Trouble Shared Is Trouble Halved

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle ~ Plato

Because I’m the philosophical sort, I hang around with rather philosophical people– the kind of people who look at what is and wonder what it all means.

So inevitably, the conversation moves around to the big, bad MEANING OF LIFE, and how we each came to grips with our existential angst.

I’ve never had any angst. At least, not of the existential kind. The why of life has never seemed to require a definitive answer. But the people who struggle with it seem to really, REALLY struggle with it.

I don’t. But I do struggle constantly with confidence. I’ve got too much of it, you see, and I don’t want it to make me over-weening and arrogant. Don’t laugh! This is a real problem!

I know someone else who struggles to integrate her sexuality with her spirituality, someone else who’s coming to terms with not being the kind of daughter her parents wanted.

Everyone has their issues, their personal struggles and contretemps that are unique to them.

In fact, I would go so far as to say people have a single theme that they struggle with over the entire course of their lives. But perhaps this is adding too much to the narrative. You can take that part or leave it.

Other People are Not Simply Versions of Yourself

There have always been people who make it all ‘look so easy’, but nowadays social media has taken it to a whole new level. It’s easy to compare other people’s outsides to your ‘insides’ and come off feeling less than.

But what is particularly interesting to me is when people share their personal bugbears. It certainly makes me look at things differently, because the issues facing other’s are typically foreign to me; some peculiarity of personality and life experience made that particular issue pass me by.

Most of all, hearing these stories improves my compassion, because we all have a tendency to think that other people are pretty much the same as ourselves.

Your Turn

If you feel so inclined, why don’t you share your perennial struggle, one that comes up over and over again. Maybe the rest of the commentariat can offer perspective or insight. Maybe just framing it as your defining conflict will make it seem smaller. I don’t know. Just a fun thought exercise for Monday morning.

[ssbp]

21 thoughts on “Trouble Shared Is Trouble Halved”

  1. I think you’re onto something with each person having a main theme they struggle with. That sort of clicked into place in my brain when I read it. Now my mind is whirring away, linking up issues and validating your suggestion.
     
    My perennial struggle is with perfection. Throughout my school years, I got boxed into this image that myself and everyone around me had: I was the perfect kid, the teacher’s pet, the straight-As (and then some) student. I got so scared of failing, of showing cracks in my immaculate facade, that I stopped taking risks. Much safer to coast along, doing what I was already good at, but never reaching far enough to fall any great distance.
     
    These issues have kept me from trying all kinds of new things because I don’t want to screw up. Now that I’m away from the tortures of high school, I’m pretty sure most people I know wouldn’t judge me if I made a mistake, and I’ve been working on my fears. I’ve been slowly trying new things, not just learning about them but actually giving them a shot. I set reasonable goals for myself, ones I can actually achieve — and when I do, I set a new one. If I’m particularly sensitive about a new undertaking, I’m very selective about who I tell at first.
     
    But I know a lot of my hesitancy and insecurity comes from this residual need to be perfect. I can foresee having to struggle against it for years to come. I’m glad, though, that I’ve made progress figuring out what’s at the root of my insecurities and that I’ve figured out some baby steps to help me deal with them.
     
    Great post, Shanna. Thank you for sharing it, and for giving us readers a space to share back 🙂

    1.  @remadebyhand Well, thank YOU for sharing something so personal and close to the bone. Perfectionism is a tough one. And there’s a lot of different flavors to it. It sounds to me like your flavor is sprezzatura (http://shannamann.com/index.php/blog/sprezzatura) in that maintaining the image of perfection directly opposes any attempt to actually *become* perfect. (Or anywhere close to it.)

      1.  @Shanna Mann Um. YES. That’s me. This is me: “To strive for the image of mastery means you must forgo mastery.” It’s funny, I hate being a beginner at things, I think because I have to fail so much to learn. It’s really scary for me.
         
        I’ve been turning a blog post idea over in my mind about happiness, and how maybe that’s not exactly what I’m (we’re?) really looking for after all. I was thinking about what I’d want for my life instead — and authenticity was one of the words I used.

        1.  @Karen J @Shanna Mann I started the draft. That’s a big one that’ll have to stew for a bit, but I’ll get there eventually. Once an idea like that settles in my mind, I pretty much have to write it at some point 🙂 Glad there are at least two people out there who want to read it!

      2.  @Shanna Mann I’m finally reading “Mindset” and it’s wild how much of what we struggle with is, indeed, a direct result of whether we have a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset.
         
        I’ve swung my perfection pendulum too far the other direction: I’m starting to shove my little birdies out of the nest before I’m sure they can fly. Silkworms are no substitute for parachutes.

        1.  @spinhead Sometimes I feel like things don’t need to be finished. I like your silkworm analogy, but I think it’s like growing carrots. You grow a whole bunch so you can weed out all but the strongest ones.

  2. Hey Shanna,
    One perennial struggle USED to be with video games but I kicked that addiction 2+ years ago. If only I had just one to start with and that meant I’m down to zero.
    The biggest one I have now – perhaps because I just finished eating lunch – is sugar. I love, love, love sweet stuff! I eat 95% primal/paleo but the 5% cheating is almost always with something sugary.
    One of my big goals for 2012 was to reduce the frequently and quantity of cheating on my diet with sugar. Because once I get started on something sugary, sometimes I just can’t stop.
    Realistically, this one is going to be tackled at the end of this year. But once I kick the sugar urges I’ll be a seriously happy dude.

    1.  @joeyjoejoe Huh. I hadn’t even considered consumption as a perennial struggle. Cool! What about a cheat day, like Tim Ferriss has? Or doesn’t that work for you? Some people are cold turkey-ers. I know I am.

      1.  @Shanna Mann I’m a cold turkey-er but I might need to experiment with more controlled cheating. Just waiting until I explode isn’t working very well for me. I’m not trying to get to 100% compliance anyway.

  3. Oh, that cat is SOOO me – especially when I haven’t remembered to shut off my “graphics-brain” – the part that insists on Precision to the nth degree/fraction of a millimeter (literally or figuratively). I guess that’s a flavor of Perfectionism, eh? 
    (That’s but ONE of my perennial struggles (much better sounding than “chronic issues” – which is what I wrote, first) ) They all seem to intertwine, so it’s difficult to find an “end” to pull on ~
    The good news is, that the knot seems to be looser – less intractable – than when I started working at it, though!
     
     
     

    1.  @Karen J Well, yaknow, just because they’re issues doesn’t mean they’re ISSUES. Life would be boring without these mental crossword puzzles to do. 🙂

      1.  @Shanna MannWell, I’d be rather pleased to have a few less of ’em going *at the same time* though!  🙂

  4. I really like the point about not comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Most people talk in a future state. For instance, when someone proclaims “I am not judgemental”, they usually mean “I am working on becoming non-judgemental”
     
    To be honest, I sometimes struggle with guilt about not “using” my college degree after so much of my parent’s hard earned cash was spent on it. Of course, what I studied in school led me to where I am now, but thinking about it still drags me down sometimes. 

    1.  @ethanwaldman I hadn’t noticed that future state thing about personality traits. But I do agree that people are usually busy projecting themselves forward towards an ideal future point.
       
      I dropped out of school, but I sometimes toy with going back. Then I remember that there’s probably not much I can learn in uni that I can’t learn right now. But life is long. You might find a use for that bit of paper yet. It’s an investment that’s yet to mature.

  5. yeah, I think that whole idea about what we don’t like in others is what we don’t like about ourselves is a myth.  i don’t like murder.  but, i’m not a murderer. ya know?  seriously.  it’s just too extreme of a concept for me to embrace.  so i agree with ethan, i like your take on not comparing.
     
    ok, a common struggle for me…
     
    self-confidence.  i have lots of ups and downs with my self-confidence.  it’s a life long battle, it seems

    1.  @deniseurena Ha! I don’t think that phrase is meant to be taken so literally (kind of like, ‘You are what you eat’.) It’s also one that I compared myself relentlessly with growing up. Not liking bullies, I recognized in myself a tendency to demand my own way, and so on.
       
      You too, eh? I hate that catch 22 about self-confidence… the idea being that it’s good that you aren’t confident, because you aren’t as prone to stupid mistakes, but if you should by chance become confident, you immediately start worrying that this confidence will lead to mistakes. Or at least I do.

      1.  @Shanna Mann  @deniseurena There’s a balance point between “too much” and “too little” of anything, and that’s the trick – finding it. Also, between *different* things – self confidence and fear or worry, for example…
         

    2.  @deniseurena Yaknow, I just finished reading “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” by Debbie Ford, and her premise is that “Each of us possess /every/ existing human quality” whether we like it or not: 
      “…the divine and the diabolical… all these aspects lie dormant in us and will act out if they are  not recognized and integrated into our psyches.” … Become Aware of this, Accept, and take mindful Action…
      In the Introduction, Neale Donald Walsch suggests that even our worst aspects are only “bad” because A) we’ve accepted that judgement, and B) we have the volume turned up too high on them. Thus, the tug-o-war between ‘self-confidence’ and ‘over-bearing’  🙂

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