I’m a sucker for stories about the Overcomers.
I am a woman who is attracted and allured by the tales of those who persevered in the face of adversity. The discovery of inner grit, finding hope amid hardship, grace mired in trials…these are the type of stories that ignite in me a deep love for humanity.
During my youth and adolescence, I was told about the Overcomers: my relatives, both living and passed, who had “been through hell and high water.” The saying wasn’t figurative when it came to my grandma—one of the most resilient of my family—considering she had endured six floods in her life.
To me, Gram was the most glamorous woman I had ever seen. She held a striking similarity to actress Sophia Loren, was wicked smart, and had a knack for making just about anything aesthetically pleasing. My scrawny legs would dangle off the bathroom counter as I watched Gram line her eyes with a chestnut pencil. She’d take a long drag off her cigarette and regale me with stories about the flood of 1979 that sent waters six feet high throughout her home.
With my mouth ajar, she described jumping from her upstairs balcony into a boat below and how the water moccasins lay curled in the bathroom corners for weeks after the waters receded. Over the years, Gram divulged more stories: being a 1940s latch-key kid while her father was in the Pacific and her mother an active part of the wartime effort; the sacrifices people willingly made during the Depression and WWII; and what it was like becoming a mom at the age of 16. She told of finding God through the tears of tragedy, the loss of four children, trauma, and addiction.
She never called herself an Overcomer…but I knew she was one. She had done hard things throughout the entire course of her life.
It took me a while to affirm the Overcomer in myself namely because I compared my own life to those of Gram and others I admired, and it looked nothing like theirs. Sure, there were heavy blows, losses, and similar threads of looking adversity square in the eye, but mostly, it was a culmination of the little hard things. The reality is, the hard things are relative—they come in all shapes and sizes throughout the course of our lives. And it’s not just the biggies like death, sickness, abuse, divorce, or bankruptcy that can render us speechless; it’s the little hard things that add up and grind away at us.
We grow weary and yearn to throw in the towel. Fear, resistance, avoidance, and disillusionment are just a handful of the emotional states that prevent us from showing up with intention and purpose. But if we’re going to not only show up for—but also embrace—our messy yet magnificent lives, we will need to face the hard stuff.
If you have a hard thing before you, here are five thoughts to remember that have helped me along the way and will hopefully do the same for you:
Curiosity is way more fun than over-analyzing.
I don’t know about you, but over-analyzing about the hard thing makes me anxious. When I allow curiosity to walk in tandem with anxiety, an internal shift takes place: instead of remaining hyper-focused on all the “what ifs,” a curious mindset sparks a posture primed for experimentation, exploration, and discovery. I become open to what I can learn, where I can grow, and how I can allow the hard thing to work for good in my life.
Small steps pave the way.
Small, baby steps should never be underestimated when it comes to anything in life, especially when facing something difficult. Small changes over time lead to transformative experiences, and the same is true when embarking upon a task that appears daunting. “The only way out is through,” wrote Robert Frost, and I would add, “by taking one small step after another.”
Welcome the process with open arms.
When we are catapulted out of our comfort zone, the human response wants to speed things along because no one likes to feel like an amateur. But as we quit fighting the process and learn to welcome it instead, our internal expectations ease up and the process unfolds organically. It becomes more about the journey rather than the end product (i.e. “conquering” the hard thing, whatever that may be).
Focus on what’s strong rather than what’s wrong.
When we face difficulties we may be tempted to dwell on what is weak, in need of fixing, or all that is wrong about us. We magnify our flaws or stay stuck, causing us to miss out on our greatest potential. But when we develop an awareness of our strengths—the qualities that are right and strong within us—and learn how to harness them, we move forward with greater confidence. (To learn more about your strengths, I highly recommend the VIA Strengths Survey).
Our inner dialogue and accompanying thoughts matter.
What we say and think about ourselves is key to going through a hard thing while remaining steadfast. I not only write frequently about the link between our inner world and outer experience, but I preach this notion to myself often (okay, daily). So practice calling and thinking of yourself as an Overcomer—keep reminding yourself of all the times you’ve prevailed in the past and visualize how you will triumph in the future.
I continue to learn from the Overcomers like Gram who have been a part of my journey, as well as the one residing within myself. If we are going to have a rich, meaningful existence we’ll need to discover our own ways through the hard things. So keep believing in yourself as you step forward. I can bet you’re already doing it every single day. Stay strong and carry on, Overcomer.
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