Jacinta from Canada recently wrote to us and asked:
I feel like my life has been one tragedy after another and I don’t know what to do or think anymore. My father recently passed from alcoholism which triggered liver disease, my mother is a grieving mess, my partner of 7 years left me shortly afterwards and I’m stuck in a job I just HATE. It’s so stressful and it was never what I pictured for my life. Now I wrestle with insomnia and anxiety every single day. My life sucks. What can I do when I keep telling myself that my life sucks? Please help.
If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably in a similar place. After all, almost all of us have experienced tragedy, grief, chaos, stress and betrayal – sometimes even all at once. The worst part is that we are nearly always COMPLETELY UNPREPARED for it, so that our lives feel as though they are melting before our very eyes. What can you do in the face of such intense pain? What can you do when you feel as though you have no control over anything anymore?
What to Do When Life Sucks
At a soulful level, almost all of us enter this life as children, and we maintain our childlike mentalities often far into adulthood and old age. With our childlike mentalities, we innocently believe that we can control life, that we can prevent bad things from happening to us if only we worship the right God, obey the right superstitions, eat the right diet, marry the right partner, move to the right neighbourhood, get the right job, and so forth. We build fortresses of people, habits and possessions around us that make us feel as though we’re in control because we sought them out and we built them. So it comes as a terribly shock to us when all of these people, possessions, habits and “right” decisions gradually – or all of a sudden – perish, leaving us barren and exposed.
The illusory walls of safety in our lives are created by the inner child to form a second womb. There is nothing wrong with forming comforting wombs in our lives, but the problems arise when we attach to them, want them to always be there for us, and expect that they will permanently “protect” us from the world. It’s the inner adult within us who realizes that in order to truly feel free, we must accept the inevitability of unpredictability. We must live our lives as free spirits, finding a home within ourselves first and foremost.
If the last two paragraphs seem completely unhelpful to you, that’s OK. When I was going through my own traumas I would have rolled my eyes and impatiently scrolled through this article looking for a quick fix to my problems. But while there are many short-term solutions that ease our suffering, the only way you can authentically find peace amidst the storm of life is by building a safe place within you. This is the long-term perspective.
It’s OK to feel that your life is a failure – let yourself feel it. Almost everyone has had that feeling before. When I feel like a failure, when I feel that my life sucks, I listen to some powerful advice:
1. When life wants to take something away from you, let it.
Of course, you can hang on as long as you want to, and fight, kick and scream your way to the end. However, in my experience, you suffer a lot less, and everyone around you suffers a lot less, when you surrender. As I have written before surrender isn’t about giving in or being weak. In fact, it takes much more strength and determination to surrender than to resist. Surrender is about acceptance, it is about making peace with the moment or situation that life throws at you. Because what can you really do? Life always has the upper hand. You can never outsmart life no matter how hard you try. This leads me to the next point …
2. Ask, “What am I being taught?”
When you stop perceiving your misfortune as an opportunity to pity yourself and start viewing it as an opportunity to grow … your entire life changes. No longer are you impotent, feeble or “the victim” – instead, you become strong and hopeful. Asking “What am I being taught?” in any stressful or burdensome situations is an opportunity to empower yourself and let yourself learn from the situation. This can obviously be hard to do. It took me two decades of my life to finally force myself to see things a different way. This was because I unconsciously loved the self-righteous feeling that my victim story gave me (i.e. “I’m a victim of life: I have the right to be angry and treat others badly”). So give yourself space and time. But most of all, try. You may even find it much quicker and easier than I did.
3. Stop blaming other people.
When we’re in pain, it’s natural for us to immediately look for “the one to blame.” We may blame our parents, our partners, our children, our colleagues, our boss, our friends, society, and anyone or anything who we feel could fit the bill. The truth is that none of these people, no matter what part they have played in our lives, are truly to blame. In fact blame itself is unhealthy. It’s much better to accept the part you’ve played in your unhappiness, and move on. That’s it.
4. Ask, “Where can I go from here?”
Too often we get bogged down in the turbulent emotions we feel and forget to take a practical approach to our pain. In order to be balanced humans we need to make use of emotion and logic. In this case, think about what you can do to remedy your suffering. Where can you go from here? What steps can you take (no matter how big or small) to feel better? For example, you may like to start looking for new jobs, or even better, start a company of your own. You may like to sign up to a local support group or buy a self-help guide. You may even decide to simply take a deep breath and relax into the present moment. The point is to do something, rather than continuing to simmer in your angst.
5. Your life has no limits. The only limits you create are in your mind.
This may sound cliché, but it is true. There is nothing stopping me from jumping on the bus and traveling to the beach right now – but myself. There is nothing stopping you from using every moment of your spare time to learn a new exciting trade that you can create a business out of … but yourself. When you come to realize how limitless your existence is, life takes on a new perspective. The only thing preventing you from writing your own book, watching the sunset every day or planning a luxurious holiday are your limiting beliefs, ideals, expectations and assumptions about what you can and can’t do.
6. Create a safe space that can’t be taken away.
As I mentioned previously in this article, the only certainty in life is uncertainty. You don’t know what your life will look like in 1 year, not even 1 week, day, or even minute. So what can you do? You can create a safe space within yourself. You can learn to become conscious of your destructive self-talk and replace it with kindness. You can learn to forgive your flaws and mistakes and celebrate your strengths and gifts. You can learn to respect your needs and dreams and have faith in your ability to fulfil them. You can learn to trust your strength to make it through the hard times. This is all the essence of what self-love is.
Your Life Sucks, My Life Sucks, and So Does Everyone Else’s …
There will always be someone who has a better and also a suckier life than you. The point is to be thankful for what you do have – EVEN if that requires forcing yourself into the habit. Yes, this may sound like a nauseating piece of advice, but in my experience, it’s worth doing.
Do you feel as though your life sucks at the moment? Has this article inspired any new perspectives? Please share below in the comments for everyone’s benefit!