In many of life’s challenges – personal and professional – we are held back by the crippling thought that people like us could not possibly triumph given what we know of ourselves: how reliably stupid, anxious, gauche, crude, vulgar and dull we really are. These negative thoughts often stem from an endearing, but misplaced, faith in others. The truth is that we are all flawed and failing in one way or another. A deep look at the nature of life itself, and its accompanying difficulties, should help to reassure us of our role within it.
Almost every day, with slightly dispiriting inevitability, something will go wrong in our lives or someone will, quite unintentionally, hurt us. We tend to meet these sorrows personally. Whether at work or at home, we respond to these upsets with anger and frustration, or perhaps with despondency. We can still choose, however, a different approach. Exploring techniques of self-analysis and emotional calm which stand to resolve these frustrations and help us become more resilient.
We are geniuses at focusing on what is missing from our lives. Our dissatisfaction generally serves us well; it keeps us from complacency and boredom. But we are also dragged down by a pernicious inability ever reliably to stop, take stock and recognise what isn’t imperfect and appalling. In our haste to secure the future, we fail to notice what has not yet failed us, what isn’t actually out of reach: what is already very good.
Modern society tends to emphasise buoyancy and cheerfulness. But we have to admit that life is, for the most part, not quite so easy. Thankfully, there is a confidence that can come from recognising this difficulty. Taking a more pessimistic view of life can give us strength and provide consolation during difficult times.
The challenges of how we might find love or form deep friendships are highly complex, seldom systematically explored and – relatively – brand new. Often, we form relationships based on convenience or we leave the workings of our social life to blind chance. A more successful approach might be found if we think carefully about what it is that we’re looking for and what we need from our relationships.
It is all too common to feel daunted by life. Uncertain about our place in it, restless or anxious. We might feel that our environment will protect us – our friends and family, the contents of our homes – but until we take a deeper look at our assumptions about the world around us, we cannot delve into the root of our anxiousness and uncertainty.