but all for the better (seriously). I learned to stand on my own two feet and the feeling of making it on my own was so empowering. Every mistake I made back then has prepared me for my life now. I needed to go through it and it has really made me much stronger. I learned how to deal with money, social rejection, renting a room or apartment, meeting new people in a city where you know absolutely no one, getting a job and learning how to cook! I started creating my own recipes for the first time when I started university and I had no idea how. I would have never thought that 11 years later I would have a blog where I’d share my recipes. And no one in my family would have believed it either!
2. Losing weight
>>Charming, I know. Can’t believe this was me 10 years ago!
In my weight loss story post, I shared that I was once 10 kilos heavier than I am now. What I didn’t mention was that I was in complete denial. When my pants didn’t fit, I thought they must have shrunk in the washing machine. When my blouse was too tight, I figured I just had big boobs (which I did, but everything else was big too!). The truth was, I was extremely unhealthy. It wasn’t a surprise that I was gaining weight; I drank lots of alcohol and ate fried food almost every day. I never stood on a scale and figured I looked fine. Until I saw a photo of myself on the beach in my bikini. I didn’t look good – I was ashamed of myself. I still wanted to blame the bikini, but I realized it was me and something had to change. I know I wasn’t extremely overweight and it didn’t take me long to lose those 10 kilos, but it was something I never thought I could do. All it took was a change in my mindset: I decided my body was more important than food. I started to cook, eat vegetables, stopped eating meat and dairy and drank less beer. The biggest change was in my head though: I was fully committed and hardly every slipped. I soon noticed my clothes were getting looser and I loved it. I remember one day I was walking home and literally had to hold my pants up with my hands to stop them from falling down. I was so proud of myself and I still am. I have never gained the weight back and I have never felt better. I eat healthily most of the time, I work out and I still never step on a scale. I don’t need to – I’m no longer in denial. I’m healthy and that’s all that matters!
3. Losing my father
>>Happier times, our family on vacation in France about 20(!) years ago (I’m the blonde girl on the right, my father is on the left)
This has by far made the greatest impact on my life. When I was 12 my father died in a car accident, very suddenly and without warning. On April 15th, 2000, he left for work in the morning and never came home. When you’re that young you’re parents are your whole world and my worst nightmare at that age was losing one of them. When it happened I thought I couldn’t possibly live through it and for months I still thought he would just come home. How could he be gone? It was too much to deal with, too hard. After time passed I realized that slowly the pain got less and the darkness I was living in got a little lighter. I recenly read through my old diaries from back them, and there’s an entry a few months after he passed where I wrote I was ‘doing better’. That’s something I couldn’t have imagined when it first happened. A while ago I attended the funeral of my boyfriend’s uncle and his son was there. He was 12, the same age I was when my father died and my heart ached for him. I gathered my courage and walked up to him after the funeral to tell him this would be the darkest day. It wouldn’t get worse – it would only get better after this. And it’s true. I didn’t realize how strong I was, even back then. With every passing day I got a little tougher and a little less sad. And all it took was time. That’s how amazing the human soul is. It can withstand anything.