If there’s one thing I realized while publishing articles on mental strength, it’s that there is one message that people hate more than anything else. Can you guess which one?
“Your life is not as bad as you think.”
I mean it. I can say that you’re a lazy fuck who needs to get off his ass, that your boyfriend is a toxic person, or that you need to stand up to your family and go against their beliefs, and your reaction will probably be: “Thanks Phil, that’s just what I needed to hear!”
But if you start reading this week’s article and hear me saying that, no matter how bad your life is right now, you have many advantages you should be thankful for, you’ll curse me out and leave this site faster than Usain Bolt at the Olympics.
We don’t like to admit this, not even to ourselves, but we are selfish. Sure, we can empathize with others and imagine their pain, we even care for the people around us, but at the end of the day, the only person we really care about is “me”.
Think about it: You date somebody because they make you happy; if they don’t, you break up with them. You work hard so you will be rewarded; if you’re not, you will stop trying so hard. Even if you donate or volunteer, you do it because it makes you feel likes a good person; if it didn’t, you would quit.
It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. However, that’s not a bad thing.
This selfishness is what pushes each and every one of us to move forward, improve, and succeed. It’s the dissatisfaction that motivates us to build a better life and make this world a better place. As the old saying goes, you can’t help others unless you help yourself first.
Considering all of this, it stands to reason that we care the most about our problems. I mean, sure, a lot of people also deal with anxiety, or relationships, or finding work, but I have to live with myself. Knowing that others struggle with similar issues doesn’t help me make my life better or solve my own issue.
Here’s where the flip side comes into play.
If you want to be a strong person, you need to find the balance between “wanting more” and “appreciating what you have”. If you’re never hungry for change, your life will always stay the same; but if you’re always hungry for change, you will never be satisfied with what you achieve.
While my other articles focus on pushing you forward, this one is meant to balance you out. No matter how much you’re struggling, things really could be much, much worse for you, and you need to be aware of that.
Take me, for example. When you think about it, I’m lucky as fuck.
Sure I worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot of things to get to where I am. But I also had a much better starting point than many. I was born to a middle-class family in a country with great health benefits. I can express myself without the fear of injury or death if people don’t like my beliefs. My family wasn’t rich, but I never had to worry about not having enough for a decent life. My parents, flawed as they are, are good people and I can always count on their support and help, even as I’m pushing thirty.
On the other hand, my best friend was born in poverty. Both of his parents have a physical disability. While my parents took care of me and gave me allowance, he had to work two jobs to support his parents and brothers. While people like you and I were thinking about college and stressing over tests, he struggled with having enough money to pay his rent. Then his girlfriend killed herself. Then his mom got cancer. Then the bank ate up all of his money. Then his brother ended up in jail. Then his other brother got diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Then, on top of all that, a fucking worldwide pandemic hit.
For many of us, the pandemic was the “big shit” on our life plans. It put an enormous amount of stress on our relationships, routines, and mental health. For many others, it was the 1001st “big shit” in a row.
Just because your life could be worse, it doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Just because you’re not dying of hunger or walking ten miles for fresh water every morning, it doesn’t mean you should accept your life as it is and be totally happy with every little thing.
But for every bad thing that happens to you, there are ten things in your life others would kill for.
Instead of thinking about all the problems on your plate, take five minutes — just five minutes — to think about all the good in your life. Try to come up with a list of things you are lucky to have.
I’m talking about things you didn’t earn through hard work and effort. Things like being born tall, or in a rich country, or to a good family. Things like not experiencing an earthquake or getting mugged. Things like being born healthy or not having your mom die at childbirth.
I know you hate to think about it, but you’re luckier than you think. From time to time, it’s good to remind yourself of that.