I’ve been struggling lately. There’s a new and exciting thrill to being my own boss, being completely in control of my schedule and how my days are laid out. But along with that thrill there is the burgeoning stress of “am I working hard enough? Am I doing everything I can to ensure I can pay my bills? What else can I be doing? What if I fail?” That last question echoes constantly, a creeping reminder that this is new and unexplored territory for me: the path less traveled, as it were (I’ve always been a sucker for Robert Frost).
As if on cue, the universe reconnected me with a member of my family today who is also struggling. Even with the short conversation we had, I could tell we were sharing similar paths: struggling with finding our way, battling choices and happenings that weren’t in the cards or didn’t see coming. It made me realize that the sensation and emotion that comes with struggling is normal; for the most part, society grooms us at a young age to know what it is we want to be when we “grow up” (whenever that is), to have the plan all laid out and written.
But what about those of us that don’t have that? We struggle, and we feel lost.
I’m here to tell you three important reasons why that’s perfectly okay.
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1. Struggle breeds growth
There’s definite truth in the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, though I’ve never been a personal fan of it. But when it comes to struggling, to working hard, to feeling like you’re in a place of negativity and can’t seem to overcome what’s in front of you… something blooms. I have learned more about myself and my own personal resilience and reliance these past three months, and even though it’s been very hard, I like the person that I’m becoming.
Struggle breeds growth because it fosters an environment for you to learn about yourself and what you are capable of. Know that it’s okay to give yourself time in those dark and churning places inside yourself, because on the morning when something changes for the brighter, it will make it all the more sweeter knowing you’ve crossed the trenches. There will be more pits, more trenches, more negative or dark days, and that’s okay too. Don’t look for them… look beyond them.
2. Not everything is perfect
Let’s be honest: shit gets hard. We feel pressured to have everything go right all the time, but the reality of life is that it rarely happens. Things happen differently (or not at all) than we expected, and we have to learn to adapt.
If something happens out of plan or off your path, it’s okay to feel bad about it for a little while. That feeling of defeat that grips you by the throat won’t be there forever, so it’s perfectly normal to be sad or angry or upset about it. Just don’t let that emotion take precedence. Give it it’s moment, but once your moment (or day, or week) is done, move on from it. I’m trying to create the habit of putting a time limit on my emotions when things feel rotten, or tough, or impossible; I give myself a day, three days, or sometimes even a week if I’m super deep in the pit to wallow in it. The moment my time is up, I straighten myself and figure out how to take the next step.
3. struggles add up… but they shouldn’t.
Last but not least, don’t let yourself get in the mindset that your struggles compound. While it might feel like one struggle on top of another struggle on top of a disappointment, you can feel your struggles without convincing yourself that they’re piling into an insurmountable mountain. If you missed going to the gym today, don’t tell yourself that you have to work twice as hard (or more) tomorrow. Didn’t make as much money as you thought you would today? Yes, you can work hard the following day, but don’t put so much weight on your shoulders by lacing your struggles together and trying to bear them all as one solid mass.
Acknowledge them, and move on. Give yourself your time, and keep walking your path. The more meaningless attention you give to your struggles the more you steal energy and focus away from what really matters. You’ve heard it before, but I’m saying it now: don’t sweat the small stuff.