A case for toughing it out
There’s been a shift from toughing things out to giving up if it’s too difficult, or letting your emotions out if things get rough. Don’t hold it in and express what you’re feeling to the world. There’s a movement that romanticizes expressing weaknesses. I believe the term for it was “toxic masculinity”. Exhibiting the toughest or resiliency through challenging things isn’t as glamorous as before.
As one of my friends puts it “Why do things if it puts you in physical, mental, and spiritual pain?”
I’d like to argue for the opposite; vulnerability is overrated.
Tough times = tough people
Tough times create tough people. Tough people create good times. Good times create weak people. Weak people create tough times. We are at the latter, or at least what I hear from almost everyone around me. I often challenge why in the best of times, we still need to practice working like it’s tough. By we, I mean my family and self. We’ve worked incredibly hard to be able to afford a decent lifestyle 1. What got us here wasn’t by accident and it was through perseverance. Why not indulge and enjoy ourselves?
Nick Saban, the head coach for the Alabama Football Team, puts it best:
“Complacency creates a blatant disregard for doing what’s right,”
This is a man that has won 6 national championships and is constantly coaching the best and most talented team year after year. He is also one of the highest-paid coaches and is surrounded by greatness at all levels of the team. But yet, his fear is a success will breed complacency. It’s challenging to get to the top but extremely difficult to stay on top.
Once you’ve convinced yourself “you’ve made it”, you’ll stop doing all the things that got you there. All the hours put in to build your skillset, and all the lessons you’ve learned will be thrown away because of comfort. It’s even easier when you have people around you telling you to slow down because it’s time to relax. They’ll tell you to not work so hard because you’re already successful. These are the same people that don’t want you to be more successful than them. Every single successful person that I’ve met has told me that the process is everlasting. You can still learn and get better at things even as you approach your 90s or even your 100. If you let your mind get corroded with sweet whispers, all that you’ve worked for can and will be wasted.
I personally believe that adversity is needed in everyone’s life. Not because you can brag about it later, but it gives you an opportunity to develop grit and character. You not only can inspire others, but also convince yourself that you’re able to handle difficult and tough times. If you know that when there’s adversity and you won’t crumble, anything is possible. If you know that all it takes is for you to take it bit by bit until the task is done, then you won’t worry if at first, it’s a tall order. The confidence you build through enduring through tough times will become your identity. You’re someone that welcomes adversity because it will teach you and hone your grit.
Of course, there’s a goldilocks zone of too easy and too difficult. We must select challenging things that aren’t too far out of our reach. It’s best to build momentum and teach yourself that you can handle a little trouble or distress. That’s why it’s best to let our children figure things out for themselves instead of doing everything for them. If you do everything for them, you’ll teach that my parents will handle it if things get too tough.
Most importantly, it teaches us to be self-reliant. This skill is important to pass on to the next generation. The ability to empower another is something that will be carried on for the rest of their lives. It’s not that we want our kids to go through the tough times we did, but it’s to let them acknowledge that if things were ever hard, they would be okay even if we are there for them or not.
Taking things to the extreme is often not the best way to teach or to put yourself through it. Don’t be an emotionless robot if someone comes to you with a problem. The same with treating everything as it’s the end of the world. Treat it like insurance, you won’t need it now, but you’ll be glad to have it when you do need it.
Life isn’t about going through the hardest path just to prove yourself. If that’s you, and you got some good out of it, that’s fine. Just don’t berate others for not being as “tough”. A little discipline and humility are something we learn when we go through hardship. It’s not meant as boasting leverage over others. Simply going through challenging things for your ego often puts you back into the category of “weak”. When we see someone going through a tough time, don’t take it upon yourself to compare their journey with yours. Just because you endured more doesn’t take away the difficulty of their journey. We should sympathize and encourage them to keep going. Especially when it’s something we know they could do and they’re on the verge of giving up.
Tough times will also make you vulnerable-a state of emotional, physical, and emotional duress. If it’s unbearable, there’s no shame in getting help. What I’m advocating is to keep going when it’s slightly uncomfortable. There will be varying degrees of what that will feel like, but the goal is to keep going back to that uncomfortable state until you become comfortable. It might take days, weeks, or years, but if you’re persistent, you’ll get there.
Tough times are an opportunity to become tough people. But let’s change the formula and have tough people inspire others to become tough amongst good times.