I was going to title this post “Don’t Be Discouraged,” but I believe discouragement is an important part of living a meaningful life. That may seem odd since “ discouraged” means to “lose courage”, but sometimes losing courage helps us to make the lifelong changes we want.
Recently, we watched the movie, Trolls, as a family. At one point in the movie, the trolls are captured. The trolls’ hopelessness is beautifully mirrored as the whole scene turns gray. When we reached this point in the movie, my children were upset, and rightfully so, the main character had lost hope. I ended up stopping the movie. I explained that in all good stories, the heroine (or hero) often feels discouraged and may even want to give up. This happens right before they figure out how to solve their problem or find the courage to keep going. (We went on to finish the movie, and they indeed find the courage to hope again.)
This universal truth happens to us in real life. The moment you feel the most discouraged is the moment before you find the courage to keep going. It doesn’t always happen as neatly or as straightforward as in the stories, but it happens. Why do you think we love these stories so much? They give us hope that no matter how awful the circumstances, we can find courage to move forward.
Each of us has reached a pivotal point in our lives where we are feeling so discouraged that we want to give up. At that point, perhaps you’ve had somebody reach out to encourage you, or you’ve dug deep down to find the strength inside you, or maybe you did give up.
Glossing Over the Hard Parts
We’ve all heard amazing success stories where people have made incredible changes in their lives. When these stories are told, they often gloss over the gritty, hard parts. Change is hard work, and with it comes discouragement. Because discouragement is an important part of the change process!
Shiny Success Story
Take our own story. We worked hard to get out of debt and get our finances in order so I could be a stay at home mom. I quit my full time job and was able to stay home with my children until they started school. That whole time we continued to live debt free, except for our home. That’s the pretty, glossy short version of our story. But what about our journey to get there? The grit. The sacrifice. The disappointment.
The Gritty Parts
Let’s add some gritty parts back in. A few months after I became a stay at home mom, we ran into some financial setbacks. We didn’t just go through a moment of discouragement. We lived with months of feeling discouraged, but we were determined that I continue to stay home with the kids. Countless times I became discouraged and would ask my husband if I should give up on my dream to stay home and go back to work. He always said we would find a way to make it work.
One moment I vividly recall was at the grocery store. I was standing in the cereal aisle with tears slipping down my face. My grocery budget had been slashed in an attempt to allow me to stay home. Now I was facing the reality that our usual healthier choices were more expensive and the cheaper options were not as healthy. In that moment, I felt like I only had two options: feed my kids junk food and stay home with them or go back to work so I could feed them healthy food. Of course, those were not my only options, but in that moment I felt so discouraged and hopeless. How was I ever going to feed my family on so little money? When I got home, I was on a mission. I learned everything I could about couponing and saving money on groceries. Our pantries ended up with more food stockpiled in them than when I worked full-time! But I would not have been motivated to learn how to grocery shop more frugally without that moment of discouragement. (Read more about How I Became a Stay at Home Mom.)
The Gift of Resilience
As I was trying to think of a good example from my life, I realized just how often I have felt discouraged, only to eventually push through and move forward. (Read more about some of those moments in I Just Want to be a Normal Mom.) That is exactly why it is important to accept discouragement as part of the growth process.
I now can look back at those moments in my life and feel proud. A valuable lesson was learned as I repeatedly felt discouraged, only to rise again and again. I learned that I am resilient. Now I know that even when I am feeling the lowest, I will be able to eventually carry on. And knowing that is such a beautiful gift to help me through the dark times.
If you are feeling discouraged, remember this is just a pause in your journey. Go ahead. Feel those uncomfortable feelings. Lose courage for a brief time, but make sure you eventually find courage and get back up again. You are resilient, too!