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Put your blinders on.



I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.







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The following piece is a chapter from my new book “Fighting Forward,” releasing on January 5, 2021.

People are going to try to take the wins away from you. It’s just what people do when they aren’t happy with themselves. They try to suck, suck, suck the joy from somebody else. They say when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Some people won’t. Some people utterly despise lemonade. They spend the best hours of their day hurling rotten lemons at all the people out there running the race, and I can only imagine what a miserable hobby that is. To be on the sidelines with a bunch of rotten lemons and no real skin in the game.

These people are often living in the comments section on blogs or giving one-star reviews on Amazon. They’re found angry-tweeting or cutting people off at red lights for no good reason. And it would be easy to expend all your energy on trying to figure out why they are the way they are, but that would only take away from why you’re here today.

A couple of years ago, someone sent me an anonymous email with a link to a blog they’d created. Simply put, this blog was dedicated to telling the internet about how much I sucked (their words, not mine). Yes, this person dedicated hours of their life to creating a blog about why I was an awful human being. There were about a dozen posts, and a new one coming every time I pressed Publish on my blog. This person would attack my words, my content, and my character. They did this for a long time, and they kept sending emails to make sure I got the memo.

My “big sister” advice would be to tell you not to focus on the critics, but there is a chance you’re going to have to feel the pain for yourself before you decide to turn the other cheek. It’s like telling someone to stay away from the fire. We all need to figure out how the burn feels on our skin.

So, yes, I didn’t listen to my own advice. I read the blogs as they published them. I absorbed them and allowed them to fill me with shame. I didn’t think to open my mouth and tell anyone about the blog because I was afraid that maybe the words were true, maybe I was who this person thought I was. Maybe I was a fraud.

The bullying got worse. And though I don’t know if the person who wrote the blog was the same person who sent me various anonymous emails, I have a hunch.

At one point in all of this, I finished writing my first book. I remember thinking, Wow, I did this thing. And I want everyone else to know they can do it too. I published a post about how, for the first time in my life, I finally felt truly brave. I felt unstoppable, and I wanted everyone to experience this same feeling of believing in themselves. In feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

And when I pressed Publish, the email from my anonymous internet friend showed up. The core of the email was this: You are not brave. You might be this or you might be that, but you’re not brave. And you shouldn’t bother telling people you’re brave because you’re too young to be brave and life hasn’t hit you fully enough for you to be brave and your life is too pretty to be brave. You need to do x, y, and z before you think you’re brave. I know these kinds of words from a stranger aren’t supposed to matter to me. I’ve read all the advice from other writers who suggest you just tack on the line, “Hi, I am a complete stranger dropping into your inbox to give you some advice on your own life,” before you read a single sentence, and it will somehow soften the blow. But it doesn’t take away from the truth: Words sting. Words cut. As one of my readers once told me, “Words can be weapons or balms, depending on how we use them.” And it hurts to read what people think about you—whether they’re addressing you out of truth, anger, jealousy, or genuine concern.

This wasn’t the first mean email. And truth be told, it wasn’t the worst email. I’ve gotten the threats and the people who show up in my inbox just to say, “I think you should die and make the world better.” But this email was different. This one about the bravery bothered me and stuck with me. It made me angry. And I wasn’t angry at the words they said; I was angry because I know the truth about bravery: You have no right to come alongside someone and tell them whether or not they’ve reached a level of bravery you approve of. You don’t get to determine what does or does not make a person brave or lovely or worthy or good. That’s not your right. That’s not your calling. That’s just a tactic to try to keep someone else from reaching their full potential. If you ask me, the world already has enough of that negativity floating around.

Here’s the truth about bravery; here is her essence: She can’t be defined by a measuring cup or a yardstick or a square foot. Bravery isn’t the kind of thing you measure; it’s the kind of thing you activate. It’s pretty obvious to everyone that we walked into a life that isn’t always kind or bearable or comfortable or good, and it takes a real chunk of bravery to just get through a day sometimes.

Bravery—if you ask me—is the day my best friend told me she was getting sober and I watched her hands tremble in anticipation of the hurdles of what would come next. Bravery—if you ask me—is watching a dear friend raise four beautiful children with all the grit she’s got and showing up for those children even when she is tired and broken and worn. That, my friends, is Titanic-sized bravery to me.

Bravery—if you ask me—is the day he was diagnosed with cancer and the only response on his lips was this: “I will fight this thing. I will be relentless, and I will fight this thing.” Bravery—if you ask me—is her showing up at my door, the one with the big red handle, and speaking the truth out loud: “I want more. I’ve been afraid to say it for a really long time, but I want more for this life of mine.” Bravery is the places you went to when you were scared. Bravery is the day she called the therapist and finally made the appointment. Bravery isn’t something anyone gets to define or measure; bravery is something you activate.

So, no, no one gets to tell you a hurdle that has taken them years to finally get over is something they should have learned to limbo under several yesterdays ago. That’s not kind. That’s not true. That’s just playing small within a life that calls you to more.

And that is exactly the problem with the culture we’re stand- ing inside of today. We are constantly confronted by people who tell us that bravery is Elsewhere. And beauty is Elsewhere. And life, or a life you can be proud of, is Elsewhere. And Elsewhere is just a flimsy little measure we never plan to reach, but it does its justice in keeping us from showing up to the life we’ve been given for this moment. Elsewhere is just a defense mechanism that allows you to keep your fists clenched and your heart closed to what life could look like if you showed up and said yes to the beautiful now.

There are always going to be people who don’t want you to show up. You cannot control their presence, but you can turn down the volume as they start to speak. For too long, I listened. And it never made me happier. It actually got me to believe there was something inside me I needed to fix before I could offer anything to the world. It’s wasted time trying to please people who can’t be pleased, I learned. You won’t suddenly arrive at a point of feeling worthy if your goal is to just fix all the stuff you think is wrong with you. There will always be another thing. There will always be another standard to distract you from the real work of this lifetime. Bet on that. But you have one road to focus on. One thing you came here for. Keep your eyes on that prize, and don’t turn your head to the left or the right. Let them talk. Pay no attention to them. I know that’s tricky, but it’s vital if you want to keep moving forward.

I have a friend Felicia, who is my walking buddy. We meet up every month and take long walks around the neighborhood. She’s older than me and has raised three children who are now off in the world making their own babies and being fantastic humans who care about others, and so I try to glean every ounce of wisdom I can get from Felicia.

One morning out on our walk, I opened up to Felicia about how I was having a hard time focusing because I kept taking my eyes off my tasks and placing them on other things.

“When my daughter was a little girl, she couldn’t pay attention in math class for the life of her,” Felicia starts telling me. “She could not keep her focus on the chalkboard because there were so many other distractions in the room. It was happening day after day. And so I had to start giving her a pep talk in the morning before she went off to school.”

Felicia would bend down to her little girl’s level and say to her, “Blinders on, baby. Blinders on.”

Blinders originated with horses. These small leather patches are attached to a horse’s head so they stay on course. The blinders are placed on them to keep them on track, to keep them from looking to the left and right of them.

Here’s what I didn’t know about blinders though. The old story goes that blinders were invented by a preacher who made a bet with a friend that he could get his horse to walk up the stairs in his home. The horse did this with no problems at all, but when the preacher tried to get the horse down the stairs, he wouldn’t budge. The preacher covered the horse’s head and led him down the stairs. It was there that he realized that by covering all or part of the horse’s vision, he could get the horse to take chances he normally would not take.

This is what happens when we put the blinders on and keep them on. We start to take chances we normally wouldn’t take. With the voices of fear and hate not being able to get past the blinders, we get a little bolder. We activate a little more bravery. We start to think that maybe, just maybe, it matters that we are here and some good, good work can finally be done.

When they’re hurling rotten lemons at you, take those lemons and squeeze them for all the juice they’ve got inside them— waiting to be tapped into. Take another step. Write another article. Publish another anthem. Find another avenue. Just keep going—no matter the adversity.

This world is full of needs. Your existence and your creations fill some of those needs. Your showing up and doing your job fill those needs. Your kindness and your ability to make people feel seen fill those needs. Focus more on those needs than on the people who try to shut you down. There will always be critics and haters who will make their opinions known. You can’t stop them anyway, so channel that energy back into why you’re here. Shake it off, and put the blinders on. Blinders on, baby. Blinders on.

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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