3 Things I've Learned From This Challenging Year

It’s been a few months since you heard from me directly, so instead of bringing you a new interview today, you’ll hear from me.

To be honest, one of the reasons I’m doing a solo show is because it’s easier. After the stress of the past week––from the election and some personal issues in my life––scrambling to bring you a new interview didn’t feel quite right. And this is my attempt to listen better to myself and do not only what I think I should do, but instead do what serves me and fills me up.

And for me, that thing is writing and sharing directly with you.

One of the things I seem to have forgotten about is that writing is incredibly cathartic for me. Last week, I had a particularly tough day. I cried a lot and felt emotionally wrung out. Just when I didn’t feel like I had any energy left in me, I finally decided to sit down and write out my thoughts.

It’s amazing how much that helped me. So, as much as I want to share with you and hope that my words help you. Selfishly, I’m writing today because I hope it helps me too.  Because there is a lot going on right now to process.

With last week’s election in the United States, I had a lot of flashbacks to 2016. I still remember the feeling the day after the election when I realized Donald Trump was going to be our election. I had never cried about politics before. I never worried so much about the outcome of an election as I did that year. I was upset about what it would mean for our country. 

And, like many people, I couldn’t wait to see 2016 end.

Why 2016 Was One of the Hardest Years for Me

But, it wasn’t just the election that made 2016 a challenging year for me. 

That was also the year we discovered my husband’s cancer and he had surgery and treatments for that. 

That was also the year we began fertility treatments and had three failed attempts at getting pregnant through IUI. 

That was the year my grandmother died. 

That was the year the business partnership I had been working on had fell through and I fired an employee who didn’t work out. 

That was the year we faced incredible financial challenges due to all of our medical bills, fertility treatments and both of us seeing our work dry up.

It felt like we were facing challenges in every single area of our lives. And I remember that my prayer often was “God, please let something in my life be easy.” Everything felt so darn hard. 

I remember being in church one Sunday and feeling unable to contain my tears when the pastor read the passage from James 1:

“Consider it pure joy when you face challenges of many kinds because know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be honest, that passage often made me angry. We were indeed facing challenges of many kinds and I just felt beaten down, raw and worn out.

But here’s the thing, that passage is true. 

Because perseverance, resilience and bravery isn’t built when things are easy.

It comes from doing hard things. It comes from surviving through the storm. It comes from getting back up when you fall. It comes from trusting God when it seems like when all hope is lost. 

2020 Has Been Hard on Everyone

In many ways, I feel the echoes of 2016 in 2020, but not just for me, for everyone.

We’re facing a worldwide pandemic.

We’re struggling to reckon with our country’s ugly history and ongoing battle with racism.

We just ended a contentious presidential election.

Life is exceedingly hard right now. For everyone. 

And while I don’t wish for life to be hard, I do think it’s the challenges that make us. It’s the challenges that show us our true character. And we can choose to let those challenges strengthen us or stop us. 

For me, the challenges of 2020 has helped me learn a lot about myself. And while I certainly wish we could make the pandemic and racism go away, we can’t. But what we can do is learn from these challenges.

What I’ve Learned About Myself in 2020

It’s the difficulties it’s in the difficulties that we not only grow stronger, but we learn who we are. And I know I’ve learned a lot about myself this year, and I thought I would share some of those things with you.


1. That my best is enough.


If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile, you’ve likely heard me talk about my ongoing struggle with perfectionism

And while I’ve always logically known that seeking perfection, it’s still hard to let go of that practice. 

Case in point––I’ve told myself that if I just do everything “right” during the pandemic, I’ll keep myself and my family safe and healthy.

But that’s not possible. There are no guarantees of that. Even people I know who have been super careful have gotten the coronavirus. 

Short of locking myself in my house (which, for me is both financially and emotionally impossible), there’s no way I can guarantee that I won’t get sick. 

And for me, as a perfectionist, that’s a hard pill to swallow. What I’m learning to grapple with is that all I can do is my best. And learn to find peace in the fact that my best today might look different than my best tomorrow. 

I’m learning to live with one step, one decision, one day at a time. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but it’s a valuable and important lesson that I’m learning through the challenges of this season.

Just last week or so I was talking with my, my son. We watched the show, Daniel Tiger. If you’re not familiar, it is a cartoon that is a spinoff from Mr. Rogers. If I can get him to do it, I’ll share a clip of my son singing one of the songs from Daniel Tiger, which has become my new mantra, but it’s this:

“Be your best. Your best is the best for you.”

And so your best might look different from someone else’s best. And that is one thing that I’m trying to remind myself is that my best is the best for me.

And that is all I can do. And as a result, I’ve put this up on my bulletin board. I have this note card that says, “Your best is enough. No matter the outcome. Trying and showing up as brave.”

So for me, one of the big lessons I’m learning through the pandemic is that my best is enough.

2. To listen to my body. 

One night back in May, I was lying on the couch watching TV and I felt a knot in my chest. I and it didn’t go away. And then my heart started to race. It scared me. I worried that maybe something was wrong. I worried that maybe I might be dying.

Garth assured me that I was fine. And I spent the rest of the night trying to calm myself down and I couldn’t fall asleep because I was afraid I might not wake up.

I had never experienced anything like this before. 

What I later realized was that I was having some pretty severe anxiety. And thanks to the encouragement of a friend, I sought help from a therapist. 

I had often heard the phrase to feel your feelings, but I never really fully “got” what that meant. But, what I’ve learned is that our bodies are often trying to tell us something, but we’re not always so good at listening.

I was so stressed and anxious about everything that the anxiety attack I had was my body trying to get my attention. 

And now, with the help of my therapist, I’m trying to learn how my feelings show up in my body. Because our body is telling us things, but we’re not so good at listening. Or, at least I’m not.

So, for me, I’m learning to take better care of myself. To practice healthy breathing. Do things that fill me up and help me recharge. To pay attention to my body and take breaks when I need it.

I still have a lot of work to do in this area, but I know that the lessons I’m learning about self-care during this season are valuable and will help me the rest of my life. 

3. The only person I need to please is me.

Part of my struggle with perfectionism is my desire for affirmation. That’s my love language. 

But the problem is that when I seek the approval of others, I water down who I am.  

For instance, I have long believed that in racial equity and social equality, but have not been great at speaking up about it and living my life in a way that aligns with those values. 

This year has really tested me in that area and has shown me that my silence is complicity. I can’t continue to sit idly by when people of color continue to be treated unfairly by our country’s system. So, I’ve been listening, educating myself and speaking out. 

Because racism should NOT be a political issue. This is a human issue. It’s one we should all care about.

I have always been taught to not talk about politics. And I know why we don’t––it’s often painful. I’ve experienced this myself. The more I speak out, the more pushback I receive. And it hurts the most when those you love don’t agree with you.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not spoken up because I was afraid of judgement. There have been so many times my hands shake when I share something on social media that might put me at odds with people in my family or those I grew up with.

But what I’m realizing is this. I can’t seek approval from them or anyone else. To do so, means I am living out a watered down version of myself. That means I am going about life how someone else wants me to live, speak and act instead of staying true to my values and beliefs.

I’m not going to do that anymore. Or, at least, I’m going to try. 

This will likely be a lifelong pursuit for me.

But at the end of my life, I want to feel good about they way I’ve lived and shown up in this world. That I’m setting a good example for my son. That’s what matters most to me. And if someone disagrees with how I do it, so be it. They can do it differently in their life.

As for me, I am going to seek to please God first and stay true to who He made me to be. 

The Lessons From Hard Things

I’m not going to lie. I’m just like everyone else and I’m eager for life to be easier and to face fewer challenges. But, I’m also recognizing that 2020 isn’t a bad year. It’s a shaping year. It’s a year that’s molding us into who we are.

We can recognize that for the opportunity it is to strengthen us or we can let it stop us. 

Which will you choose?

I hope you’ll join me in finding the lessons and beauty in the hard things.

Because it’s these hard things that make us braver. It’s these hard things that show us who we really are. It’s these hard things, challenge us and inspire us to be better.

So I hope that despite all of the difficulty of this year, that all of the challenges of this year, that you have found ways to rise to the occasion and that you have found opportunities to grow and learn from it. If you haven’t done that, then yeah, you can write 2020 off as a bad year, but let’s not do that.

There is still time left this year to learn from the challenges that this year. And I hope that you can find  ways to do that.

What Lessons Have YOU Learned?

I’d love to know what lessons you’ve been learning about yourself from this year. Share below or join us in the Make It Brave Community on Facebook to share your lessons with us there.

1 Comment

  1. Gingy Lebold on November 11, 2020 at 7:44 am

    I find in your writing this article particularly, that I can find good in this year, in spite of the difficulties in so many areas. This I will try to do more positively!! Thank you for sharing.

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