Truth #3: Good Suffering is Good for You
If you're not suffering by your own hand, what's stopping you?
Some people haven’t suffered enough. And it shows. On the flip-side, some people have suffered too much. And it shows.
Unfortunately, we don’t always choose our own level of suffering. A lot of it comes pre-baked—in the stars before we set foot on planet earth. The privilege of where and to whom we are born follows us for the rest of our lives.
To quote Beyoncé on her mediocre The Carters album, “My great-great-grandchildren already rich.”
In reverse, being born: poor, female, gay, a minority, with a disability, or just plain weird, will increase our baked-in suffering. Tack on a hat trick with three of the above? Things will be challenging. Born a black, dyslexic lesbian with a penchant for LARPing? There will be mountain to climb.
Inherited suffering is not made equal. This nothing-you-can-do-about-it type of suffering is the kind that we spend our adulthoods untangling. It’s unfair and oppressive, but it’s not today’s focus (I’m barely qualified to offer advice on sandwiches and silent quitting).
Instead, we’re going to zero-in on the more equitable subset of suffering: self-inflicted. Self-inflicted suffering is a choice. It’s done by our own hand, as a result of the productive and destructive decisions we make.
On the positive-end, self-inflicted suffering involves mental and physical perspiration in pursuit of a goal. It can be thought of as a toll for getting to where we want to go. It’s directed and with purpose.
On the negative-end, self-inflicted suffering can be unproductive, misdirected, sabotaging, avoidant, and punishing. It’s making poor decisions (perhaps as a result of inherited suffering’s scars) that are unhealthy and carry payable tax. It’s out of control and without purpose.
For example, bad suffering could be: a shitty relationship with a neck-tattooed deadbeat that makes you feel less-than. Your friends hate them, but you are seduced by suffering’s allure, wading in tumultuous stank.
You let suffering fill your ship with crude and crill (this isn’t really a word but sounds good, so fuck it).
After 17 months of emotional trauma, a lost job, and roommates who rightfully think you’re insane, you finally break-up. Now, you’re in a deficit, addicted to drama, and what for?
Whether we’re in active pursuit of something, or passively chugging along, there will be some suffering, some of the time. In other words, even when we’re heading towards a life that we want, there will be suffering. For instance, you’ll miss out, upset people you care about, drop the ball, develop a computer hunch, become allergic to daylight, and maybe even receive an “are you okay?”.
But it’s part of the deal.
Controlled suffering is in cahoots with achievement. We can’t have one without the other.
We just need to make sure that the flavour of our suffering is part of the meal we’re trying to make. And if it is, and there’s enough room on your plate for a hot, steamy pile of self-inflicted suffering, it will serve you.
The right kind of suffering means that we’re making things happen—we’re building. And this isn’t supposed to be easy.
Examples of Good Suffering:
Maxing out in a bootcamp class where you’d kick the gap tooth right out of your Francophone instructor, Sebastian, if your leg muscles hadn’t seized. (ONLY burned 244 cals? maybe treat bod like less of a dumpster?)
Cramming four months worth of material from the 8:30am class you rarely attended. (clearing a debt owed)
Wheeling multiple garbage bags of laundry to the too-far laundromat on the back of your bike. (taskin’ to appreciate en suite when she enters your life)
Bombing in front of friends and foe strangers, then having your stand-up “set” publicly compared to a “high schooler’s eulogy”. (humble pie served ice cold).
Bleaching your already too-dry hair at aged 24, submerging it in a sulphuric hot spring, and having it immediately turn rust orange. Then, re-bleaching your hair, singing it off, and spending most of my 20’s with a charred Lisa Rinna bob that SIMPLY will not grow. (re: uniboob rearin’ to strip vanity)
Note: Looking back, I’d pin the chemical bowl cut as the leading reason that I
could notchose not to marry rich.
Crying at high school math, being forced to meet bi-weekly with a middle-aged tutor (who despite being straight, plays the flute), then barely passing with a 63%. (overcoming a stunted left brain)
Getting braces to fix the buck toof that is your genetic birth right. (need we say more?)
Examples of Bad Suffering:
Being paralyzed by all of the things stacked up against you. (unfair)
Enduring all forms of anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma. (unfair)
Having a physical injury—yes, a broken leg is a justifiable spiral. (unfair)
Getting treated like shit just because of who you are. (unfair)
Working for too long at a job you hate. (unfair, but super on you)
Losing yourself in a relationship with that neck-tatted, soul-sucking, stomach-turning cyclops (on you, see above).
All things Woody Allen. (blanketly, unfair)
Good suffering is the type that we grow from, and are mostly in control of. It’s a gently poke to test resiliency and make sure that we can handle what’s to come.
After all, if we build up a tolerance for the types of suffering that tandems hard work, the world is our oysta (*said in Boston accent*).
Remember: suffering is a natural byproduct of creation.
Everything we do—professionally, personally, passionately—involves eating the occasional shit sandwich. Just make sure it’s on brand.
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