When I asked myself this question, I couldn’t decide.
Was it when those medics were holding up my X-rays and looking terribly serious as I lay on that hospital flat bed, with my head packed in sandbags? “You sustained spinal damage in the accident,” they told me.
There was the time my aunt uttered those devastating words over the telephone, when I was at an event and hours away from my home town: “I’m really sorry – I don’t know how to tell you this, but your dad has just died”.
Maybe it was the specialist, in that tiny hospital office: “You have a 25% chance of developing Huntington’s Disease”. All the words that day were pretty awful – she’d reeled off every dreadful symptom and hammered home those worst-case scenarios, as if I should be looking into one-way tickets to the Swiss Dignitas clinic, there and then.
I thought back further. I wondered if the worst thing I’d ever been told was that I should live my life hidden behind a mask of shame: “If you tell anyone you’re gay, your career will be over. Homosexuality will always be seen as a perversion.” Honestly, those words were pretty crushing.
I wondered if it should be the time my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or, years ago, cruel words from my abuser, which don’t warrant being shared.
I still couldn’t decide. Maybe the worst words are yet to come. One thing was absolutely clear though…
My worst words had nothing to do with not getting a job, losing a client or an investment not working out as I’d hoped. They had nothing to do with a burst water tank, or my car needing an expensive fix, or a favourite ornament being broken.
Though I thought so at the time, the worst words weren’t related to flunking exams at school, being told I was fat by a teacher, or insults being spat by the bullies who surrounded me in that mobile classroom when I was 13.
In fact, none of these words were as damaging as I feared them to be at the time. I’m still here and I’ve learned from them all.
Those ‘big’ statements give me context for life – they stop life’s hurdles bruising me too badly. They’re benchmarks. They taught me to #flipyournegatives and gave me rich experiences to learn from, to help me empathise and support others.
It’ll be the same for you. Whatever your worst words, worst times, worst thoughts have been, you made it – now it’s up to you to use your tapestry to learn and grow. We can sink, we can stagnate, or we can plant our feet, stand up strong, own our shit and use those life lessons to empower our future.
I want you to really hear and feel this: whatever life throws at you, remember you’ve survived this far. You are here. You have a 100% track record of surviving really challenging times.
That’s awesome. So are you. Keep going!
Until next time,