In a documentary I'm watching, a teenager is missing and her car is found. In the car's truck a bag can be seen, and they suspect that she might be inside of the bag. Her father states:

It took everything within me not to walk over there and open the trunk."

I understand took: to grasp or grip; to get possession of.

But what is "everything within me"?

What does he mean by that?

  • 5
    It means it was all but impossible for him to hold back from walking over and open the trunk. That he was required to exercise or expend everything which was in him -- all his strength and will -- to hang back and not open the trunk. In other words: he wanted really badly to go open that trunk. But he didn't. He resisted.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 30, 2015 at 19:47
  • Thank you so much for the nicely put, well explained reply :)
    – aytug2001
    Mar 30, 2015 at 19:51
  • Merriam-Webster's 10.e(3) definition of take (tr. v): need, require < it takes two to start a fight >
    – apsillers
    Mar 30, 2015 at 19:51
  • I knew that meaning but that "within me" part confused me a little bit.
    – aytug2001
    Mar 30, 2015 at 19:52
  • It means, more or less literally, "guts".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 30, 2015 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


It's an idiom, with several different expressions:

  • It took all I had...
  • It took everything I had within me...
  • I took all I had in me...


It means one has to harness every bit of willpower one has in order to do (or not to do) something; one does it against their natural desire.

I was so beaten down emotionally and it took all I had within me to finally decide to leave.
It took all I had to not burst out in laughter.
It took all I had in me to produce a smile and give her a limp handshake.
A pain so unbearable that it took everything in me to get up in the mornings.
It took everything within me to NOT loose my composure...

It can be used to express that it took some willpower (not to laugh) or all the willpower one has (to finally decide leave someone).

Another common way to say it is It took every ounce of strength I had:

It took every ounce of strength I had to not turn and flee.


It took everything within me - I used every bit of mental and physical strength in me to not move over to the said object.

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