Philosopher Friedrich Nietczsche said, “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” That isn’t always the most comforting saying when we are going through something difficult. And while it may not always be true, there evidence that facing challenges can improve our ability to deal with adversity in the future.
The idea is that as we face challenges we strengthen our ability it deal with them. We do it in a variety of ways. We can simply boost our confidence with evidence that we are capable of meeting the challenge. We may also learn new coping skills and strategies so that we face the next challenge with an even bigger selection of ways to succeed.
However, it isn’t always true that we use adversity to make us stronger. Sometimes people simply see adversity as an insurmountable road block. Instead of using the opportunity to learn new ways of dealing with challenges they just add to their pile of evidence. That evidence may be used to support a variety of thoughts. Some common ones are “life is unfair and is always stacked against me” or “I’m just not smart enough, strong enough, good enough” or “I’m just a failure.” For some people they begin to feel that when something good happens to them, they get punished.
That is a road that can be easy to start going down. If we are tired or down on ourselves we may not want to face one more challenge. Those challenges can begin to seem like a nefarious plot where all of the universe is working against us. When that happens we don’t get stronger…we can just keep spiraling downward into darker and deeper despair and depression.
The trouble with the train of thought, besides the obvious bad outcome, is that it is seriously flawed. And the deeper we get into it, the more it keeps us from seeing that flaw. Because the truth is that life isn’t all good things. It is a series of good and bad events. Sometimes the bad events happen because of bad choices or lack of effort or some bad habit we have. But bad things also happen for no good reason. Sometimes we do things just like we should and something bad happens. It is life and much of it is out of our control.
So, do bad things sometimes follow good things? Absolutely. But it isn’t life punishing you. It is just life. Good and bad things are always going to be happening to us. None of us is perfect and we are going to bring some of those bad things on ourselves. Others will happen just because. How we choose to focus on them is what makes the difference.
If you only focus on the negative events and see it as a condemnation of you and your life, it will seem that way. The negative things will always be there and you will just keep finding more and more evidence. But if you can also see the positives it makes a difference. Life becomes something to be lived and enjoyed even as you face the challenging parts. And that is what they are…challenges that can make us stronger.