How to Flourish When You Feel Defeated

One from overdose, one from suicide, two victims from cancer. She got married ten days ago, and now she’s dealing with the death of four of her closest friends this past year.

“It sounds so dumb, but I definitely put on this front like I’m powering through it or whatever. When am I going to catch a break?”

Underneath all of her frustration and desperation, she asked herself, “What could I have done better? What did I miss? Why is this happening to me?”

She wanted to have power over the circumstance so that she would never have to go through that depth of pain again. She wanted the ability to choose which cards she was dealt. And when we get hurt, most of us long for that same power. We want to be the ones that hold the deck. We want to control who gets which cards. We want to have the ability to reshuffle and re-deal.

What this sounds like practically:

I want to take the cancer from her.

I want to make her love me.

I want to change his decision from taking his own life.

I want to make him drop the bottle and unclench his fists.

The problem is no matter how hard we try, these things will be forever beyond our control. The only person we can exercise our will over is ourselves, and the only person we can make decisions for is ourselves.

You can’t change the cards you’ve been dealt.

You can’t control the ones you’ll be given.

But there is a better option.

You can change how you play them.

Instead of seeking power over your circumstances, imagine seeking power through them.

Instead of beating yourself up because you didn’t prevent what happened because you couldn’t, what if you were to learn the fortitude to withstand the pain of sorrow? Instead of asking questions like, “Why did this have to happen to me? Why did they have to take him?”, what if you were to ask, “What can I learn from this? How can I grow form this?” Instead of shutting down because you didn’t have the power to change the past, what if you were to focus on what power you have over the present?

The thing about suffering and tragedy is that fire is required to forge swords. Scars prove strength. Character is better than comfortable. When you face trials, and you persevere, and you get knocked down again and again and again, and you still get back up…that’s true beauty.

Flowers that grow in fertile soil make sense. People don’t ask questions to botanists who manufacture the perfect circumstance for their seedling to grow. But what of a rose between the cracks of a sidewalk? What of a lone tree in a tundra? What of an enormous cypress in the middle of a desert? When the circumstance makes no sense why something so beautiful could emerge from something so dismal? That inspires curiosity. That’s a story worth telling. A life worth living. One that gives others hope. That when they are wandering, suffocating, totally alone, they too can make it.

So it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re in the dunes of the Saharan Desert or the icy plateaus of the Siberian Tundra or the concrete jungle of New York City, you can find power through your circumstances when you stop trying to manage the cards you’re dealt and start choosing the best play with the ones you’ve already got.

Welcome wonder. Invoke inspiration. Broadcast beauty. You can. You have everything it takes. You have the choice, you have this moment, and you have a new opportunity with every new page. Remember, you have the ability to exercise your own will over your own reactions. You can choose to ask better questions. You can choose to look for opportunities to grow. You can choose to adapt, to breathe, to live, to blossom, to flourish. You can’t undo the past or control the script for the future, but you can choose how you want to act in the present. Write afresh the story you want to share.

Showing 3 comments
  • Kylie Kerr

    I think a real problem we have with using our experience as a learning technique is that as a society, we are fragmented in ways where it seems more normal to put on a face of content and not ask others for help. No longer to we talk to one another openly, but instead answer “I’m fine” when in reality we may be falling apart. That is what is truly wonderful about communities like Heart Support, communities that provide an outlet for emotions that we have been taught to hide away. When we make the conscious decision to keep moving forward, we invite in those who we have attempted to stay away from and give ourselves to the cleansing feeling of peace and calm, even though we may still be in the midst of a storm. All it really takes is knowing someone is there for you. Together, we cannot fall.

  • Geert

    You’re speaking the truth. It’s so easy to just sit here like a victim of circumstance and wallow in self pity, wondering why all this stuff happens in my life. While I can choose to remain hopeful instead, and to share that hope with others. It’s a daily struggle, but it’s definitely worth it.

  • Jennifer Nguyen

    Thank you.

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