Strategies to Face Adversity: Inner Strength

A number of study participants spoke about their inner strength, or strong spirit, helping them overcome adversity.

So I think what I am saying is well I believe it is my inner strength. Gran called it my spirit. She would always say to my father and uncle Sammy, this boy he got a strong spirit.

UnknownTraditionally, Aboriginal people considered personal traits of community members. The elders would observe individuals within the clan group, selecting those with certain characteristics.

The individual was someone who had strong cultural values and principles. They were reliable and demonstrated such qualities as humility, compassion, fairness and self-control. Such individuals would be given responsibilities within their family and clan groups. These individuals would then be considered leaders.

This cultural practice has continued and is still practised in many Aboriginal communities today. Individuals with such qualities today are considered to be strong and are often called a strong woman or a strong man who has a strong spirit.

When discussing some of the adversities faced, a number of participants spoke of their inner strength, some referred to it as a strong spirit:

“I think for me it was my inner strength I like to think of it as my spirit.”

Another participant stated:

“But yeah it’s an inner strength, kinda like my inner spirit and I believe it is strong, very strong.”

One participant believed her inner strength came from her family:

“The thing for me was the family unit that strong family unit gave me inner strength which in turn I believe makes me resilient.”

While another who had experienced blatant racism from one of her employers gave credit to her community:

“You know I was knocked. He knocked me with what he said and I believe I gained strength from my own community. Working with my own community with and for my own people helped build up my strength my self-esteem yeah was made stronger.”

A participant in her 40s, who was adopted as a baby, expressed her feelings about identity and her own personal ability:

“I started to understand myself a lot better. It was my own personal ability to do so I guess, a sorta inner strength that came through for me.”

Another participant in her 60s believed her achievements in life were due to her own personal strength:

“I think umm I got to where I am by being strong. You know I got a strong spirit. I know what I want and I know what I have to do to get it.”

The following participant discussed during his interview how it was his grandmother who had seen his strength even from a young age. He therefore believed it was his inner strength that assisted him to face personal challenges and adversities:

“So I think what I am saying is well I believe it is my inner strength. Gran called it my spirit. She would always say to my father and uncle Sammy, this boy he got a strong spirit.

Even when I had been belted by my brothers and dad and I struggled to get to my bed with gran and my mother each side of me. I knew my mother was worried because she said to gran, ‘He won’t die, will he?’ I remember gran saying, ‘Nah he won’t die, his spirit is too strong. I mean he don’t look too good, but he won’t die not with a spirit like his.'”

Inner strength is an important strategy used by many study participants to overcome adversities they faced. For some study participants, it was about believing in themselves. They believed they were strong or they had an inner strength or a strong inner spirit; this inner strength assisted them to face adversities.

Other participants were told by family members of their strong spirit. Then there were those who believed they gained strength from their Aboriginal community. Such individuals worked within their community and for their people, gaining strength from doing so. Whatever the situation, inner strength is an important strategy used to face and overcome adversity.