Posted by: Heather Coleman | April 2, 2012

HAWMC Day Two: An Inspirational Quote on Strength

Eleanor Roosevelt with Fala

Eleanor Roosevelt with Fala

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

This is just one among several of my favorite quotes by former First Lady and social activist, Eleanor Roosevelt. It was a passage in her 1960 book, “You Learn by Living”. I’ve asked some female mentors of mine to tell me at what age will I stop caring what other people think of me and truly start living. The answers range from 40 to 50, major milestone ages in my mind. But one woman said that it truly depends on your life experiences. I believe I have experienced quite a bit during my 35 years (for a small town girl from Vermont). Experiences are really all we have and they can’t be taken away from us. Whether they are good or bad, I always try to use them as a way to learn and grow. I’m also trying to learn patience with others, realizing that not everyone learns at the same pace as me and some have to experience things many times before it sinks in.

After living through the experience of postpartum psychosis, I faced one of my greatest fears…death. Since then, I have focused on getting healthy, first mentally and now physically. Like many others, I drew up a bucket list and started tackling some of my other fears one by one. In 2010, I took a helicopter flying lesson. In 2011, I presented at Ignite DC about my experience with postpartum psychosis, in front of nearly 300 strangers. Recently I experienced my first full blown panic attack. Previously I had only experienced some mild anxiety when I was in college. For those 15 minutes or so when I truly thought that I was going to die, I realized I wasn’t ready and I needed to start living my life the way I had dreamed of, not just settling for whatever came my way. Just as they said in Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” It was time to get busy living!

In February of this year, a good friend of mine proposed a full blown makeover and I quickly said “Yes!” The fact was I hadn’t been taking care of myself the way I should be. I am stubborn in the fact that I don’t think outward appearances should matter as much as what a person has to offer on the inside, but as a professional businesswoman I realize not everyone agrees with me. We used a board on Pinterest so that several of us could share ideas for my new look. Then we met up and went shopping. It was fun having an entourage with me as I took over the dressing room and tried on 40 different outfits. I got input on what worked best for my body type and more positive feedback than I would have had for myself had I been shopping alone. After getting a brand new haircut, I also got a makeup tutorial (and as a tomboy growing up I certainly needed it). We took pictures of the final result and my friend Melanie blogged about it in “Branding Heather: a personal branding makeover“. I was amazed at how the new look gave me a boost in my confidence I so desperately needed. I’ve gotten even more positive feedback from friends, family and colleagues. It really did the trick. Next time you are feeling a bit down, think of treating yourself to a new outfit, a new haircut, or an entirely new look. It works wonders.

Whenever I need an extra bit of confidence: for a big project at work, to give a speech, or to try something new that I’m scared of, I just reflect on how much I have survived and how it has made me stronger. During my stay at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, I made two bracelets from beads and string, one for me and one for my husband. I sometimes wear one of the bracelets when I need a little extra courage. I just look down and know that if I overcame those challenges in my life, I can achieve anything I set my mind to.

Do you have a special item you hang on to in order to give you a little extra strength?

To learn more about the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge, visit the WEGO Health Blog.

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