“It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus
People go through a lot of things that tear them down. Or rather, people go through a lot of things that make them tear themselves down.
The truth is, everybody has a tragic backstory. Everybody can be the poor kid that did bad in school and didn’t have friends. Funnily enough though, it’s usually the kids who actually do deal with these problems that end up successful. The most successful people are the ones who have tasted failure and hated it, so they spit it out and have been starving for success ever since.
Why do we do this? Why do we knock ourselves down and make our situation worse than it really is?
Well, why do we skip workouts? Why do we eat junk food and spend all day staring at a screen?
The answer is the same: because it’s easier to fail.
It’s easier to break down and give up and choose to stop trying. Sometimes, it’s what we need. Sometimes it’s not worth continuing, and sometimes we really can’t go on any longer without permanently damaging our minds or bodies. That being said, those cases are few and far between.
So what does Epictetus mean when he says it’s only your reaction that matters? Well, my interpretation of this quote is that any situation can be made into something good. It’s not dismissing the fact that people struggle, because that’s clearly not true. People struggle all day every day. However, sometimes it can be useful to use those negative emotions to our advantage and rise above our circumstances.
Take the example of our fight or flight instinct. When frightened or stressed, some people shut down. They curl up in a ball and start crying while whatever is stressing them out continues to happen. This isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s a perfectly normal human reaction. It’s not necessarily the “wrong” thing to do. Others, however, fight back. They punch whatever jump scares them or seperate themselves from whatever is stressful. Again, this is nothing to be ashamed of, because this is another normal human reaction.
The fight or flight instinct carries over to how we deal with our emotions. When some people are stressed out by work, school, or relationships, they tend to break down mentally. They become a doormat, and they let everything around them take advantage of them. This is usually because they saw a parental figure or a figure of authority do the same thing when they were younger. Other people may become angry and start raging and screaming at the things around them when they’re stressed out. Again, this is usually because they saw an authority figure do the same. Those two cases are the extremes. The key to dealing with stress is to find a balance between the two — don’t be a doormat, but don’t be a bully either. Instead, be calm and assertive of your boundaries at all times.
What do you think? How do you stay calm in times of high stress, and how do you stand up for yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comment section. Also, feel free to leave a like and share this blog on your social media. Someone else could use the information on here! Stay tuned for future blog posts every Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and try to be the reason someone smiles today 🙂