If you made it onto this page, odds are pretty high that you, too, are asking the most common question I have gotten since opening my practice:
What does 'fuerza' mean anyway??
While I will always answer that question to anyone and everyone that asks me, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect a little deeper on how and why this name came to be, as well as what it means to me and how it shapes my therapy practice.
For those wanting the short, sweet, to the point answer:
Fuerza [Spanish, noun] : strength, force
So the practice is essentially called Redefining Strength.
To me, however, this name means so much more. When I started the process of building my own business and therapy practice, I knew I wanted the name to have both English and Spanish components. It is important to me that, above all else, this business showcases exactly who I am and what you’re signing up for when you work with me.
I am the granddaughter of immigrants; my grandpa came from Chile and my grandma from Ecuador. My mother was born in the United States, and also spent part of her childhood living in Ecuador, so I jokingly refer to myself as ‘first and a half generation’ in the U.S. Growing up, I didn’t formally learn to speak Spanish. Instead, my grandparents would frequently speak to me in Spanish while I would answer in English; we all understood one another.
Though my ability to speak the language has progressed over the years, I am not yet in a place to comfortably offer mental health services fully in Spanish. A bilingual business name, then, reflects my cultural background, my ability to hold space for both languages and my current lack of fully Spanish-language services (though incorporating bilingual services is a long-term goal!).
So we’ve covered the definition and we’ve covered the choice to make the name bilingual. If you’re still in this story with me, you may be interested in what the hell I mean when I say I am ‘Redefining Fuerza.’
First, a thought exercise:
What do YOU think of when I ask you to tell me what strength looks like?
[Go ahead; I'll wait.]
Got your answer(s)? Okay, great. Let's see if I can guess a few that may have come up for you:
'...pulling yourself up by the bootstraps...'
'...getting over things quickly...'
'...don't let people see you sweat...'
'...getting swole with my gym bros...'
'...doing all the things all the time [without complaint]...'
'...being unbothered by other people or situations...'
'...thick skin...stiff upper lip...'
How'd I do? Any of your answers appear on that list?
No worries (or shade); I used to operate from a lot of the same definitions. It’s hard not to have those definitions in this society; add in immigrant upbringings and/or other cultural implications that tint our lens of the world? It’s almost a guarantee that we learn strength is a very rigid, binary state of being. Either you are strong or you aren’t. It’s seen as a trait, not a moment-to-moment experience. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
When I started graduate school, I was in a cohort of thirteen strangers and expected to dive deep into my thoughts, my feelings, my traumas. I distinctively remember looking around and saying to myself, ‘I think the fuck not!’ as I visualized showing my cards to these people sitting around me (and that was without even entertaining the idea of showing my emotions or tears).
Early in that first semester, I had a professor give me feedback on a written reflection paper; she told me under no uncertain terms that being able to tap into and share my emotions and vulnerabilities with others would make me a better clinician in the long run. I rolled my eyes and continued about my day, but ~apparently~ the message stuck. [Insert the eyeroll that lives on to this very day.]
The years passed and on my very last day of school, I was on a video call with fourteen other people discussing my experience saying goodbye to each of my school-based clients. Let me tell you, I was a fucking mess— the ugliest of ugly crying. Because it was an online call, I had the option of keeping my video turned off and hiding the emotion I was feeling without any consequences. I heard the echo of my professor’s feedback in my head, took a breath, and turned my video on to let this group witness the full breadth of my emotion (yes, I hated it; yes, I was pissed about being haunted by my professor’s words; yes, I did it anyway).
To this day, that choice, that moment has shaped my entire career.
[milk and honey, 2014]
Between my own lived experiences and the clinical work I have done over the years, I have come to learn and fully believe that the generally accepted definition of strength is, frankly, BULLSHIT.
Vulnerability is not weakness; it requires strength.
Having connections with and relying on other humans is not weakness; it requires strength.
Letting people see and know the REAL you is strength.
Choosing to express your emotions, letting tears fall and continuing on is strength.
Feeling the world around you—the blissful, the distressing, the neutral— and responding accordingly?
The epitome of strength.
My entire practice is built for the people that don’t fit within the expectations and standardized boxes imposed onto them by the world. As we actively challenge the rigidity of identities, why would we continue to let the singular concept of strength shrink us? Why should we conform to the ‘standard’ definition of strength or power when they actively disregard cultural context and systemic oppressions?
We have the fortitude to unlearn the definitions we grew up with. We get to build and live our lives with intention. We get to bring healing and acceptance to ourselves and future generations. We get to Redefine Fuerza.