Everyone talks about how experiencing hardship and overcoming adversity builds character. But when you’re the one actually going through the hardship, it’s easy to forget that. It’s tempting to wallow in self-misery and think that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
We’re currently living through a pandemic and there is a lot of uncertainty about the economy. From growing up poor to being cheated on, these are some of the hardships I’ve experienced and the valuable lessons I learned by going through them. Hopefully, they will show you that any hardship you are experiencing now, just might be exactly what you need for your future.
1. Hardship makes you more grateful and a happier person
I grew up poor. As a child, I was scared to fall sick as I knew my parents wouldn’t be able to afford the medical bills. I didn’t have small luxuries like new clothes and toys. Everything was either gifted or second-hand. I remember worrying about money, all the time.
When you experience hardship, you dream of it ending. And when it does, you never forget the pain you went through to get there, and how grateful you are that it’s over. Gratitude is a huge source of happiness. And isn’t that the ultimate goal for many of us, to be happy?
Back then, we couldn’t afford to eat out so we always ate home-cooked meals. The only time we ate out was on special occasions like birthdays. This means that until today, I feel so happy and grateful every single time I don’t feel like cooking and can choose to eat out.
Some might say I have low standards but actually, I have extremely high standards. I refuse to be poor again, so I work very hard to earn and save for my future. But to make me happy, all I need is some McDonald’s chicken nuggets or stir-fried noodles from the coffeeshop.
2. The most painful times in life are when you achieve the most progress
My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my university education. I worked full-time while studying for my law degree overseas. While other students were out partying and making new friends, I was busy trying to figure out how to pay my rent and bills.
As a result of all the juggling between working and studying, I learned how to study efficiently and get things done in a shorter time frame compared to my peers. This is a useful skill that I have taken with me through life.
Perhaps it goes back to the cavemen days when it was all about survival of the fittest. When we are faced with hardship, the brain and body focus on survival. Surviving in this day and age means you make use of resources around you and utilise them to your advantage.
Many people who haven’t experienced hardship don’t have this skill. So, they really struggle when faced with other challenges.
3. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
I started my freelance career while holding down a full-time job. As I worked on my side hustle during my lunch break and on weekends, I remember feeling tired and stressed a lot of the time. But I wanted to break free and leave the job I hated so badly. I wanted it enough to persevere through the lack of sleep and stress.
When you experience hardship, you probably had to sacrifice something. As a result, your pain threshold is likely to be higher than the average person. This means you are more likely to achieve your dream as you don’t mind feeling the pain needed to get it. It’s not about how much you want it, it’s about how much you are willing to sacrifice to get it.
Anyone can have big dreams and ambitions. You could want something with your entire soul, but are you willing to put in the hard work that’s needed to get there?
4. Hardship teaches you to be compassionate
This is something that I’m ashamed of, but I had to experience it to truly understand it. I used to be sceptical of people with mental health problems. When people said they were depressed, I used to roll my eyes internally and secretly think they needed to be more grateful. I recommended they go for a run or focus on the positive.
This selfish and inaccurate perspective changed when I experienced mild depression myself. Suddenly, focusing on the positive didn’t help. I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was debilitating and so scary.
Nowadays, when people tell me they are depressed, I listen and empathise. I realise that while a run may help, many other factors come into play, such as chemical imbalances in the brain, which need to be treated with medication. Had I not personally gone through the same experience, I doubt I would be as compassionate and empathetic now.
Of course, not everyone has to go through something in order to put themselves into another’s shoes. But there’s no denying that hardship broadens your perspective in ways that you will only realise with the benefit of hindsight.
5. Hardship helps you make better life choices
My first boyfriend cheated on me. I always say I am so glad that he did. He taught me at a young age about trust and character (or lack of it). I know the warning signs and I also know when to walk away. Similarly, this can be applied to when you make mistakes or bad decisions that lead to hardship. You learn what not to do and become someone who makes better decisions.
It’s better to learn this skill early on, rather than later when you don’t have as much energy or time.
These Are The Lessons I’ve Learned From Overcoming Adversity In Life
Looking back at the hardships I’ve experienced in life, I’ve realised that it was in these times that I learned the most. Every single hardship propelled my learning and growth, and overcoming adversity shaped me into who I am today. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control how you react to it. You could become bitter or better. I know which one I want!
Cover: Courtesy of Aisha Preece