I’ve been experiencing some struggles in my life that have made me feel that life is hard. Too hard sometimes. On top of juggling the multiple priorities of adult life, my primary concern at the moment is that my beloved dog may have a tumor.
My worry and despair led me down the rabbit hole of believing that life is not fair. My little man does not deserve this. He is an innocent, adorable, real-life teddy bear who has never hurt anyone.
We do not deserve this. We have spent $1,500 (that we don’t have) and don’t have a definitive diagnosis. And we’ll have to shell out more cash that we don’t have for further investigation.
If we do find out it’s cancer, then we have to decide if we will treat it with chemotherapy and/or radiation or just give him palliative care. This will cost us more money we don’t have.
Having to make these kinds of tough life decisions is hard!
The bright side right now is that the vet prescribed some medications that seem to be helping and he’s happy, active and hungry again. For now.
Nevertheless, I became overwhelmed with worry, heartache and premature grief and did what I always do when I can’t deal with my emotions. I shut down and spent the day watching Netflix in bed, with my dog cuddling by my side.
I watched the Netflix series ‘Unbelievable’ based on a true story about an 18 year-old girl who is raped, but who is ultimately coerced by the police to admit she made it up. This poor girl had spent most of her life in foster care and had been horribly abused. She was just starting to build a life for herself. Then this happened to her. It was just so unfair!
Her situation sparked my outrage. It reinforced my feelings that life is hard and left me wondering why life can be so unfair.
Why is life so hard?
Sometimes, it may seem like life is a constant struggle. We feel like we’re barely keeping our head above water and then, out of nowhere, bad things happen to us and knock us down over and over again.
But we have to remember that bad things don’t really happen to us. They just happen.
As children, we had parents (or guardians) who made sure we had food to eat, that we had clothes to wear, that we had a roof over our head and a warm place to sleep. They ensured we stayed safe, despite our inexperienced efforts otherwise.
We didn’t have any of the responsibility for any of it. We just took for granted that it was there.
As we grew older and more independent, we were slowly given more responsibilities and more choices in our own lives. We got part-time jobs and had money to spend. We borrowed our parents’ cars to get around (or took the bus). We developed relationships and friendships and learned how to navigate them.
Eventually we moved out of our parents’ house and into our own places where we were hit with responsibilities we may have never experienced before. Things like buying and cooking our own food, rent and utility payments, cable, internet and phone bills.
We also became responsible for our own transportation, making our own appointments and managing our own careers. Some of us developed romantic relationships, got married and possibly had children, leaving us precariously juggling more and more responsibility and wondering when it will ever get easier.
In the midst of all these normal responsibilities of adult life, bad things can happen. You may experience some common struggles like the loss of a job leading to financial difficulties, or health issues, or a breakdown of an important relationship, or the death of a loved one which, understandably, make life harder. But they are not insurmountable.
While you may be coping well with the common struggles of life, your car may break down, a family member may suffer an illness, or your basement floods. This increases your already maxed out stress levels exponentially. You may begin to lose perspective and the circumstances can lead you to believe that life is just too hard and asking yourself why life is so unfair.
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Reasons why life is hard
In my 50+ years of life, I have sadly watched various friends and family members make their lives more difficult than they needed to be. More often than I’d like to admit, I have also fallen into some of the beliefs and behaviors listed below that left me wallowing in self pity and thinking that life isn’t fair.
Through these experiences, I’ve gradually learned to avoid many of these traps, as I’ve realized how they negatively affected my outlook on life. I have to admit, some of these life lessons were harder to learn than others.
The surest sign of an adult is the ability to accept delayed gratificationTommy Tomlinson, The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America
Nothing worth having comes easily. It takes hard work and effort. But our brains are wired to take the path of least resistance to achieve our goals. The ability to put off our short-term wants and doing the work to pursue long-term goals leads to our success. In this sense, life is hard, but your successes will build confidence and momentum.
Tip: Set some goals and list small steps that will help you achieve it. Complete each step, one at a time. Keep working towards your goals and don’t give up!
If freedom is a requisite for human happiness, then all that’s necessary to to provide the illusion of freedom.B.F. Skinner
Freedom is an illusion. For instance, you think if you start your own business, you will be free from the control of a boss, but you will need clients or customers and their needs will dictate what you do. And that business of yours is not likely to make a profit at the beginning, leaving you struggling for money, unable to afford what you want and feeling more trapped and frustrated than ever.
Tip: Accept that we are all accountable to someone in some way. Choose who you want to be accountable to and change your perception of freedom.
A hypocrite is one who sets good examples only when he has an audience.Anonymous
You say you’re a vegan because you love and respect all animals. But you love cheese and can’t resist a chunk of it every now and then. We can all be hypocritical at times because sometimes it’s just easier (there’s that path of least resistance again). Being a hypocrite is a good way to ruin relationships, which is a good way to ruin your life.
Tip: If you openly admit that you struggle with following the principles you proclaim you believe in, others will admire that honesty. Keep an open mind and realize that our opinions can and will change as we acquire more knowledge.
When awareness is brought into an emotion, power is brought to your life.Tara Meyer Robson
Intense emotions can influence our decisions and lead to self-destructive actions. Emotional regulation – the ability to monitor, evaluate, and modify our emotional reactions – can lead to more confident decisions, more effective actions, and a calmer state of mind.
Tip: Learning how to manage your emotions can reduce stress and anxiety, improve your general well-being, and help you attain your goals.
You have black and white thinking
Things aren’t always as black and white as they appear, it isn’t for us to question.Sara Addison-Fox, Retrieve
We all think of the world in black and white terms at times. It can have a profound effect on our relationships because it keeps us from seeing all the shades of grey in between which help us find middle ground to resolve conflicts.
Tip: Make an effort to see that not all things are either good or bad, but are in a gray area. Consider the impact on yourself or others before making decisions.
You are afraid to take risks
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.Mahammad Alii
When you are afraid to take risks, you fail to achieve your goals and live your best life. It limits our potential, makes us insecure, and keeps us from taking advantage of opportunities. If you never try, you will never know if you would have failed or succeeded.
Tip: Remember that mistakes and failure happen to everyone, it’s how we learn, and learning leads to success.
You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smiling, and non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.Steven Covey
Saying yes when you want to say no leads to feeling resentful and stressed. Most people can’t say no because they fear rejection and want to please everyone due to a lack of self-confidence and self-value. Or they say yes out of guilt or a sense of obligation.
Tip: Learning to say no can challenge you to overcome your fear of rejection and help you feel more in control of your life.
You rely too much on other people
Living off others is a form of bondage – for if you take from a person his responsibility to care for himself, you also take from him the opportunity to be free.Cameron C. Taylor, Attributes of Great Achievers
The people you rely on now won’t always be around to help you. Life can change in an instant, and change is inevitable. Your happiness and well-being shouldn’t be dependent on others.
Tip: Becoming more independent allows you to build confidence in yourself and have more control over your own life.
You worry about what other people think
You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.Richard P. Feynman
This is usually due to fear of rejection or judgment. Realize that people tend to focus on their own insecurities and worries, which keep them too occupied to worry about you. Once you start to recognize this, it may become a lot easier to start accepting yourself.
Tip: Focus on your own goals and work towards achieving them
You are too hard on yourself
Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal your Life
People with perfectionistic tendencies focus on all the areas in which they’re not perfect and blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. They fail to see how we learn and grow from our mistakes.
Tip: Being less self-critical can help you make better decisions and waste less time and emotional energy, which in turn will make you more productive.
You have experienced trauma
When you go through a traumatic event, there’s a lot of shame that comes with that. A lot of loss of self-esteem. That can become debilitating.Willie Aames
Trauma can leave you feeling helpless, ashamed and unable to trust other people. If you have experienced trauma in your life, you are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, as well as health problems. Trauma can also lead to alcohol and drug use as a way to numb the pain. All of these factors can affect your ability to make good decisions and can make your life harder.
Tip: You may want to seek professional help and work to increase your coping skills to help to resolve the underlying issues.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.Abraham Lincoln
Procrastination usually involves putting off an unpleasant but important task in favor of one that is more enjoyable or easier for a variety of reasons. It can make us feel guilty or ashamed and lead to reduced productivity that lowers the likelihood of reaching our goals.
Tip: Recognize that you’re doing it, then identify the reasons behind your behavior and use appropriate strategies to manage and overcome it.
You lack experience
People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.Paulo Cohelho, Veronika Decides to Die
If you’ve never dealt with a challenging situation before, you don’t necessarily have the life experience and skills required to resolve it. If your parents did everything for you, it’s natural that you have limited knowledge of how to deal with the struggles of life. Experience brings wisdom and wisdom guides you in making decisions.
Tip: Always remember that mistakes are opportunities to learn that lead to better informed decisions.
You live beyond your means
Don’t buy things you can’t afford with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like.Dave Ramsey
Everyone experiences financial difficulties at one time or another. Living beyond your means only exacerbates those difficulties and increases stress. You don’t have to keep up with the Jones’ (they’re probably broke). Learn to find contentment within your means.
Tip: Learning how to live within your means is an excellent way to avoid severe financial hardship. It can also be the basis of a financial plan you can develop to achieve your financial goals.
You overthink everything
I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.Jonathan Safran Foer
If you’re constantly reliving every detail of past mistakes or worrying about everything that can go wrong in the future, you may be suffering from analysis paralysis or, more simply, anxiety. When you focus on things you have no control over, you can’t focus on productive solutions to the problems right in front of you and you will begin to believe that life is not fair.
Tip: Try to change your focus to things you can control, like your attitude and actions, and brainstorm strategies you can use to cope with the situation.
You refuse to change your perspective
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.Oprah Winfrey
Our perspective is our lens through which we see our world. Specifically, it is our point of view of events. It is strongly influenced by our own life experiences, opinions and beliefs. For example, some of the best times of my life were spent on a beach, so it’s my favorite place to go. If you had a near-drowning experience at a beach that traumatized you, you may never want to go to one again. Neither of us is wrong, it’s just how we see things.
Tip: If you can change your perception of what’s happening around you and focus on the positive aspects of a situation, you’re less likely to believe that life is hard.
You sweat the small stuff
Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.Robert Eliot
Do small everyday hassles annoy you so much that you make them into a big deal? When you blow up over everyday minor situations like getting stuck in traffic, a grocery store lineup, or losing your keys, you increase your levels of stress. Stress leads to loss of focus and bad decisions.
Tip: Stop, take a breath and ask yourself if this will matter tomorrow, next week or next month. Chances are that it won’t.
I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.Bill Watterson
Most of us grew up with the belief that we could be whatever we wanted to be and have whatever we wanted if we just worked hard enough. Corporations make billions of dollars from us by raising our expectations of, well, everything. If you just buy X, then you will achieve Y. But the world doesn’t work that way and most of us never realize those dreams of success, leaving us frustrated and disappointed.
Tip: Lower your expectations and take pleasure in each small step you make towards your goals. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on and be grateful for what you do have.
You don’t ask for help
Never let your ego get in the way of asking for help when in desperate need. We have all been helped at a point in our lives.Edmond Mbiaka
At some point, even the most independent and self-sufficient person will need help. Nobody can do all of the things all of the time. While asking for help can be awkward, it’s important to remember that people want to help. It makes them feel good.
Tip: The next time you feel overwhelmed with all of life’s responsibilities, reach out and ask for help. Knowing when you ask for help is a valuable life skill.
You have a physical illness or disability
You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.Josh Shipp
We all tend to take our health for granted, and there is no question that physical illness or a disability makes life harder. It’s hard not to obsess about your limitations and what you can’t do, but you can shift the way you think about and cope with them.
Tip: Focus on what you can do and use the tools and devices available to you that help you overcome your limitations. Every small step will help you feel more empowered as you work towards your goals.
You are in a toxic relationship
Like arsenic, toxic people will slowly kill you. They kill your positive spirit and play with your mind and emotions. The only cure is to let them go.Denisse Lisseth
Healthy relationships are a source of positivity, happiness and love and improve your life. Toxic relationships are full of negative energy that make you uncomfortable, angry, and disappointed. These relationships can negatively affect every aspect of your life and make it harder.
Tip: It’s important to recognize that a toxic relationship is making your life miserable and, while it may be very difficult to do, sometimes the best solution is to free yourself of that toxic person to allow yourself room for peace and happiness.
You have just experienced a loss
So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
Losing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences anyone can go through, leaving them feeling that life is not fair. The waves of grief are unpredictable and various emotions can hit you at any time, leaving you feeling like you’re losing your mind. You may want to isolate yourself, but you’re still expected to carry on with your responsibilities like nothing ever happened. Lean on the people who love you.
Tip: Try to remember that, day by grueling day, your grief will lessen. Give yourself the gift of time to process it. You will still have bad days, but you will eventually have more good days than bad days.
You feel entitled
You may be worth of everything, but none of us deserves anything.Josh Steimle
If you feel that you deserve all the best life has to offer, but you’re not willing to do the work to earn it, you are entitled. Nobody owes you anything. Every effort you make towards reaching a realistic goal is what provides you with the feelings of pride and confidence that bring happiness and eventual success.
Tip: Realize that working towards and accomplishing your goals is what makes you feel happy and fulfilled. If you’re expecting success but not doing anything towards attaining it, you will feel like life is hard.
You hate your job
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.Charles Darwin
If you hate your job, where you have to be 5 or more days a week, it can have a negative impact on your overall outlook on life, making you feel stuck and leading you to believe that your life is hard. You shouldn’t stay in a job you hate. Always remember you have options.
Tip: Be proactive about your situation and begin your job search immediately. In the meantime, start building an emergency fund. Once you have enough money saved to cover your basic expenses for 2-3 months, whether or not you have found a new job, you can give your notice. This allows you time to focus exclusively on finding a new job if you haven’t yet. Consider that a part-time job can provide some additional income while you’re searching.
You are suffering from depression
Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.Jo Nesbo
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It can cause severe feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in daily activities or life itself. It may even make you feel like life itself is not worth living. A person with depression may not enjoy things they once loved and may feel like nothing can make them happy.
Tip: If you think you may be suffering from depression, you should seek medical assistance to discuss treatment options that can make your life better. If you would prefer to manage your depression or anxiety through therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a great tool to help you improve your outlook on life. Therapy can help you develop techniques and skills to understand and better manage your thoughts and feelings and empower you to move forward.
Is life hard for everyone?
In my experience, I’ve learned that life can be hard for everyone at some point. Whether you are wealthy, come from the most loving family, or have the best education money can buy, there will be occasions when life will be overwhelming.
Even people who seem to sail through life with no real obstacles will lose a loved one, experience profound disappointment, or have health issues. Everyone has problems and everything is relative. If you look below the surface, you will see that everyone is basically the same.
Why is life harder for some than for others?
It may seem that some people go through life so easily yet for others it seems to be so hard. You may even believe that they have better luck than you do. The fact is that success or failure in life is mostly determined by the choices we make and the work we put in, not by luck.
People who have won the lottery have been left broke after being used by so-called friends for their money. People who have made huge amounts of money have spent it all and have been left with an impoverished retirement.
Maybe that person you think has it easy was the child of poor parents who put themselves through community college doing a shitty job and graduated with no debt and a decent GPA. Maybe their first job out of college paid minimum wage and demanded long hours.
Maybe they eventually landed a good job that established their career. Maybe they persevered and now they’re enjoying the rewards of their efforts. But you may just see where they are now and you have no idea how hard it was for them to get there.
My thoughts on why we sometimes believe that life is hard
Some of the reasons that lead us to believe that life is hard are out of our control (and maybe that’s why we feel that life is unfair), but many are dictated by our own choices. Sometimes, just a small shift in our behaviour or our thinking can dramatically change the way we feel about our life. Time and experience can also change our thinking and, sometimes, we don’t even realize it.
It’s also important to realize that without pain, without struggle, there is no joy. There is no happiness. We tend to quickly raise our expectations when things in life get better. As our expectations go up, our level of happiness goes down. We become complacent and we stagnate.We have nothing to work towards. By working to overcome these obstacles, we develop skills and confidence and we learn and we grow.
Every single day we make our own choices. And it all boils down to choices.
Life is hard sometimes. No one ever said it would be easy, and life would be boring if it was. But it is worth it.
If the above tips don’t help you to improve your outlook on life, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a great tool to help you to manage your response to them. A qualified professional can help you recognize the issues causing your stress or anxiety and identify the root causes. They can help you develop techniques and skills to understand and better manage your thoughts and feelings and empower you to move forward.