Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger...Maybe

So the other day I was listening to my Spotify playlist as I was running and the song “stronger” by Kelly Clarkson came on.  I have always liked this song, but for some reason that night the lyrics really stuck with me, particularly the line “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  I have heard people say this a million times- and in fact I myself have been known to say it quite frequently- but  that night was the first time I really actually thought about the process by which negative events in our lives have the potential to make us stronger- if we choose to pursue that path.  Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that becoming stronger after a disappointment or a setback or a failure is not an automatic process- there is no guarantee that something “that doesn’t kill you” will make you a stronger or better person.  In fact, think about how many people you know that those types of events in their lives have instead left them embittered or completely broken? 

I often have a tendency to be like Pollyanna and see the world through rose-colored glasses, but the truth is that life is not fair and no matter how hard I try, there are often situations and circumstances that I cannot control and sometimes things just do not turn out the way that I hoped.  How many of us have suffered a job loss, a broken heart, the loss of a loved one,  a serious injury in the middle of training for your next race- I am not trying to be melodramatic here, but sometimes our best laid plans or dreams are shattered or do not come to fruition.  It is true that when those things happen they can make us stronger- BUT ONLY IF WE MAKE THE CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO PURSUE THE PATH OF GROWING AND LEARNING AND BECOMING STRONGER.

So when life has thrown us a curve ball and someone or something has disappointed or hurt us, what steps can we take to make sure that we become stronger instead of weaker or bitter?  I am no psychologist or expert, but from my personal experience here are some things that help me cope and move forward:
  •  Reach out:  One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume that we are the only one who has ever gone through this situation or that we have to hide our fear/pain/disappointment from others.  When you are weak and hurting, let those people in your life who you trust and care for you love you and comfort you.  And it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I do not need advice right now- I just need someone to listen and empathize.”  There is really something comforting about knowing that you are not alone and that you are not the first person who has ever gone through what you are experiencing.
  • Don’t get trapped in the blame or excuses game:  It is really tempting to start pointing fingers or laying blame when something bad happens.  Those of you who know me in person know that I over-analyze to a fault (it’s the lawyer in me!) and I really struggle with wanting to put all of the pieces together so that everything makes sense and I can understand why , what and how something happened. Unfortunately for me, life does not always make sense and no matter how hard you try you cannot always sort everything out or figure out why things happened.   Instead, the best thing you can do is try your hardest to accept the situation as it- understand that it happened, that you cannot change what happened, and that at the end of the day blaming yourself or someone else for the situation does not result in any productive changes- it certainly does not make you stronger.  
  •   Objectively examine the situation:  Understanding that you cannot likely change what happened, in order to grow as a person you have to be able to look back at the situation objectively and ask yourself some (oftentimes hard!!!) questions:  was there anything that I did that contributed to the negative outcome that I would want to do differently in the future? What lessons did I learn from this? Are there any boundaries or changes I want to implement in my life as a result of what happened? Trust me, I am not saying you need to analyze the situation ad nauseuam- I just think that some conscious thought must be given in these circumstances if you truly do want to grow and change and not just keep repeating the same negative patterns.
  • Take care of yourself: You may not be able to control all of the outside forces, people or feelings in your life, so focus on the things that you can control.  Make sure that you sleep, eat healthy, and continue your exercise regimen (honestly, there is nothing better than exercise endorphins!!)  Focus on the things that you HAVE to do to keep your mind and body strong and allow yourself some grace to let the unnecessary tasks or obligations slide for a little bit- recognize that this is a temporary phase and the sooner  you allow yourself to heal and process, the sooner you will be able to return to your full energetic self. 
  • Move on: Seriously, at some point you have to say, it's over, its done, I'm moving on to better things.  You may have to tell yourself that every day for awhile, but the truth is the world is full of great opportunities that you are going to miss if you are sitting on your couch feeling sorry for yourself forever. 
As Jillian Michaels says, “a bad day for your ego is a good day for your soul.”  I do honestly believe that our potential to grow and develop as people is the strongest when we are in the valleys of life, not when everything is going smoothly and perfectly.  It is true that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”- if we are willing to make the choice to learn, grow and move forward.  I don't know about you, but I do not want to be defined by my hurts and bruises and scars- instead I want to conquer my disappointments with grace, strength, and dignity. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice. Thank you. I needed that. God bless...