“Life isn’t fair” doesn’t cut it

An incredibly common cause of frustration in my life comes from a feeling of unfairness – like I’ve been cheated out of what I deserve (or, in some cases, don’t deserve). If you’re human, you’ve undoubtedly had your own moments of intense emotion over unfair situations. Whether one of these situations is of your own making or not, feeling like what should be the case isn’t the case is, to say the least, rather discouraging.

There’s the old adage of “life isn’t fair, deal with it,” which, for me, does little to rectify the situation. In the heat of the moment during a situation you deem unfair, it can be difficult to look at a resolution with a level head and “deal with it,” at least in a way deemed socially acceptable. Looking at my own life, the times when I seem to lose most of my sense is in situations I’m involved in that seem to put me on the bottom rung. There have been times where it has taken all of my self-control not to storm out of work, not to rage at a family member, simply because my mind was trying to argue for justice of my own treatment. Whether or not the moment in question actually is unfair isn’t the point – the fact of the matter remains that my emotions still run rampant.

Before I continue, let me just state for the record – I am fully aware that life is not and never will be fair. I see no obtainable, utopian future where everyone gets what they think they deserve and nothing less – that is literally, physically impossible. As long as there are people with free will, there will be a vast majority of them who feel unfairly treated.

As much as I despise the phrase, I believe accepting the fact that life is indeed unfair is the first step in dealing with it. It’s a hard truth. It sucks. But that doesn’t change what is. I am still very much learning how to deal with unfairness – my crappy day at work where I felt said emotion is what inspired this post in the first place. However, I do have a few tools in my arsenal that have proved invaluable in this fight.

First,

I try to look at how much this situation will actually matter in the long run. We tend to get so caught up in our own heads when we’re faced with a situation that makes us feel any kind of uncomfortable. The defense mechanisms in our brain are frustratingly fantastic at making us believe that all of our energy needs to be focused on remedying the bad situation we find ourselves in. What remedy our brain comes up with varies with personality, but either way, we’re still so focused on finding that solution.

Looking back on situations in which I’ve felt a feeling of unfairness in in the past, the vast majority of the ones I can pinpoint didn’t affect my life in any notable way past when the situation was said and done with. Not to say that the situations were always resolved – I didn’t always join the other person for a picnic and a walk in the park afterwards, but simply done. For example, if you have a bad day at work, how much of that really makes a difference once you get home, unless you’re fuming about it in your own head? In the case of unfair situations, the majority of the stress comes from not getting what we believe we should – justice, for lack of a better word. Unfair situations only have as much power to make you distressed as you give them.

Secondly,

I try to remember what I am blessed with, and how many less fortunate people would look at me as the one with a better situation.

As cliché as this example may be, I try to think of those who are struggling every single day just to get something to eat. They may wake up every morning, unsure of whether or not they’ll have a meal that day. Meanwhile, I eat three meals a day and snacks in between without much thought to it. I have days where I cry bloody murder if I don’t have enough caffeine in my system, while across the world, there are families who would sacrifice so much just to have a quarter of what I have.

Simply put, remember what you have, and be grateful for it. Life may not always be fair to you, but I wholeheartedly guarantee that you have it better than plenty of others.

Finally,

I try to discern the times to be healthy, and the times to be right. In the words of Marcia Reynolds, Psy. D:

 You decide where to put your most precious resource-your energy. Let go of what you cannot control.

In the end, one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself is to learn to quickly discern when it is time to let go from when it is time to react. There are times you need to stand up to what is unfair. There are times to move on.

Don’t beat yourself up for having an emotional reaction. Your brain is doing what it is supposed to do-protect you. Instead, recognize when you are having an emotional reaction, take a breath and choose how you best want to respond.

Source: How to Deal with Unfairness

Life is fist-clenchingly unfair. It always will be. That’s why it’s so important to find healthy, socially acceptable ways to deal with situations that put you in an unfair position. Remember that what may feel like the right course of action in a tense moment may just be your brain doing its best to fight for justice for you. Take a breath. Separate yourself from the situation for a moment if possible and collect yourself. If, even then, you feel that the right thing to do is fight for your equal treatment, then go for it. But also remember that, although it may not feel good right away, sometimes the best course of action is inaction – walking away from the situation, or concentrating on something else. Remember what you do have going for you in life, and hold onto that.

Stay strong.

– Ryan