They say that the struggle makes you stronger

They say that the struggle makes you stronger – those motivational gurus, social media memes, and 4-hour-work-week millionaire entrepreneurs.  What they don’t tell you, though, is that before it makes you stronger, it will make you miserable.  Possibly even very miserable.

And they should tell you.  Because struggle is an integral part of life’s adventure.  And to hope – maybe even expect – that struggle will make you stronger, without first putting you through the wringer and making you miserable, is to set yourself up for disappointment.  Because, more often than not, it’s simply the price of growth.

Sure, you may avoid paying that price.  You may experience that growth ‘for free’.  But, more than likely, you won’t.  So, accept it.  And embrace it.  You see, if you don’t, you will find yourself fighting it.  And denying it.  And that just makes you even more miserable.  But, when you accept it, and embrace it, feeling miserable becomes just a season in that particular phase of your adventure.  A season that you know will pass, but that first must be endured.  And, I can tell you first-hand the strength that working through struggle brings.  But I also know how miserable it can make you.

According to modern day convention, and the world of social media, where life is airbrush perfect, I probably shouldn’t say that.  After all, as a coach, and someone who strives to empower people to live the life they were made for, feeling miserable really shouldn’t be a feature in my life.  Rather, as a coach, and someone who strives to empower people to live the life they were made for, I should be all about the stronger parts, and nothing at all about the miserable parts of the struggle, right?

Well, no.  The message that the gurus, social media memes, and 4-hour-work-week millionaire entrepreneurs like to peddle, may be that the life you were made for – the life where you are the ‘best version of you’ – is perfect and pain-free.  But it isn’t.

The reality is that the life you were made for is imperfect.  It is painful.  And it is full of struggle.  And the ‘best version’ of you is someone who has experienced that imperfection and pain – someone who has walked through the fires, felt the heat and the pain of the flames – and emerged the other side.  Scarred.  Charred.  And stronger.  And that has never been clearer to me than it is now.

For months I have been in the fire.  I have been feeling the heat of the flames.  Enduring the pain of the burns they inflict.  Becoming ever more scarred.  Ever more charred.  Walking the tightrope between hope and despair.  Fighting for air to keep my dreams alive.  At times I have questioned my worth.  My failures, and my failings, have surrounded me, taunting me, baying for my surrender.  In my darkest moments I have asked myself “What is the point of me?”, and been unable to find an answer.

Struggle will do that to you – take you to breaking point, and sometimes beyond.

And I know that I could deny this struggle I find myself in.  Hide from it.  Fight against it.  God knows how many times I have wished I could take one of those options.  But I know that I cannot.  I must not.  Because, to deny the struggle, to hide from it, or even to fight it, is not to navigate the fire, but to stand still in it. Maybe even to fall deeper into it.  Deeper into the doubt.  Deeper into those darkest of moments.

As much as I may want to deny, to hide, or to fight, I know that I have to stand fast, accept it, and embrace it.  Because, when you accept rather than deny the struggle, face it rather than hide from it, and embrace it rather than fight it, you begin to remember past fires you found yourself in, and from which you emerged scarred and charred, but stronger.  And, when you do that, in amongst all the turmoil and doubt, you can find peace.  Because this fire in which you find yourself today is no different from those ones you navigated in the past.  And, just as you came through those fires, so you will come through this one.

Ultimately, though, whether the struggle makes you stronger, or crushes you, is a choice.  You can choose to accept it, and embrace it, as part of the adventure into the life you were made for – a refiner’s fire chipping away all that is keeping the splendour of the real you from view – and, thus ensure that today’s struggle is merely temporary.  A moment that will pass.  Or, you can choose to deny it, hide from it, or fight it, and, in so doing, ensure that its flames will never be fully extinguished.

The question is not if the struggles you face will make you stronger.  Those motivational gurus, social media memes, and 4-hour-work-week millionaire entrepreneurs are right – they will.  But, only if you accept that those struggles will, most likely, also make you miserable.  Possibly even very miserable.

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