It’s a fact that we all have our ups and downs. And while we’d rather have fun times and victories all the time, those moments when we’re down are actually when life teaches us the most profound lessons.
In this article, I’ll share those unexpected lessons that may seem harsh at first, but often carry the wisdom we need to move us forward.
Hopefully, they’ll help you see your challenging times in a different light, especially if you’re going through one at the moment. Let’s dive in!
1) Emotions are temporary
One thing I wish I could tell my teenage self is this age-old adage: This too shall pass.
I could’ve used that wisdom during those times when I would wallow in a cycle of self-pity, disappointment, and pain.
Fortunately, by the time I hit my late twenties, I’d experienced enough heartbreak to realize that yes, everything indeed passes!
I still feel low some days, so low that I feel like the sun would never shine again…but now I know that as the weeks go by, the intensity of my emotions will fade.
So, when you’re going through such a period, be patient. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to “get over it” quickly. Nor should you feel like you’ll be living forever in that pit of despair.
Life has its own timetable, and most times, it doesn’t sync with ours. But trust that you’ll come out the other side, maybe with a few cracks and chips here and there, but definitely intact and ready to live again.
2) Vulnerability is a strength
Speaking of emotions brings me to this next point, that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
Society has taught us to view vulnerability as a weakness, something to be hidden away lest other people pity or ridicule us.
But when you’re down in the dumps, I hope you’ll see what life is trying to teach you – that you’re actually stronger when you allow yourself to be vulnerable.
There’s power in being able to admit you’re having a tough time. As researcher Brené Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
Not only that, vulnerability teaches you this next thing…
3) People want to help – but you have to help them help you
This is one thing I learned during the pandemic. When I had to close down my business due to the lockdown, it was a truly low point for me.
I’ve always been an independent person, priding myself on doing everything alone. I’d expected 2020 to be a great year for my business; instead, I had to say goodbye to it in a blink.
I was so distraught that I eventually caved in and opened up to my family and friends about my problems. Almost everyone was quick to extend whatever help they could, financial and emotional, until I was able to get back on my feet.
The lesson there for me was that it’s okay to ask for help. And that most people want to help, but they won’t know you need it until you have the courage to ask for it.
No matter how strong or independent we are, life humbles us and reminds us that we’re not meant to do it all alone.
And you know what else you find out when you drum up the courage to ask for help?
4) You discover who your real friends are
Notice how I said “almost everyone” in that story above? That’s because I found out that I had some fair-weather friends after all.
That’s another unexpected lesson we learn when the chips are down. The ones who stay with you? Those are the keepers.
And the ones who were with you through the good times but were nowhere to be found during the storm? Those are the ones you don’t need in your life.
So, sure your problems might get you down, but at least they’re a great fake-friend filter!
5) Failure is just a stepping stone
Another important lesson I learned during those hard times was that failure doesn’t mean the end of the road.
That episode in my life where I had to close down my business was my cue to launch a different career – being a writer.
And you know what? All of my past “failures” have served me well, because along the way, I learned many skills that enabled me to share my knowledge with others.
I put it in quotes because now I see those failures for what they really are – stepping stones towards success. And more importantly, to self-discovery.
In fact, not only did I change my perspective on my failures, I even changed my idea of success.
6) Your perspective on success gets altered
That’s right, those hard times really helped me rethink what success means for me. Where I used to think it meant being able to afford everything I wanted and being the best in my field, I now have a different definition.
And it’s this – a balanced life, a sense of purpose, and enough money in the bank for my needs. Needs, not wants.
To be honest, it’s quite a downgrade from my old definition, if we were to go by what society says. But strangely, I’m happier. I have more time to spend with my family, and I love living simply and having fewer worldly distractions around me.
I have my hard times to thank for that!
7) You learn the power of letting go
This is exactly what I meant by simplifying my life. And it’s something you’ll learn too during difficult times.
By letting go, I don’t just mean the material stuff. I’m also talking about the negative emotions, the circumstances, and other elements in your life that no longer serve you.
It can be anything that’s holding you down. Maybe it’s a toxic partner, maybe it’s your guilt or fears or resentment, or maybe it’s all the expectations of the people in your life…
Whatever it is, you’ll realize just how much all that baggage is weighing you down. And when you decide to let go so you can stand back up, you’ll be amazed at how light you feel.
As hard as it is to release the things you’ve clung to for so long, letting go frees up space for peace, for growth, for new opportunities. It’s the only way to heal and feel excited about life once more.
8) You learn to appreciate the small things
When you’re going through a tough time, it’s hard to look past the negatives. So how do you deal?
Well, that’s your cue to turn your attention to the little things you normally take for granted.
The fact that your partner orders pizza to cheer you up…
The cool breeze of the wind on your cheeks…
The feel of a good book in your hands…
How your sister calls you up every week to chat…
You get my drift. It’s all about the simple joys. It feels counterintuitive to be thankful when things are going upside down, but you know what?
Finding small things to be grateful for can shift your perspective and tilt your world back to its rightful axis, tiny joy by tiny joy.
9) You learn to be okay with the fact that life isn’t always fair
Have you ever asked yourself this question during hard times: “Why me?” Ever thought that life isn’t fair?
I used to do this all the time. Until I came across a quote by Arthur Ashe, which I’ll paraphrase here…
“If I were to say, ‘Why me?’ about the bad things, then I should have said, ‘Why me?’ about the good things that happened in my life.”
That thought made it easier for me to see the reality of life – sometimes it will go your way, sometimes it won’t.
We don’t always get what we want or what we think we deserve, and that’s okay. It’s how we deal with these adversities that truly matters.
10) You are more resilient than you think
Finally, resilience is something trials will teach you, and it will probably come as an unexpected lesson.
See, when the light is too dim, we often find it hard to see just how much we’re capable of. We think there’s no way we can survive this heartbreak, or find another job in this economy…we lean towards feeling like we’re at our limit. Like we’re going to break.
The good news is, we won’t. You won’t.
That’s exactly what you should take away from the tough times in your life. After all, you’re still standing here, aren’t you?
That’s a testament to your inner strength. To your resilience and ability to pick up the pieces of your life and patch it all up again.
So no matter what curveball life gives you, brace yourself and catch it. Let it knock you down. Lay down in the dirt for a while, if you have to.
And when you’ve caught your breath, stand back up. Believe me, the moment you do that, it means you’re already stronger and wiser than you were a curveball ago.
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