On the morning of July 25th, 2021 my family and I gathered together to watch the televised match of my youngest brother Jake Gibb play beach volleyball in the Olympics. At 45-years-old he’s the oldest volleyball player in Olympic history. It was his first match in Japan and his fourth Olympics total. Tragically, upon landing in Japan, his teammate Taylor Crabb tested positive for Covid and was immediately quarantined and pulled from the Olympic Games. As you can imagine, it was devastating for my brother and his teammate. He was able to pick a player from the third ranked team and ended up playing with a partner he’s never played with before. They rocked it with a win in two games, but only after a tremendously heavy and difficult week.

For most of us, our wins and losses are not so publicly displayed, but the heart wrenching truth is that growth edges are painful and hard. They usually don’t get celebrated on national news, however there is much to celebrate in working through these life challenges and acquiring new learning. It requires facing a growth edge and it often feels debilitating.

When I say growth edge, I mean that space right before you learn something new, or heal something painful. These edges require soul-searching introspection and mindfulness. Unadulterated courage is necessary. It often seems much easier to choose unhealthy coping skills like alcohol, shopping, or food, to name a few. It’s much easier to stay with the familiar, even if we know it’s not helpful, than to venture into the unknown. However, what we resist persists. This means the wounded parts of ourselves show up as painful emotions that need healing.

“How you play shows some of your character. How you win or lose shows more of it.”

So whether your battle looks like anxiety or depression, navigating a difficult or toxic relationship, or dealing with the pain of loss or loneliness, keep reaching out. Find your tribe or find a therapist, or both. Battles are much easier when they’re not fought alone. And ultimately as you learn new skills you’ll see that even those things that seem like devastating losses can become your greatest strengths.

Depression and anxiety tells us to isolate and whispers to us that we’re not good enough, even when the exact opposite is true. During these times when we are navigating growth edges, that is when we need people the most. We are social creatures. We need closeness. Orphaned children may receive the basic need of food and shelter, but when human touch is not received, these young ones often fail to thrive. We need connection. It’s our most basic need.

With that said, our loved ones may not always be available to us. Personal growth requires that we learn the process of validating ourselves. Learning to silence our inner critic, befriend our feelings, validate our emotions and connect to those around us is a lifelong journey. Whether you’re in the throes of caring for your elderly parents, going through a painful divorce, dealing with the difficulties of raising children or not being able to have children, the struggle is real and ongoing. Learning to regulate difficult emotions and practicing mindfulness, teaches us to be present for what this moment has to offer in a compassionate and non-judgmental way. Learning to befriend our minds and bodies is a critical skill we need to navigate these difficult growth edges.

So like my brother Jake who had a few wrenches thrown into his life’s dream, we can learn to roll with the punches, pick up the pieces through loss and devastation, and find ourselves on the other side of a growth edge. Sometimes it feels so dark and hopeless it seems like too much and yet it helps to sit beside someone to process distorted thoughts and difficult emotions. It’s not easy and you may not come out with a medal, but there will be loads to celebrate on the other side of growth.  Now, let’s play.