I asked six inspiring women what their hardest life lesson was. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Georgia Esporlas, photographer
My hardest lesson: Being a conceptual photographer, not selling out to the commercial consumer world, where I lose part of my identity, integrity and authenticity as a true artist because I don’t want to be a ‘Starving Artist’. What I learned is, I take the good and the bad with a grain of salt with each project or account I take on. I make sure that I execute my client’s vision with my own twist to it. So I can go home happy and fulfilled.
2. Riadh Falvo, chocolatiere
Bumble and Oak
The hardest and perhaps most important has been learning to trust myself. If I had any life ‘regrets’ it would be just this one: those times I didn’t listen to my gut. The times in life I have shut it down and allowed myself to be lead instead on an amazing albeit avoidable ‘detour’ while on my life’s journey.
I have always found my path again, as you do, and now I know that those ‘detours’ are just a part of the path anyway. Life is about the journey, not the destination. I take those life lessons gratefully with me on my journey now. They’re in my back pack next to my journal and swiss army knife and they have become familiar friends and useful tools.
So the lesson? Trust yourself, and listen to your gut…and if it were up to me, you would only reward it with good quality chocolate.
3. Glynnis Osher, spice mistress
The Mystic Masala
From ages five to 12 the biggest joy in my life was my tap dancing. With all the turmoil around me at home that was the release and the nourishment that kept my young spirit going.
In my twelfth year just on the cusp of teenage-hood, I was staying back from a beloved school trip to lay down tap soundtracks for a musical film I would be dancing in. Months and months of practice and sacrifice were coming to an end and the excitement of the film getting closer. One morning at school those who had stayed behind from the trip were practicing gymnastics on the field.
I was jumping over the vaulting horse when the springboard jammed and I came crashing down and completely shattered my right hip. I spent three months in hospital and one year on crutches with steel pins in my hip and unable to put my right leg down at all.
While in hospital I made friends with a little girl in the bed next to mine. Amanda was a 5 year old who was autistic and could not talk or walk. We connected and had our own communication which had us laughing, giggling and sometimes just peacefully looking into each other’s eyes. It was a soul connection. When she was leaving, her parents gave me a letter saying that this was the happiest Amanda had been and how our friendship had made her hospital time so much easier.
They were grateful and so was I. When I returned home after 3 months still recovering and getting used to life on crutches without dancing or other activities, life was very challenging. My father was manic depressive and I was a captive audience as he went through his own despair threatening suicide and self-destructing in front of our eyes. I felt completely helpless and also vowed to myself to find a way to pull myself up out of darkness no matter what. It was a very powerfully challenging time in my young life.
No matter how disabled, disadvantaged, and disappointed I was, I learned that my spirit could not be crushed and that I had an innate joy that sustained me. I learned to have courage and I learned that I have a lot of love and strength to give others.
I understood that no matter how much I was suffering, there were others who may be suffering more. This gave me determination, strength, compassion, and humility at a very young age. My biggest lesson though was that we should never ever give up no matter what life throws at us. I learned how to nurture my joy even in a time of great personal loss and I also found the grace to pursue other creative ways to express my talents.
4. Olga Sheean, author, empowerment coach and relationship therapist
My hardest lesson: Finding peace in the midst of apparent chaos. Given my focus on empowerment, I don’t believe in random chaos, as I know we all powerfully attract the scenarios we need in order to grow and fulfill our potential. However, some serious health conundrums put my convictions to the test, and my mind kept wanting to control things, running wild with lots of worrisome thoughts, self-doubts and projections. Staying in that mindset of patient trust and positivity, in the face of a seemingly worsening situation, has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face.
When all my diligent research failed to yield the answers I felt I needed, I was forced to let go of trying to ‘fix’ things and have learned a great deal about where my deeper self was so diligently trying to take me. (So sorry, wonderful bod, for not getting this sooner.) I’ve gained a deeper understanding of an underlying trauma that needed to be addressed before the health challenges could be resolved.
The symptoms were merely my body’s way of drawing my attention to this deeper, subconscious layer; and addressing that is taking me to a whole new level—confirming (thankfully!) what I’ve always believed to be true about the phenomenal power of our subconscious minds. Has it all been worth it? For now, I’ll say, “Yes, I think so…” but ask me again in six months and I’ll hopefully say that with a big happy smile on my face.
5. April Bellia
My hardest lesson: My father passed away at the young age of 49 in the year 1999. Soon after I rediscovered a letter he wrote to me saying that his friends complimented him on how he raised a daughter who was kind and respectful to others, just like he was. He also mentioned that I was “resilient”. In my young and naive age of 23, I did not quite understand what that meant.
At the current age of 40, I can fully appreciate what it means to be “resilient”. When life throws me a curve -and this happens to each and every one of us- how do I handle it? How do I recover? How do I “bounce back”?
Being an entrepreneur, a wife, and mother of 3, I have experienced many life challenges: having children with special needs, creating a new business in 2011, battling depression without medication, overcoming my fear of public speaking.
My mantra became “Trust, Believe, Receive”. In any situation, I place my trust in God/ the Universe/ my Angels and Guides; I believe in myself and my inner guidance to know what is right for me or the situation; I receive openly and wholeheartedly what the universe sends my way because it is what I wished for.
In my experience, this mantra has manifested what my truest and highest desires for me. From creating my Granola Girl business that allows me flex time and freedom, hosting Serendipity Tea Parties to surround myself with other conscious entrepreneurs, living in a beautiful city with my loving family and finally, to experience a lifelong dream of visiting Paris!
6. Andrea Cairella
My hardest life lesson: Learning ultimate acceptance of myself, others and life circumstances for how they are, as opposed to how I expect or desire them to be. This is an ongoing process for me and am continually getting tested on this one constantly.
One day, I was feeling frustrated because things were not turning out exactly how I wanted them to turn out, were not happening as quickly as I desired and my support system was not providing the kind of emotional support I needed most at the time. And it hit me how every time I tried to fight reality or make it different than what it was, reality would always win. It left me feeling exhausted, dissatisfied and miserable every time, so my current strategy needed to change. If I wanted to feel energized, satisfied and content, I needed to be proactive and make some behavioral changes when facing adversity.
What I learned in this process was:
1) To stop fighting reality and start accepting it.
2) To stop trying to hold on so tightly to my plan and start allowing myself to be guided.
3) To stop focusing on lack and start practicing gratitude regularly.
4) To stop being dictated by tasks and goals and began incorporating playfulness instead.