For me I think the first step in becoming more resilient is, something has to happen that you have to overcome, heal from, bounce back from, whatever you want to say. That has to happen. Now you have a choice on how to look at this. For me, like I’ve said, I’ve lost both of my parents by the age of 35. I have no more parental guidance. It’s no longer an option for me. I have no choice but to either let it keep me down or to rise up. I’m choosing the latter. I’m choosing to use my pain for my purpose.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Bright.
Melissa Bright, podcast host and trauma survivor, shares stories of other survivors to help people heal and find joy in their own lives. Melissa Bright is the creator of The Bright Side of Life Podcast where she talks to people that have been through pain, struggles, and grief, and how they found their path back to joy, despite their hardships. After losing both of her parents before the age of 35, Melissa went on a journey to start healing from her trauma, and now uses her and her guests’ experiences to help others do the same.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you for having me! Of course. After losing my Mom at the age of 25, I would spend the next ten years not processing the trauma, losing my self confidence along the way, and feeling alone in my struggles. This was half of the story. The other part of my story is that I had my daughter when I was 16. I was a single Mom, so when I lost my Mom, I also lost my support system at such an important time of my life. My daughter was headed into her teenage years, and I would no longer have my Mom to turn to and ask for advice. This all came to a head in 2020 when the whole world was hurting, I decided to turn my pain into my purpose and start healing.
Simultaneously while starting therapy, I started thinking about my true purpose in life. I looked out into the world and saw other people hurting too, and I wanted to help.
Now I put joy back into people’s hearts through my podcast, The Bright Side of Life, where I talk to people that have successfully navigated their way back to joy and happiness despite their struggles, pain, and grief.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of my favorite times to look back on is a year before I started my podcast. My boyfriend and I were obsessed with watching History Channel’s hit TV show, Alone. We had our favorite contestants. We were always asking questions aloud, like what happens when their camera batteries run out? Or do they get more medical check ups than they show on TV. Things like that. Well, once I had my podcast, I really wanted to have a conversation with our favorite contestant. (In case there are any Alone fans reading this, our favorite was Larry Roberts.) So I reached out to Larry asking him to come on my podcast. He said yes. Now, a year after watching that show, I was able to ask all of the questions my boyfriend and I were curious about. This story is very fitting for this interview because that show is all about resilience. That’s exactly why I wanted to talk to Larry. He had overcome so much on this show, and he really inspired my boyfriend and I. It was amazing to see these people being pushed to the limits, getting knocked down, and not giving up until they absolutely had to or they became the winner of the show. My takeaway from that story is that all we can do is ask and try. I was pretty nervous in asking him to be on the podcast, but my curiosity was bigger than my fear. I wanted to have a genuine conversation with him. You just never know who will say yes to you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes my podcast stand out is that it covers extremely hard stories. These stories are sometimes dark and depressing, but it’s always with the intent of letting people know they aren’t alone in their struggles. Someone could be listening that is on the verge of giving up, going through a similar experience, and now they have just heard from someone that has been through that hard time, but has come out on the other side..the bright side of life. I want to bring these stories to light because this is the reality of people’s lives. We are ALL going through something, have gone through something, or will go through something, and I want to give people comfort in knowing they aren’t alone. I also make sure I ask my guests, what were some of the exact ways they overcame their struggles. How did they heal? Was it through formal therapy or some other way? I want my listeners to have takeaways that they can actually start implementing if they would so choose. And lastly what makes my podcast stand out is that I ask everyone of my guests at the end of the interview, “What does the bright side of life mean to you?” The answers are always so different, so unique, and it really shows you what is important in their lives and what they value in their life after going through hardships.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Oh man, I would have to say that person that I am grateful for in helping me get here, would be my boyfriend. In 2020 before my podcast was even conceptualized, I was a travel agent. This was the year I went out on my own to make more money. Well, clearly that didn’t go as planned. The entire travel industry was completely shut down. No one was traveling. That meant zero money coming in on my part. It really messed with my self esteem not being able to contribute as I’m sure so many of us felt in 2020. It was in July of 2020 that I had a moment of clarity after listening to a podcast. You may have heard of it, On Purpose with Jay Shetty. He had a guest that shared how she found her purpose. She said, when I looked out into the world I asked myself what made my heart hurt. Then when I knew that answer, I would ask myself how I could solve that problem. I thought to myself, “is that all I have to do to find my purpose?” Okay, I’ll give it a shot. So I did some reflecting and asked myself what made my heart hurt. The answer came quite easy. I knew people feeling alone in their own struggles made my heart hurt. What was I going to do to solve this problem? I was going to have conversations with people that have been through hard times and how they got through them to go on to live a joy filled life. And that was going to be done by starting a podcast. I literally said to myself, “Now is the time if you want to actually do something that sets your soul on fire and gives you meaning in your life.” My boyfriend had started his painting business in 2020 and it was going very well. I went to him and told him what I wanted to do. He knew that meant that I wouldn’t be working at an actual job for a while. And he said, “Do it!” All I ask is you treat it like a full time job.” And that’s what I have done ever since. He has pushed me to go out of my comfort zones. He has encouraged me when I felt discouraged. He is always telling people what I do. I don’t even ask him to say it. He just does. It shows me that he really believes in me and my purpose. He knows that this is what I love doing. He would be the person that I am forever grateful for.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I define resilience by overcoming. By getting knocked down, and continuing to get back up. Not letting the hard times get the best of you. I believe people that are resilient know that they can have a hard day, but it doesn’t mean they have a bad life. They understand that hard and bad things happen, but they will always bounce back. And oftentimes stronger. They might slow down, but they will never quit. Resilient people try to look on the bright side of life no matter what. They don’t buy into, “the whole world is bad, the whole world is against me.” I think resilient people have been through the hardest of things, maybe even many times, but keep moving forward. I want to be clear, this doesn’t mean they won’t have moments of sadness, or even question things. They might need to take some time to breath and process what just happened. But in the end, they will make a comeback.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is similar to resilience because I believe it takes courage to be resilient. We might be scared to get back up again after being knocked down, but if we are courageous, we will try.
I think the difference between courage and resilience is you can still be courageous without being resilient. You can be courageous and try something one time, but maybe if it doesn’t go as planned you just give up. A resilient person tries many many times. They keep getting back up no matter how many times they get knocked down.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My daughter is who I think of when I think about resilience. She’s been through a lot for only being nineteen. She had some rough years in high school trying to make sense of why her Dad didn’t want to be part of her life. I think she thought it was her fault for a long time, but once she got these amazing tools in therapy, it was like she was unstoppable in life. She has also had to see me struggle with debilitating anxiety after losing my Mom. She’s had to grow up quite quickly. She surprises me everyday. She is so strong. She might get down, but she always gets back up with a better perspective. I am so proud to see her overcome all the challenges she’s been faced with. Her personality is infectious and you just can’t help but laugh when you’re with her. It just shows you that she wants to enjoy life and not let it get her down.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Thankfully I don’t ever remember a time that someone said this exact thing. But it has definitely been implied. I think all my life I was told to take the smart safe route. Especially after having my daughter at sixteen, people just assumed I would struggle so they made sure I knew the safe route. I didn’t want that route. My Dad was a person that really wanted me to play it safe. It’s just how he was raised, so I couldn’t blame him. I do pride myself on going after what I want no matter what. I have always had a strong opinion on doing what makes me happy. And I just try to follow that motto.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Losing my Mom who was my best friend was the absolute biggest setback of my entire life to date. Like I said before, my Mom was my everything. She was my best friend, my confidant, my supporter, and so much more. Before the age of twenty-five I didn’t know what pain was. Not like this. This was like a nightmare. My life was not supposed to go this way. Who loses their Mom at twenty-five? Well a lot of people, but this was my thought process at the time. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I just remember her passing away and thinking, now who am I going to talk to about everything? Who do I ask for advice to? As much as we like to think we have our stuff together at twenty-five, you find out very quickly how much you don’t when you lose a parent. So what happened? Well, I had no choice but to continue on without her and do the best I could. And that’s what I did. It’s amazing how strong you can be, when there is literally no other choice. My dad wasn’t in my life. I couldn’t go to him. I had one aunt in the area. That’s it for the family. It was just my daughter and I figuring it out. To be honest for a long time, I thought what I was doing was handling my Mom’s death. What I was doing was compartmentalizing the trauma, so I could survive. In other words, stuffing it down, and never dealing with the loss. Just so I could get through the days and I could raise my daughter. Your body will tell you quicker than anything that you haven’t processed your trauma. For 10 years I had debilitating anxiety. I had the fear of losing someone one else close to me. Unfortunately when my anxiety would transpire, it would be during the best of times because I was deeply afraid of losing the people around me that were my support systems now. What that took from me was the best of times, because during the time of pure joy, worry stole my happiness and it would manifest into debilitating stomach pain. After many years of overreacting and attacking my boyfriend, if he would even mention there was a correlation between my anxiety and my mother’s passing, I finally softened to the idea that I can’t bear this alone. And with his and my daughter’s support I finally sought therapy. Doing this would be the start of a journey that completely changed my life. Just because you don’t bounce back immediately doesn’t mean you’re never going to. It might take a long time, like it did for me. I also want to note, I wasn’t miserable for those 10 years. But there’s a big difference between what I thought happiness was, and what it could be. There was a lot I lost when my Mom passed. I lost my self confidence. The best way I can describe that is, it’s like having training wheels on a bike. You have that security just in case you fall. When I lost my Mom, all my security was gone. I no longer had someone I could go to for safety and security. I could fall at any moment. It just made me unsure of myself and my decisions. Because she was the one that always assured me. But the silver lining is that there is nothing more beautiful than learning how to love yourself again so you will always feel safe going forward.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I feel my whole life has been one thing after another that has helped to build resiliency. When I was growing up, I went to twelve different schools before starting high school. I moved around a ton. Each time I had to make new friends. Each time I did. That’s what started it. Then the next big moment in my life was when I got pregnant at sixteen. I never saw myself becoming a Mom at sixteen as a burden. Ever. But I was also under no illusion that this wouldn’t be hard. It was. I was a single Mom for sixteen years until I met my boyfriend. Life would also show me that I had my daughter at sixteen for a reason. The bigger reason wouldn’t become apparent until we found out we were losing my Mom. My Mom was able to be a grandmother for ten years before she passed away. I gave her that gift. I look back at all those years as a single Mom and am damn proud of myself. The next big moment of being resilient after losing my Mom, was losing my Dad last year in 2021. His loss was so different from my Moms. I mourned not only the loss of his physical being, I mourned the loss of what never was. After my parents divorced when I was young, my Dad really wasn’t in my life. He moved to a different state twelve hours away. We talked on holidays, but that was it. It really affected me as a young woman. I thought it was something I did. But as I got older, I realized it wasn’t me. It was him and I began to forgive him. He never knew that. He had just moved back to the same state as me in 2020 after retiring. I truly felt in my heart this was going to be the chance we had never had before. We were closer in distance than we had been in twenty-five years. This was going to change everything, or so I hoped. Unfortunately my Dad passed away last January after a heart and liver transplant didn’t take. Now I have no living parents left here on this earth. Once again, I still can’t believe I am only 35 and this is happening again. But when I lost my Dad, I was in therapy. That helped a lot. I was able to talk about my feelings in real time and process it. However, it was just another thing that I had to recover from. But I did. And with all of this happening in my life, I can now say that I have turned my pain into my purpose. I had to go through this to help other people.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I definitely agree that resilience is like a muscle. I feel I have gotten stronger and bounced back faster after each challenge.
For me I think the first step in becoming more resilient is, something has to happen that you have to overcome, heal from, bounce back from, whatever you want to say. That has to happen. Now you have a choice on how to look at this. For me, like I’ve said, I’ve lost both of my parents by the age of 35. I have no more parental guidance. It’s no longer an option for me. I have no choice but to either let it keep me down or to rise up. I’m choosing the latter. I’m choosing to use my pain for my purpose. The second step I would say is reflect and process. Things happen in life that are just downright not fair. Trust me, I know. But we ARE stronger than our setbacks. We really are. We must know and truly believe that while this terrible thing happened, that it doesn’t mean the world is against us. It took me ten years to heal after losing my Mom. One thing I learned in that process is, I can’t go over, around it, hide from it, push it down. I have to go THROUGH it. And I wasn’t learning that lesson so it kept repeating itself through anxiety. We must process it. Step 3 is to get support. Talk about it with friends, family, or your spouse. Someone you feel comfortable with. Let them know what you’re feeling. So often we think we have to do this alone. I thought I did. When my Mom passed away, my Step Dad offered grief counseling to me. I declined it. I didn’t think I needed it, but I did. Find your support system and lean on them in these hard times. Step 4 would be to start putting one foot in front of the other. It can be at a snail’s pace, but just start moving. Start trying. Start doing. It can be so easy to want to give up after a major setback, but we have to try again. We never know what the outcome could be this time. In 2020 once I realized I wasn’t going to go back in the travel industry, I now had to figure out how to start a podcast. Something I knew nothing about. Each day I just did research and more research. I took little steps each day. After two very quick months, my podcast was live to the world! Step 5 would be practice gratitude. This is so powerful. I know many bad things happen. I know we experience great challenges. All of us just went through this the last two years, but I know without a doubt, there’s at least one thing to be grateful for each day. In October I started a gratitude journal. Every day I spend 3–5 minutes writing down what I am grateful for. It really changes my mindset. And I challenge you if you try this, think of the smallest things to be grateful for. When you have listed your kids, job, spouse, animals, really try to think of the small things that mean a lot to you. The things that if you didn’t have them, your life wouldn’t be the same that day. Was it the cup of coffee you had while reading? It is your glasses you have to read with? There’s always something. Those would be my 5 steps of becoming more resilient.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Oh that’s a great question. My movement would be The Bright Side of Life Movement. It would be the community that people could come to when they need support. When they are feeling alone in their struggles. It would be a place to get them out of the darkness and into the light.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Jay Shetty, Jay Shetty, Jay Shetty! He is literally the reason I started my podcast. He has inspired me beyond belief. I want to interview him on my podcast and just have an awesome genuine conversation with him.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can find everything I do on my website: https://www.thebrightsideoflifepodcast.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!