The idea that going through tough times makes you a stronger person isn’t a new one. Adversity can totally help people grow and develop character, but that doesn’t mean it’s any fun to go through. It’s also not particularly comforting when you’re really struggling to know that someday in the distant future, you’ll be grateful for the tough times.
- They show you what you actually want. Sometimes we go through a tough period when something we thought would be amazing is the total opposite. We experience anxiety thanks to a nightmare job or realize the person we love is no longer interested in a relationship. This stuff is awful, of course, and in the moment it’s tricky to be grateful for it. But later, you’ll be glad because you’ll realize you need a different sort of career and that maybe next time you’ll recognize the signs of non-commitment earlier on.
- Repeat after me: everyone has their Stuff (emphasis on the caps). I think you’re actually an adult when you realize this. You could learn this in high school or your mid-20s or even your 30s. It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you think someone’s life is super easy, think again. I work out at a barre studio with a lot of women who are all wives and moms, and sometimes it’s tempting to think their lives are all shiny and perfect. But then they share a story about a struggling kid who’s being bullied and I realize we all have our Stuff. There’s just no way around it, and that idea is kind of freeing, isn’t it? It helps you not take your life so seriously (unless your Stuff is truly a tragedy and then of course it’s pretty serious).
- Your problems are always better. My mom always says that when you talk to another person about their problems, you’re going to say, “That’s cool, I actually like my problems, I’ll keep them.” It can always be so much worse, and chances are you’re going to get through this rough time and come out the other side.
- You never know what will happen. In her memoir “A Place of Yes,” former RHONY star Bethenny Frankel gives the advice that “all roads lead to Rome.” She says that every struggle you experience matters because it will push you in the direction of something good. Maybe your rough time will end up inspiring you so much that you’re going to help others going through the same thing. You could turn into a whole new career, or you could discover a passion you never knew you had. Life’s a mystery but that’s the fun part, right?
- The little things won’t bug you anymore. Okay, yeah, you might still hate waiting in line at Starbucks (why is there always a line?), and when someone doesn’t text you back ASAP. But you’ll be able to totally chill out even in the face of the most irritating things because you know that they don’t matter. You’ve gone through something huge, so why stress about unimportant stuff like gossip? You’ll be such a sophisticated, evolved human being.
- You’ll gain a sense of humor. Sure, you probably had one before. But there’s nothing like a tough time to really make you a comedian. Take the totally awesome and inspiring Tig Notaro, for example, who crafted a brilliant stand-up set about having breast cancer. She was funny before, but this material really cemented herself as an artist. Now when a guy gives you a cheesy breakup line you can just laugh and shrug it off instead of wanting to hide under your bed for a week.
- You’ll be an expert at self-care. The useful thing about experiencing a rough time? The fact that you learn some coping mechanisms and know how to truly take care of yourself. Maybe it’s going to bed at 10 p.m. a few nights a week or planning some girls’ nights out or eating more vegetables and committing to working out. You’re going to know how your body and mind feel at the first signs of stress and you’ll fix it.
- You won’t be the same person. And that’s a good thing. You’ll get stronger yet softer at the same time. You’ll be able to handle anything because you know you’ve experienced the worst, and you’ll be super compassionate too.
- You’ll be extra happy when it’s over. The popular saying that the bad stuff in life helps you appreciate the good moments more is definitely true. When you can experience an entire week or even an entire day without feeling the way you used to, when life settles into a comfortable routine and you find yourself smiling again at all the little things (like coffee or Ryan Adams’ 1989 cover album), it’s pretty awesome.