How to Stop Fighting the Losing Battle: Keep Your Sanity When Things Get Rough

“You know how hard it is to feel like an extreme falcon-headed combat machine when somebody calls you “chicken man”?” ― Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid

Everyone has rough days. Some more than others. But when those bad days come, you know they are hard and exhausting.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. My Friday night plans fell through. With no intention of crashing other plans that were being made, I decided to stay home and have a bubble bath. There wasn’t much relaxing going on though. Despite the long, hard road I have walked so far and the great successes I have had in my life, I started feeling worthless, cast aside and forgotten.

Thoughts attacked from all sides and any doubt or insecurity I have ever felt came back. I was also alone and felt it. It had been a long time since I had hit such a low point and I didn’t like it at all.

I started fighting these ideas.

Mantras and positive self talk flowed through my brain, but none of it really touching me. I couldn’t feel it, no matter how much I fought to keep those terrifying and worthless feelings at bay. I knew they were lies. I know that the thoughts were not describing me.

This was a losing battle. I was going downhill and fast. I wished more than anything for someone to come and save me from myself. Someone to prove that I wasn’t alone or forgotten or worthless, because I was not going to be able to do this on my own.

However, if my life has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll most likely have to do this on my own. There would be no one coming. Yet I had always managed to survive. I would fight some more and I would do this.

Yet I slid still farther downhill.

Sometimes you just can’t push your way out of things and some circumstances won’t be forced.

Yet in the midst of this, I had a thought. It felt different. Some might call it inspiration, but it didn’t feel the same as these negative voices shouting my worthlessness and overwhelming me at every turn. I was so convinced that they were lies.

But are they? Really?

Stay with me here, this is going to sound awful, but I promise this ends well. After all, I’m still here to tell the story, aren’t I?

What if these thoughts aren’t lies? What if these thoughts about my worthlessness and being a burden are true?

So?

So what. These thoughts might have a grain of truth to them, but they aren’t the complete truth. It’s not the whole picture.

Yeah, there are going to be people who think I just get in the way. they may think I’m a waste of space. I can’t be everyone’s favorite person. I can’t please everyone, I know that.

But for every one who thinks these negative things about me, there is at least one who would disagree.

Even if there is only one person in the entire world who would disagree, as long as it is me, I’m good.

I suddenly stopped fighting. I suddenly was able to focus my energy, not on fighting these negative thoughts and feelings, but I was free to focus on building something better. Building something good.

We all have our demons. No one is perfect. I know I’m certainly not. I can be vain, oblivious, forgetful, thoughtless, inconsiderate and more. But those isolated events do not show all the good I try to do and my love for people and my desire to help and serve others.

While these things do exist and are part of me, they coexist with their opposites within me as well. I can be vain, but I can also be humble. I can be forgetful and I can be aware and present. I can be rude, but I can also be nice.

So what?

I am the one who chooses where to look and what to focus on. I can focus on the negative side of things, small as they are, and fight them to the death. But I just don’t see that ending well.

Choosing to focus on my good side gives me so much more freedom. It allows me to look around and do something good because I’m not worried about the molehill as much as I am about scaling the mountain.

When we love others, we are expected to love fully and completely, as in we love the whole person. We take the bad with the good. The good usually makes it worth it.

So why are we able to give that so easily to others and not to our own selves? We are our own harshest critic. We can love ourselves, taking the good with the bad, too.

The best part?

While the harsh statements I felt before may be true, it doesn’t have to stay that way. I may think that I’m a bad writer, but doesn’t that just give me all the more motivation to study, learn and improve my craft?

Any feeling of “I’m not enough” may be true now, but that doesn’t mean it will always be true. Rather than telling myself that it’s a lie, I would much rather spend the energy proving it wrong, or making myself better.

Nice Story, But What is the Takeaway?

Good question.

Let me lay it out a little more clearly:

  1. Stop fighting it. Acceptance is the first step. Accept whatever it is that you have been fighting for so long. Acknowledge that it does exist.
  2. Ask the question: So what? It doesn’t matter that you aren’t perfect. Just let it exist, there are other things to deal with. It’s ok to have something that keeps you human and keeps you humble.
  3. Do something about it if that still bothers you. Take lessons, hire a coach. It doesn’t have to stay that way. You have full control over who you are and the traits you want to have. If this is something that can’t wait, get it taken care of.

I was amazed at how quickly my mindset shifted with this simple epiphany. The ironic part is how many times I have had this. As I mentioned, I can be forgetful. This is a lesson that is constantly popping up in my life.

I am whole.

Whole means positive and negative exist in the same place. I have the full spectrum of capability and emotion.

Some traits I can utilize because while society and culture say they are bad, they really aren’t. Take for example my stubborn streak. I am often told to stop being so stubborn.

I like being stubborn, it helps me to succeed. So no, I will not give that up. Another word for stubborn is tenacity. Tenacity has a very similar definition to stubborn. Both include the words determination and persistence. I like having these traits and they have served me well.

Other traits I want to improve and build upon. That forgetfulness I mentioned? I have gotten really good at writing things down and making notes for myself to go back to. It has helped my organization and planning skills. I have to work a little bit harder at it, but that just makes me a little bit better at it than others.

Building can’t happen the same time as fighting. I choose how to spend my time and my talents.

Then What?

Here’s the thing about what happened: It came back. It does that. All of the terrible things I was feeling were just as present, even if they felt a little different.

I had just embraced myself fully, but that didn’t necessarily change the situation I was in. The situation around me didn’t change, meaning I was unable to fully change.

As I work on changing my surroundings, it becomes easier to not be bombarded by the same old thoughts. The brain needs change and stimulation. Give it the same old experiences and stories, it will keep thinking the same things on repeat.

Psychologist Benjamin Hardy writes in his book Willpower Doesn’t Work:

According to psychological research, your willpower is like a muscle. It’s a finite resource that depletes with use. As a result, by the end of your strenuous days, your willpower muscles are exhausted and you’re left to your naked and defenseless self — with zero control to stop the night-time munchies and time wasters.

The point that Benjamin Hardy makes is that we can’t do this by sheer grit alone. As we change our environment to fit the mindset we want, it becomes natural, almost easy, to follow through on our goals.

So if I am feeling alone, forgotten and worthless, I need to surround myself with people and establish relationships with those that light up with joy when they see me on their doorstep, people that text just to say they miss me and arrange a time to get together and people that invite me to activities they are doing.

Because that is exactly what got me out of the second go around.

When I have done all I can, it is time to allow others to help as well. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island…because I am involved in mankind.”

We can’t do everything by ourselves, nor can we expect others to. The good news is that when we find the right people, we don’t have to.

There are people who can love you as a whole, especially once you are able to do that for yourself.

Love and accept yourself the way you are, flaws and all, then it simply becomes a matter of finding others who do the same.

But, How?

Acceptance is the first step to change and it is easier said than done. That’s why I’ve created a bit of a helper —

Get my Free Guide Control Your Story (←Click Here and I’ll send it to you, as well as my newsletter) to figure out where to start and some great tips on how to make a change.

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I tell stories. I scream. I like ice cream. paulajeanferri.com