Making an Ally of Adversity

Deriving something good from the bad.

Unless you have been abnormally lucky in life, you’ve endured difficult situations. For some of us, we’ve had what feels like more than our fair share. Often, we grow to become acutely aware of how our trials may have handicapped us. We don’t, however, usually give much thought to what may have been added to our lives during the storm, only what was taken away.

There are two sides to every coin. A yin to every yang. Even the worst conditions leave behind something useful. It may not be obvious and will likely require some searching, but it’s there.

Growing up poor may mess with our self-esteem and make us feel as though we always have something to prove or an invisible standard to live up to. As adults, we’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses. We need the fanciest car and the biggest house to show people that we’re doing well, or even to convince ourselves. Even if it’s all a facade and we’re actually struggling to maintain the lifestyle. It can have us constantly wrestling with the idea of being “good enough.”

But having been poor also teaches resourcefulness. We’ve learned how to make something out of nothing, as well as stretch what we do have (money, supplies, etc.) as far as it can possibly go. Ask someone who’s been poor how long they could make a tube of toothpaste last!

That is a valuable skill, resourcefulness, that may not have been developed so thoroughly had it not been out of necessity. Dealing with being poor is just one example of how something that feels like a negative at the time can actually help cultivate advantageous, unique abilities.

Grew up without parents? Certainly, it was unfairly and incomprehensibly challenging. You may have suffered great pain that has crippled you in some areas. But, you also learned to be independent. This is a skill some full-grown men and women never master. You likely can figure things out without the need for much guidance or supervision. Again, another benefit when adulting and in the workforce.

Disappointment breeds resiliency. Continuous uncertainly makes us better equipped to handle inevitable change. Misfortune allows us to feel deep gratitude when things finally do go our way. It helps keep us humble. Every failed relationship, every job loss teaches us something that can make us better for the next go round. If we allow it.

The point is, rather than focus on areas where you may be lacking because of what you have endured, flip it. Focus on what it taught you, what you gained, and then use it to your advantage. Identify how it may give you an edge over those who have traveled through fairer weather.

Hardship is a strong character builder. We always talk about overcoming adversity, but take it a step further. Embrace it. Let it fuel your ambitions. Make peace with it. Forgive those that may have made your path more difficult, knowing that in doing so you are taking back your power — and will ultimately emerge a healthier, stronger version of yourself on the other side.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

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