As a child, I thought of myself as being vulnerable, a wimp to the max. I wouldn’t allow myself to get into situations where I would need to fight. Even arguing was avoided whenever possible, unless it was with my brother. My “best friend” bullied me into circumstances where I knew better than to follow her lead. Yes, I would end up going along with what she wanted to do even though I’d be punished if my mother found out. Remarkably, my mother didn’t find out about those adventures I was coerced into being a part of until years later.

Yet, those years of being what I believed was a spineless wonder, helped me know myself better later on as a young teenager. My junior high schooldays [now called Middle School] were usually spent alone outside of school. The “best friend” had moved on to other girlfriends and had shown an early interest in boys, which hadn’t become a part of my life quite yet. During those hours of solitude, I learned that my introverted ways had little to do with fear. That “best friend” had taken advantage of my temperate nature was all. At school, I developed a mask of self-reliance that, within the course of time, became a true part of me.

Not long ago, I read an article in The Cut by Lisa Miller in which she talked about letting go of her toughness in the process of falling in love. Until that point, she had armed herself with courage and determination that saw her through virtually all difficulties both large and small. But her heart was broken, which let to Lisa feeling vulnerable. Something she hadn’t experienced before. It wasn’t clear to me if she had discovered she needed to learn about the sensation of fragility though. In my opinion, it was just what she needed to experience.

The toughness one exposes against whatever imperilment he or she faces in life could be damaging to that person’s ability to expand in new experiences that are throw in front of him or her. It has been my experience so far that vulnerability can help me with self-reliance and confidence to I can brave new situations with less anxiety. To put up barriers against all things threatening is going to sharply limit my life. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that.

Nevertheless, there is a fair amount of people who have put a fortress of toughness around them believing they can shield themselves and still take part in novel experiences if they so choose. But they don’t choose the new circumstances and, instead, stick to the experiences in their lives that have become mundane. Of course, with their armor about them, how can they even be aware of what is out beyond it? No, I doubt seriously they see anything on the other side of the fortress. They are likely not to have any idea about what they are missing.

Could this defiance against candor and vulnerability be what is missing from the leaders of our countries? What should be said and achieved for the good of the citizens is being coverted. In order to be an effective leader, I would think that person needs to go way outside the box of norms whenever the circumstances call for it. Well, in my opinion, this is most likely one of several reasons the quality of leadership had plunged to the depths of hell.

On a much small scale, are people lonely because they won’t let go of their straiten ways? These people are wanting in friends and others who could help them with their endeavors. I know this because I used to be one of those people who hid behind a badass facade when I was first disabled. Taking the risk of saying something that might have been inappropriate or asking for help just wasn’t going to happen, as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t until a few years later I ventured into conversations that left me exposed to belligerence. The peculiar thing was, there wasn’t all that much argumentativeness from those people I opened up to. Some of the toughness I girded myself with wasn’t necessary. And I found the times that brought on strife helped me learn about myself and others.


This isn’t to say I believe toughness isn’t needed in life. It is, especially with all the ways people communicate now. A lot of the niceties in conversation have gone by the wayside since the emergence of technology. On the other hand, it’s probably a learning process just like anything else.

What are your thoughts on toughness?


“Toughness is not hardening, toughness is withstanding all the forces that want you to harden, whilst still retaining your sensitivities and your humanness.”
Drishti Bablani


18 thoughts on “Toughness

  1. This is a good thought-provoking post, Glynis. I equate toughness more with resilience. I know they are different, but I like the “bend but doesn’t break” description more than the rigid feel of toughness. We can only shield ourselves from so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jacqui Murray

    I’ll raise my hand as one of them, Glynis, who has put that fortress of toughness. Your school years sound remarkably like mine though I did have one friend (after the other one dumped me). But I will say, I have a different experience with your statement, “To put up barriers against all things threatening is going to sharply limit my life. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that.” I did it and am happy with it. I do have a wonderful husband who may be the lynchpin to making it all work.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I had kept those barriers up, Jacqui, I never would have met the man I am married to. This year will mark our 30th anniversary in November. Also, I never would have gone to New York City as a teenager or lived on the Greek island of Crete. To be truthful, I never would have gone anywhere and would have had a high fortress in the Denver area keeping everyone out.

      I am glad your fortress worked out well for you though. 🙂


  3. We need to be tough to protect ourselves, to be educated, aware, and alert to danger. This is the exterior persona that allows to enter dangerous waters and still be safe. We need to be vulnerable to extricate problems, to listen to other people, to find solutions. This is the interior persona that allows us to be creative in any endeavor.

    It isn’t toughness in leaders that scares me – it’s the lack of a soul.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is a great post, Glynis! I can relate to your school experiences, the one best friend, the not quite being ready for boys yet, the development of self reliance in a solo manner. And when I fell in love in my early twenties and found myself feeling vulnerable, and very hurt if we had an argument , I could barely believe how divided my mind and my heart felt! Logic versus feeling. It all worked out in the end and we are still together over 30 years later (our 30th anniversary is in August), and we bolster each other. Like Dan, I like the term resilience, bending like a reed in the wind, but i’ve only grown to know what this really means in later life and it is indeed a balance of toughness and vulnerability. Yes, we have to know what it is to be vulnerable to develop real strength. As for the wider social implications these days, it is really ‘unfashionable’ and frowned on to admit vulnerability, to admit wrongs, and to learn from it, and today’s leaders certainly exemplify this. We are heading in the wrong direction well away from kindness and soul which is what life should be about. Cheers for now and happy 30th anniversary to you for this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lynne, I am so glad I decided to follow your blog. It took me a while to commit. I kept on reading your comments on Dan’s blog for months. Finally, I stepped over to your blog and found myself immersing myself in your posts.

      I wonder why it takes us so long to learn how to bend. It’s something that is easy to do. Maybe it’s just stubbornness.

      Happy 30th anniversary to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t have the school experience you had but I am trying to teach my students to be more resilient and expand their friendship groups if, like in your experience, a ‘best friend’ is no longer in the picture, they have other friends to connect with.
    I see toughness as an exterior fixture, something to protect oneself, much like the example you gave in your article.
    Loved reading it BTW 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From what I have experienced and what I’ve observed, This type of life hasn’t changed one iota over the years. The kids of today are facing the same emotional challenges as people in the past did. Teaching kids to move on when a friend “dumps” them I think is excellent advice. Bravo!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post, G.J. And I agree wholeheartedly! Toughness is about refusing to let others change your nature and refusing to believe what others tell you and making a commitment to keep being yourself even when others hate you for it!

    Thank you for this!


  7. I am sorry your ‘best friend’ bullied you and you didn’t realise it until later on. It’s courageous of you to reflect on it and now, sharing it with us. I think some of us put a tough facade on to hide what we are truly feeling, or just want to be defensive. I agree with Sharon we need to be vulnerable to look at problems and listen to others. It’s good to be both tough and vulnerable – to get ourselves through hard times and take some moments (which may be emotional) to see how far we have come. Hope you are doing alright and take care, Glynis.

    Liked by 1 person

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