Who you are at your worst is who you really are. I learned this from my husband when, two weeks after our first date, he called me to cancel our third date because his daughter had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She died two months later.

With no expectations of anything happening between us, I explained to him that though completely different, I had had cancer when I was 24 and my mom died when I was 14, and if he needed someone who wasn’t involved in the situation to talk to, I was there. Through some emails while she was sick and after she passed, he took me up on that offer, and eventually we fell in love.

To say that he went through hell would be an understatement. What amazed and surprised me was his ability to do what needed to be done each day she was sick and do the right thing when she was gone. He sucked it up and made decisions no parent should have to, and did so with the pride of a good father. After only a month, he went back to work and tried each day to do his best while there. Beyond all of that, in the face of loss, he still allowed his heart to be open to seeing the beauty in life and love. Without ever cashing in on any of the excuses for bad behavior that those who knew him would have gladly granted him, he chose to rebuild his life, accepting the hole in his heart that would never be filled. This was him at his very worst, and I can’t claim this on most of my best.

I often think of this when I’m having bad days. Cancer and death don’t grace you with constant appreciation or an unending attitude of gratitude. You have to choose to be a better person and choose to do your best when you are at your worst, and that is what makes you who you really are. This is what builds character and strengthens integrity.

When you are having bad days and experiencing challenges in life, think about who you want to be at your best, and strive to be it at your worst. There are moments to practice this every single day.

Image source: Cha Coco