Chapter 3: Stop playing the victim
Life is messy, uncomfortable, and unfair. It is unpredictable, frustrating, and full of challenges that will nearly break you. There will be many times in life you will find yourself asking why? Why was I born to parents who didn’t give a damn? Why did I grow up an outcast? Why did my teachers hate me? Why was I terrible at sports? Why did I not get into that college? Why did someone with less experience and expertise get the promotion over me? Why am I in an unhealthy and toxic relationship? Why can’t I get out? Why did my best friend die of cancer at 30 years old? Why? Why? Why? These internal questions will be a constant throughout your life and your legacy will be directly related to how you respond to the “whys”.
The easiest way to answer your questions and silence your thoughts is to push the blame on someone or something else. If you deflect the struggles you face, they seemingly go away. If you drink alcohol or use drugs as a method to forget or numb the pain, it seemingly disappears. But the funny thing about problems is this: no matter how forcefully you attempt to cover them up, all those problems will still be waiting for you in the morning. And no matter how diligently you convince yourself they are someone else’s fault, those problems are still your responsibility and you must face them.
Sure, I believe you when you tell me you had an absent father, a drug addicted mother or an abusive spouse. I believe you when you tell me you grew up not knowing if there would be food on the table for dinner or that you were the school joke because you wore hand-me-down clothes that did not fit. I believe you when you tell me that there are months you are not sure if you will be able to pay your mortgage or you are so heartbroken by the loss of a loved one that you cannot go on. Everyone has their own battles to fight and demons to conquer but blaming them on someone else will do nothing but hinder you.
Instead of wallowing in your own sorrow, you must take an inventory of your life and turn your struggles into stamina. You must use your pain as motivation to carry forward. It is time to stop blaming the world for your problems and start facing them. Stop trying to numb your pain and instead start feeling it. Pain is real and raw and uncomfortable, but the only way to overcome it is to acknowledge and address it.
I do not for one second doubt that you have been through a lot of really hard things. But guess what? This is life and nobody every promised it would be easy. These hard days make tough people if they are used as a source of inspiration instead of hindrance. If your dad was absent, remember how important it is to be present for your children. If your mom was an addict, do not forget how harmful picking up the bottle can be. If you are in an abusive relationship, treat everyone with a little extra compassion and love. If you did not get the job you applied for, evaluate areas in which you may be lacking and work to improve yourself.
We have all been through our share of bad days. We have all experienced the disappointment when the one person who was supposed to never let you down did exactly that. We have all been heartbroken and lost someone we care about. We all have skeletons in our closet. We all have a past and, at some point in our lives, have all blamed someone else for our baggage. But answer me this: do you blame someone else when you succeed? You can lie to me, but do not dare lie to yourself. If you do not blame someone else for your success, why blame them for your failures? Why classify yourself as the victim or poor soul who is just a reflection of their bad days? Get over yourself and start taking responsibility because you, and only you, dictate your destiny.
Take each battle you have faced and use them as lessons. View each obstacle you have encountered as a moment that gave you strength. Instead of continuing to live the life that made you feel like a victim, use those negative experiences as models of what not to do going forward. You have the power to change the course of your life and, in turn, the world around you.
Now, I know these things I am telling you to do may seem like extraordinary tasks. I know it may feel like you are at the bottom of Mount Everest and the journey will be painful and daunting. You are correct. Nothing in life worthwhile comes easy. Nothing. But remember this one thing: you have survived your hardest days thus far and you have become a stronger person because of them. Every night you go to bed exhausted from fighting your demons but every morning you wake up to continue the fight. It may not seem like a big deal but this is bravery. Face each challenge life throws at you head on. Work your ass off to create a life that brings you joy rather than dwelling on the unfair hand you were dealt. Choose to be happy. Choose to adapt and overcome. Choose to dig yourself out of your tomb of self-pity. You are in control of your life and you are responsible for the legacy you leave behind.