Yes, you are allowed to have setbacks

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people reading this article haven’t had the toughest life.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure you’ve had your struggles and some demons to fight, as we all do.

But just statistically speaking, there’s less chance that you had to go through natural disasters ruining your house and taking away all your possessions, battling with chronic illness or having to undergo life-threatening events.

Actually, most (if not all) my friends have had a pretty good run in life. Able to easily find a job, and then just smooth transitioning through high paying office jobs, promotion after promotion, salary raise after salary raise. All of them in happy relationships, with no health issues. Same goes for me and my husband.

So we get used to this ever-ascending trajectory in life. This model of how life should be gets imprinted in our heads – that the only forward is up. Bigger. Better.

Surprise surprise, though, that is a highly unrealistic expectation. Chances are that life’s gonna knock you back a couple of steps, maybe even more than once. This may or may not have something to do with how you played the game – sometimes (bad) things just happen for no reason.

And maybe this has something to do with my age or with the age of my friends, but as I am getting closer to being 30 I notice people around me having to deal with some real challenges. Challenges that feel like a rupture in the streak of luck they were used to:

  • changing jobs and actually ending up in a way worse position than they were before
  • having to move from a big, exciting city to a small one because of a lack of job opportunities or a need to cut down expenses
  • having to go through long-distance relationships because each partner is professionally situated in a different place
  • wanting to have kids and not being able to – with the long list of hurdles and hard hits that brings on
  • parents getting older/sick and having to be able to support them in all ways
  • etc, etc, etc.

If you were to look at my own trajectory, the decision I made a year ago to quit my full-time job and move to a different city has initially felt like a step back. The loss of income, the difficulty of being my own boss, but also having to readjust to a new location and making new friends, all the while missing the awesome people we’ve left behind.

Still, I am now able to see things in a different way. Yes, I could have stayed in the job and in the city and had the safety and comfort of that situation, but I would have never been able to witness this all new way of living. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to know myself, flaws and gifts, strengths and weaknesses, and gain such deep clarity of what I need in order to flourish. I wouldn’t have the strength, resilience, compassion, gratitude and commitment to do the work that I now have.

Growing in life, and getting new experiences involves taking some risks. Every time you start a new challenge, you get kicked back a couple of steps, you feel like a newbie again, and you have to fight a bit more to feel confident and like you are succeeding.

Don’t get sucked into the idea that your only goal in life is to avoid the obstacles. To steer away from the hardship. To cling onto your status and make sure you’re not losing points in the game. There is a time for playing it safe and holding onto what you have, and a time for changes and switching things up.

Setbacks are inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up for temporarily being in a worse position than you were used to. Don’t get tricked into thinking you’ll stay there. And don’t feel sorry for or criticize people for making changes that to you look like a step back. We have the resources we need to keep playing the game and get back on top, a bit stronger, a bit wiser than before.

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