Have you ever felt like you were pushed to the very edge of what you were able to do? Like, just when you were going to reach your absolute breaking point — about an inch before you were about to totally lose your mind — you discovered there was more you had to do?

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve felt like this.

I ran a marathon with my sister in Portland last fall, and I felt it then. I felt it during the first six months of my marriage (to my totally amazing husband). I felt it the past few weeks, as I’ve packed my house into a car, launched my very first print book, and driven deep into the late hours of the night, across the country, to get to our next destination.

And whenever I do something that pushes me further than I’ve ever gone before, I always feel like a total loser. I know that seems a little counter-intuitive, but it also makes sense.

Think about it.

When I’m rounding the corner of the 21st mile of a marathon, I feel like I might collapse to the floor any minute. I can’t do this. I think to myself. I don’t have what it takes. All these other people out here are passing me and upstaging me and looking like superstars while they do it, but me? I’m huffing and puffing and about to lose my breakfast.

Meanwhile, I’m running a marathon for heaven’s sake.

This is the place where I’m both completing the most amazing physical accomplishment of my life; and also stretched further than I’ve ever been stretched before. My longest training run was 21 miles. And I still have 5.2 to go.

I had a really similar sensation in my first year of marriage.

I was used to living by myself and spending a lot of time alone. I had a really, nice comfortable life. I was lonely sometimes, but I also had tons of friends and family lived close and, for the most part, I got to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

When I got married, everything changed. Everything. My husband and I moved across the country, far away from friends and family. And I wanted to be a “good wife,” and have a great marriage, but I was also grieving the loss of my hometown, trying to figure out what it looked like to live with someone, really getting to know my new husband and trying to figure out what it even meant to be a wife.

I still remember when my husband told me, “Quit expecting yourself to be an expert wife. You’ve only been at this for four months!”

There was such a relief in that for me. I wasn’t a great wife, but with each day I became a better wife, and the longer we’ve been married, the more I look back and see how what we’re building is really amazing.

Often when we are pushed to the very edge, we feel like failures, when we’re actually doing the most impressive thing we’ve ever done.

Have you ever thought about that?

I’m not sure if you feel pushed to the edge right now, or if you have before in your life. Maybe you’re like me and you try to avoid being pushed to the edge, but life has this way of getting you there anyway.

Maybe you started a new job, or had a new baby, or maybe you’re trying to make a major lifestyle change or break a bad habit. 

No matter what your story is, I’m guessing you have moments where you think (like I did during the marathon): I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes. Everyone is passing me and upstaging me and looking like superstars while they do it.

The next time those thoughts comes into your mind, I want you to remind yourself: You’re running a marathon, for heaven’s sake (metaphorically speaking).

This is the most amazing thing you’ve ever done.

I work best when I’m pushed to the edge. When I’m at the point where my pride is subdued, where I’m innocent again. —Artist & Designer, Bill Stumpf

The reason I avoid being pushed to the edge is exactly the reason it helps me create something great. –It reminds me I am just human. I’m just a girl. I have a short temper sometimes, and I yell at the people I love, and I get cranky when I don’t eat or sleep.

I have limits. They are far beyond what I think they are. But I can’t do it by myself. I need people to coach me through it.

And it is out of that place — that human place — which great art is born.

Tell me about a time you’ve been pushed to the edge. Did something great come out of it?

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