You are not your worst moments

It’s a pleasantly warm Sunday for February in Minneapolis.

I’m sitting at the Starbucks on Excelsior (it’s a good one, if you’ve never been). The tables beside me have switched over three times with different people as I’ve written, read, and worked diligently throughout the afternoon.

And right now, life feels good. More importantly, I feel good about myself.

Maybe it’s the two cups of iced coffee or the way my hair fell this morning, but I feel alive, focused, and motivated. I feel the way I want to feel about myself every day. That I’m productive. That I can set out goals and accomplish them. That I can stay focused but also find time to enjoy the things I like.

Even before coming to this coffee shop, I spent the morning at church where I felt wanted and included by people who seem to genuinely care about me.

Unfortunately, this is not how I always feel. When I think about the past year as a whole, it was rarely how I saw myself. Even this past week, I found myself struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Once I did, I felt the urge to do just about anything except the things I needed and wanted to get done.

I was tired, irritable, and unmotivated. I felt short on time, energy, and focus. And I felt unwanted, even as I was hanging around people.

And during all of this, I started to do what many of us do during bad times.

I started to wonder if this is who I simply was.

Have you ever had an off week? Month? Year?

The kind where you feel stuck in a funk or fog that you just can’t seem to break through. You reach the end of each day, and everything you had hoped to accomplish has slipped through your grasp.

Your goals and dreams and aspirations shift from possible to ambitious to elusive to unobtainable.

You reach a point where you wonder if maybe this is just who you are. It’s who you’ve always been. Any accomplishment or productive day or sense of true progress or place in this world was a fluke at best. This is the rest of your life, and the best you can hope for is to scrape by until the sun sets each day for however many years you have left on this mediocre planet.

Of course, that’s not true. I know it’s not. Deep down, you know it’s not either.

But all of our sakes, I’d like to share a reminder…

You are not your worst moments.

You are not your unproductive days.

You are not your lonely nights.

You are not your wasted minutes.

You are not your failed attempts.

You are not your off weeks (or months or years).

They are a part of you and your story, but they only define you if you let them. You have a choice in how you see yourself. So, why not try defining yourself by your good days and victorious moments? Maybe your failures and wasted days are the exception, not the rule.

If I see myself as someone who sits alone at home and wastes hours on YouTube and struggles to socially interact in public settings, I will probably be exactly that person.

On the other hand, if I see myself as the person who goes to a coffee shop for hours and works away at all the things he planned to and still has time and energy to be around people, I’ll do just that.

Because I’ve done it before. I just did it today. And that’s part of the image of myself that I’m going to hold on to. I think when we choose to define ourselves by our best moments, those same things start to define us in the eyes of the people around us.

So think of a time you did some good and you felt good about yourself and go do it again.

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by Timothy Snyder