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"The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door...” – Derek Walcott
I've Been Thinking...
“What’s the gutsiest thing you’ve ever done?”
That was the question posed to Hillary Clinton on “Good Morning America” last week as she and her daughter, Chelsea, were interviewed about their new book, The Book of Gutsy Women.
Her answer seemed to surprise her daughter, who said: “Oh, goodness, I think I'm so overwhelmed by my mother's answer that I'm a bit out of words.”
Mrs. Clinton’s answer set off a debate in the Twittersphere and everywhere else about whether it was actually gutsy for her to stay in her marriage, or whether it would have been gutsier to leave. The fact is, none of us know what goes on between two people in a marriage. And, quite frankly, it’s none of our business. Judging another person’s marriage is anything but gutsy, and having your marriage and your decisions debated in the court of public opinion is brutal. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Over the course of my life, I’ve known women who have exhibited huge guts by leaving marriages. I’ve also met women who have exhibited huge guts by staying. Same goes for men I’ve known who have also had to make tough, heart-wrenching decisions. Marriage is, of course, the most intimate and personal kind of partnership there is. And I, for one, think we need to support those who leave and those who stay.
Truthfully, the question posed to Mrs. Clinton had me thinking less about her, and more about whether I have made gutsy decisions in my own life. After all, what matters is how you view your own personal decisions — not how someone else judges the decisions you’ve made.
Gutsiness is defined in the dictionary as showing courage, determination and spirit. I’m proud that I’ve seen those qualities in myself, and I'm also encouraged that I've noticed them in so many other people this week.
On Tuesday morning, breast cancer survivors flooded the TODAY show plaza in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. These were women and men of great determination, courage and spirit — all there to talk about what it’s like to fight for your life, which takes huge guts.
Later in the week, I reported for TODAY on women working to change our culture around rape and domestic violence. These were gutsy women who risked their lives to escape violence and abuse to protect themselves and their children. They were also courageous women who are working to change laws, judgments, and our understanding around issues that impact millions.
Prince Harry also showed some major guts this week by stepping up to sue a British tabloid, which he said has treated his wife like she’s a commodity. He said the experience has been extremely painful and he just couldn’t allow it to continue. He said he knew it might be difficult to do what he did, but he felt like he had no choice but to take this gutsy step in defense of his wife.
And, speaking of guts, how about the whistleblower? I can’t imagine how this man or woman is holding up. Not only do they have the eyes and the opinion of the world on them, but they also have the wrath of a certain someone coming down strong on them on an hourly basis.
What I know is that there are profiles of guts and courage all around us. It takes guts to get up every day and face the world with its judgments and its opinions — so often about things that people really know nothing about. Guts are internal and inspiring. That’s how I felt when I watched Brandt Jean in a Dallas courtroom talk about forgiveness and love directly to the woman who had killed his brother. His move was definitely one that took people by surprise. For me, it took my breath away and inspired my heart.
Guts, courage, chutzpah, balls… whatever you call it, I’m sure you also have it. Maybe you have made the decision to stay in a marriage. Maybe you’ve made the decision to leave and start all over. I know how hard that can be.
Maybe you’ve quit a job, been fired, and had to start over. Maybe you have stood up for your child when they couldn’t stand up for themselves. Maybe you pursued a dream that no one understood, but you did it anyway. Maybe you followed your heart against all odds and against everyone’s opinions. It all takes guts.
I applaud all those who see their decisions and make them from a place of courage and determination. After all, we need less judgment in our lives and in our world — the real one and the virtual one. We need more people who have the guts to withstand the judgment and carry on in the face of it.
I think it’s so important to see yourself as a gutsy person. My big takeaway from Mrs. Clinton’s answer was that it’s our own personal narrative that matters most. She put the gutsy label on her decision, and guess what, so can you!
Life is so much about the narrative we tell ourselves. It’s so much about how we see our choices and our decisions, and about how we walk out into the world. The way I see myself might not be the way you see me, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the story I tell myself. What matters is the story I believe to be true. What matters is how I look at my decisions, my lessons and my experiences, and that I try and look at them in a way that empowers me forward — not in a way that casts me as a victim.
So, maybe the next time you hear someone say they thought it took guts for them to do something, don't judge their decision. Just say “good for you.” Then, turn inward and check your own gut-meter. Do you have the guts you want? Do you have the courage, desire and determination to keep going? What are the words you are using to describe your narrative, and can you frame them in a more empowering way?
Those are the questions each of us can be asking ourselves. After all, it takes guts to own your decisions, regardless of what anyone else says about them or you. If you can do that, well, then you're one gutsy person!
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