As I often do, today I was taking inventory of my life. Normally this is never a good thing for me to do, usually it ends up in tears and mild depression for a time. Though something occurred to me today. I have always reviewed my life’s struggles as a stigma, crucifying myself for all of the stupidity that I have sometimes fallen into or created. We most often forget to give thanks to our struggles and the small (or sometimes large) triumph’s we have because of them.
Within these moments of reflection I have often asked myself; “Why must we suffer?”
I am the person I am today, not because I have had the perfect childhood or the most supportive of friends, but because this wasn’t always so. I am the person I am today, not because I have always picked the most trustworthy to associate with and made the right decisions, but because I have screwed up from time to time.
Life’s Struggles Teach Life’s Lessons
Most of what I have come to appreciate about myself has not always come because life has been good to me. Actually, now that I think about it, it is completely the opposite.
For me, as for everyone, life has been a complex mixture of experiences. Some days have been like a walk in the park, while others have felt like a rock-climb with an inverted cliff face. Though, every bit of this has defined the person I am today.
If you have, like me, ever wondered why we must endure life’s struggles — consider this; The struggles and the way that we deal with them, are among the many gifts that shape our lives. If we can find with our hearts to replace, resentment, frustration and anger with appreciation for life’s struggles we can heal emotional scars and reach the epitome of self improvement.
“You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase; make use of suffering” – Henri Frederic
Strength and Resilience
My inner strength was not obtained through day dreams or partying every night. Instead, I am the strong, resilient man today because I’ve chosen to dust myself off and put one foot in front of the other every time I got knocked down.
Each time I have suffered a little, I have gained a little more in strength. When I have suffered greatly, I have gained more resilience to weakness and realized I set my own limitations.
Integrity hasn’t always been my strongest of traits. I thought the only way to survive was to not be honest, fair and noble. I learned the importance of this characteristic by surrounding myself with those who did.
Again, this wasn’t always my strong suit in life. But because I was always told that I wasn’t smart enough, held back in school or placed within the Special Education program, I strived to prove to myself they were wrong. I read books instead of entertainment magazines, asked questions when I didn’t understand, studied until dawn, listened to peoples opinions even though they were painfully different then my own and refused failure in my quest for knowledge.
I am indeed a guy that doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeves, overflowing with empathy for ALL people or considerate of others differences. I have learned the hard way what it is like to be discriminated against, seen as different and overlooked as if I don’t matter. Despite my inabilities I still understand that everyone is deserving of compassion, no matter what form it comes in.
I didn’t gain courage by always being safe. I found myself in many situations that have scared and worried me. It was a struggle at the time, but surviving those situations was the proof that I needed to realize I am a survivor. My courage and confidence exist because, I slept in the dark alone, I’ve looked in the closet for a monster, I’ve stood up to my superiors and conquered my own insecurities head-on.
Resourcefulness and Creativity
I am not resourceful because I have been handed everything in life on a silver platter. Instead, I learned because my free ride did NOT come. Thanks to my life’s struggles, thanks to my experience of lack, I learned to create and workaround what isn’t laid at my feet.
I have a healthy self-esteem today, but it’s not because everyone has always praised me. I have learned to love myself by painfully watching those who didn’t see their own value or self-worth. Their struggles will not be my own. And it was that push I needed to deal with my issues, separate how I see myself from how other’s see me and set the ground work for those that may be watching.
I would not trade my, strength, integrity, intellect, compassion, courage, creativity or self-esteem for an effortless life. So, as I embrace these characteristics as a part of me, I recognize the benefit of my life’s struggles that have brought me to this point.