Spiritual Bravery: My Focus for 2021

Only recently have I been the type of person to pick a word or phrase to focus on for the upcoming year (as opposed to more concrete resolutions), but as I’ve thought ahead to what I want my 2021 to look like, my mind kept bringing up the word “faith.” 

What do I mean when I say “faith?” I mean belief in God or a higher being, and trusting that God is actively working in my life, that things in my life are happening for a reason – and enjoying the peace that comes with that conviction.

For the past 5 years or so, I’ve been very mindful that my faith feels like it is lacking. It’s most noticeable when I am around someone who has strong faith – whose faith influences their daily decisions and isn’t just something they talk about in appropriate religious contexts. 

Religion is something that has always been a part of my life – I grew up going to church every Sunday, and in general have always been a rule-follower and someone who is concerned with “doing the right thing” and being a “good person.” But religion and faith are very different.

Like many others who grew up being religious or going to church, there comes a point in your life when you start to wonder why your church/religion does things the way they do, and if you actually believe those are the right things to be doing in the first place. Depending on what conclusions you come to in answering those questions, this can be a pretty scary or even earth-shattering time of life. 

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July 26th – 4 Years

Here it is – July 26th. Today marks 4 years since I experienced a major case of postpartum depression and was admitted to the hospital for a week.

I reread my post from last year’s anniversary in 2019 – I really struggled with that one, a lot of feelings of grief came up for me. I guess you never really know how your body is going to heal and process trauma. One thing I do know, it takes TIME.

I’ve been excited (sort of?) for this year however because I’ve felt really positive when I’ve thought about this day arriving. I feel like maybe I’ve turned a corner – I feel like I can really embrace this part of my story and understand how it’s made me a better and stronger person. Maybe next year will be different, but I’m thankful to feel grateful and positive this year.

While I would certainly have never wished this experience on myself or anyone else, I’ve been reflecting on ways which I think it has changed me. Not just changed, but empowered.

#1. It’s made me a passionate advocate.
After going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to publicly share what had happened to me. About 3 months after my postpartum depression episode, I published my first blog post about this experience. I remember just hoping it might make a difference, that it might help at least one person not feel so alone. I’ve since been given other opportunities in different avenues to share my struggle with depression, specifically dealing with postpartum stuff, and it has been very healing (albeit difficult) for me. I try to make it a point to be very open with others in conversation about struggling with depression and anxiety and going to counseling – I want to remove the stigma of mental health any way I can.

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“Bravery, Not Perfection”

I’ve got a lot going on in my head – so I’m going to write and see where this blog post goes. I’m leaving the title blank until I finish, because I’m really not sure what’s going to appear on the screen. Do you ever write like that?

Yesterday I went to the doctor because my eye is infected – it’s been red and puffy and gunky the last few days. Calvin has been to the doctor 4 times in the last 3-4 weeks, and has been referred to an ENT doctor, which we see next week. ‘Tis the life of a toddler, I suppose!

One of the things on my mind this past week has been the theme of bravery. For one of my online graduate classes, we watch quite a few TedTalks. One I watched has really stuck with me, called “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection” by Reshma Saujani.

She makes some good points, and hypothesizes that our society is teaching our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave. While I don’t always buy into gender stereotypes, I can understand this distinction. She talks about how boys grow up to be men who aren’t afraid to take risks and fail – which many times leads them to be successful, typically in the workplace environment. On the other side, girls grow up to women who were taught to value perfectionism so much, that they are afraid to try at something that might fail. They tend to play it safe, and make their choices based on what they feel certain they will succeed at.

Being a woman, and a recovering perfectionist, I can relate. And I have had conversations with other women that lead me to believe that a lot of what Saujani says is true. Many women I talk to have a lot of anxiety that they aren’t good enough, that they need to do more, that their value comes from the appearance of having it all together.

I really have felt inspired by this talk – and I’m challenging myself to be more brave in my day to day life and in the goals I set for myself. Sometimes this looks small, like for example, introducing myself to a person I don’t know (which can be a brave thing for us introverts!) Sometimes this looks more obvious, like deciding to make a career change or go back to school. People have told me that I’m brave for sharing my personal stories on this blog – funny enough, it didn’t feel “BRAVE” to share them – I think bravery looks different for each person, and what’s scary for one person might not be for another.

Who inspires you to be brave? This may sound silly, but when I have to do a task that requires a significant amount of bravery, I try to emulate Hermione. (She’s from Harry Potter for those who don’t know…) She doesn’t let the fact that she’s the only girl in her trio discourage her, but rather, she is many times the key to the missions that she, Harry and Ron embark on. She is intelligent, clever and not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right.

Emma Watson, the actress that played Hermione, is also someone that I feel is brave in real life. (You know you are getting old when you begin to look up to people who are younger than you!) I appreciate her willingness to have an opinion on issues and (just like Hermione) stand up for what she believes in. She is not afraid to try new things, and not afraid to be criticized for them. I mean, she was the lead in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast, which means she put her singing voice out there to be criticized by millions of people – talk about bravery! She seems brave enough to be herself, which is something I feel like I’m finally starting to be able to do now that I’m in my 30’s.

What does bravery look like for you? Who encourages you to be brave?