By Joan Marlow

Sad to say, but many times when we look in the mirror, the thoughts and words that are expressed might not be the most positive, kind and loving.  Humans have a tendency to be their own worst critics.  We’re quick to think we aren’t pretty enough, smart enough; we think we’re too shy, too fat, too thin, too slow, my hair’s too curly/too straight….  Even when someone gives us a compliment, our thoughts might go to, ‘yea, but……’ and we think of ways we haven’t measured up to whatever we think we should be or be able to do OR what we think others think of us.  If you have ever had one of those negative mirror conversations, it might be time to switch perspectives.

2021 has offered up some challenges impacted by the ongoing pandemic and political / social unrest.  It’s also offered for me, a couple of amazing, inspiring young ‘heroes’ who have demonstrated how to tackle and move an adversity into the win-win-win columns of life. I’m talking about Amanda Gorman and Brayden Harrington. They were introduced to the world during the January 20 Inauguration of President Biden.

  • Amanda Gorman, the 22-yr old first National Youth Poet Laureate, recited an original poem asking each of us to ‘Be the Light.’
  • Brayden Harrington, a 13-yr old from New Hampshire, recited a powerful segment of JFK’s 1961 inaugural address during the Inaugural Ball.

What you might not know is that they both have a speech impediment…Amanda’s ‘special difficulty’ was not being able to say the letter ‘R’; Brayden is a stutterer.

Sit back for a moment and think about their lives in school and subsequent peer pressure.  Think about what happens in your school and your environment:  Being made of fun of, bullied, passed over, treated as being ‘less than,’ or worse.  I could say ‘put yourself in their shoes,’ but you might be in their shoes if you present a ‘special difficulty’ like stuttering, anxiety, depression, weight issues, needing more time to complete your work, ‘fill in the blank.’  Even if this is the case, you have a choice (you always have choices…sometimes difficult to see, but they’re there).  You might become more reclusive or become more deeply ingrained in depression and personal sadness OR you might decide it’s time to flex your resilience muscles.

Amanda and Brayden both found inner strengths and pumped up their resilience muscle to get beyond their adversities.  Amanda threw herself into words (writing poetry) and created mantras that pushed her brain to figure out how to enunciate ‘R’s.  Brayden thought he was the only stutterer in the world until he learned that Joe Biden is a stutterer.  They met as members of ‘the same club’ and Biden shared a number of techniques including how reading poetry creates a cadence which quiets the stuttering…Brayden adopted those techniques.

So what does this have to do with Mindfulness?  Lots!! We’re using mindfulness to strengthen our resilience when we face challenges and adversities.  Resilient people possess and demonstrate these characteristics:

  • Self-Awareness. Calls for you to ‘be in the moment’ and take in all things around you. You are able to see yourself more clearly and thoroughly; helps you to be more accountable for your actions.
  • Standing ‘in the moment’ and accepting what is.  If it’s a tough situation, also know that ‘this too shall pass’; but you need to feel it all…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Keep Calm Under Stress. The best way to bring calm is to STOP:  Stop, Take a breath, Observe what’s happening, Proceed.  Taking conscious breaths will always calm your brain and your nervous system.  The goal is to respond, not react…being calm helps to respond.
  • ‘Stand in another’s shoes.’ What might they be feeling?  It helps with your having a better understanding of the situation…how it’s impacting you; how it’s impacting others.
  • Self-Control. Engage your brain to get in touch with what’s going on inside you and the actions you’re taking.  How are you managing the situation?
  • Being motivated towards resolution builds resilience, which in turn builds more resilience…resilience keeps growing as you dig in and keep trying.  This helps you to feel and act in an empowered manner so you can keep moving forward.
  • Optimists think:  ‘how can I overcome this?’ rather than ‘why did this happen to me?’  Positive breeds positive; surround yourself with positive, optimistic people.

Amanda Gorman celebrated another first by reciting her poem ‘Chorus of the Captains’ during the Super Bowl pre-game show…Poetry at the Super Bowl???!!!  This poem was for the ‘heroes’ of the pandemic:  leaders, teachers, medical personnel who unselfishly gave to their communities and neighbors.  This is just the beginning for her; she’s vowing to run for President in 2036, the first election she’ll be age eligible.  She’s the epitome of resilience and focus.

Whatever you might have in your life that you view as an adversity, remember there’s always a solution to help ease the adversity. Don’t do yourself a disservice by thinking there’s no way out; don’t close your mind to possibility…you might not have found your inspiration yet. Seek out people that can lift you up and encourage you.  I didn’t know there was ‘The Stuttering Foundation,’ a non-profit that offers support for stutterers. Keep exploring, keep asking questions, always be curious.  You aren’t alone in whatever situation you find yourself in.  We’re all here to help you towards changing that negative conversation in the mirror to a positive conversation.

To learn more about these two inspiring individuals, check out these YouTube links

Amanda Gorman: Inauguration poem…

Amanda Gorman interview with Anderson Cooper:

Brayden Harrington:  CNN interview after he spoke JFK’s words



Joan is a ‘life-long learner and a forever teacher.’ Starting her career as a high school teacher, she continued to learn and grow in corporate America as a corporate trainer, mentor and manager. She’s living her passion in her current role as a life & wellness coach, educator and alternative health practitioner in her business, Peaceful Easy Healing.