Leveling Up: The Philosophy Behind Navigating Pain

Often, our most painful moments are the ones we grow from most. I’m not advocating that we purposely enjoy pain or put ourselves in positions that hurt us – not at all. That would be silly. But what I am saying is to think about pain like the analogy of a blacksmith crafting a sword. You are the sword, I am the sword, and we are the sword. Only through the fire, the analogy of pain, does the sword get hardened and molded into something sharp. Our minds, bodies, and will can be sharpened too. We can gain perseverance, perspective, and resilience through the heat. We can become the heroes we’ve always wanted to be. If we want, we can be the heroes that don’t wear capes but seem like everyday people. But we’re different. Just take a look at how we’ve built our character. When a dog is behaving incorrectly, the owner takes the dog to get retrained. When humans act incorrectly, life can hand them a punishment to get retrained. Maybe you don’t get something you want. Maybe you aren’t fully the person you thought you were once. Maybe you can’t have it all. But that’s okay. It’s more than okay, it can be great.

Sometimes we need our minds, our hearts, and our self talk to be rewired. Sometimes, I believe that life is like a test. If you fail the test, you have to retake it. If you go through something hard in life, but you don’t learn from your mistakes the first time, life hands you a similarly hard scenario to go through. But there’s a difference between life’s tests and academia’s tests. In life’s tests, there are no real shortcuts. You can try to cheat the system, but life will find out, and life will hand you more punishments because you haven’t truly mastered the test. If you want to the pass the current level, slay the dragon, beat the big boss, you have to go through real training, real pain, and level up. That’s why they call it growing pains because you’re growing and you’re hurting a lot. Just imagine yourself in the gym. When you work out and you’re working your muscles, in order to gain new muscles, you body literally has to rip your old muscles apart and that’s why you’re sore after working out. You’re like developing a new skin, a new armor.

In the last year, I’ve been through a lot of pain. But at the same time, when I was coached to lean into the pain, to discover and introspect on why I was hurting, that made me grow exponentially. I’ve had to revisit my life choices and find out how I got where I am. I’ve had to look into my inner demons and tell them that I’m in control. I reconsidered where I want to go, if I have what it takes to get there, and how I want to get there. This last year, I’ve grown a ton, and I’m extremely grateful that my coaches didn’t give up on me. They believed I’d get through the pain, that the pain was temporary, and that I’d be more than okay. They were right. We are not alone. In our successes, we’ve gotten where we’ve gotten because of mentors, supporters, friends, and colleagues. In our failures, we are not alone. Other people have been through it too. Other people who are just like me and you. We are not alone. I had a lot of negative self talk. But it wasn’t true. My inner demons were lying to me. I believed in myself negatively so much that it hurt me and almost killed me. I believed I’d never improve at some things that I deeply valued. But then, with help, I learned how to control my mind, my feelings, and how to ride life’s waves. I truly believe I am now more equipped with a toolset that I’ve never had. That’s why I won’t regress or slip back, and if I do, I know how to get help. I’m willing to get help and understand the importance of asking for help. We are not alone.  I learned how to become and utilize the other parts of my personality that aren’t innate, natural, and preferential: I’ve learned how to turn on the switch for extroversion, sensing, feelings, and perceiving. I’ve learned how to live a healthier lifestyle through meal prep, sleep, exercise, hobbies, friends, and choosing activities that make me feel like I’m achieving and enjoying. I’ve learned how I am becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be and gain the characteristics that I’ve valued most: being able to make strangers feel comfortable in a conversation, persevering through hard times and getting through it stronger, being able to ask for help and not letting ego get in the way, and being able to voice my opinion rather than being a wallflower.

So my friend, if in pain you are, it might actually be your guiding northern star. Maybe you’re in fear of your career, have choices that you don’t know how to make, or you feel unlovable. Maybe you feel like giving up – but promise me you won’t. What’s hurting right now might actually be the remedy you needed to level up. It doesn’t seem or feel like a blessing right now, I’m sure. I’m sure you’re asking, why you? Why do you have to go through that pain? But let me tell you, my friend. Let me tell you that not only will you get through it, not only will you become stronger, but life has given you a gift in disguise. You will now be able to truly empathize and be aware of that same pain you’re growing through and see it in someone else. You now have the superhuman ability to help others who are lost just like you were once – and that to me, is the greatest gift pain can give.

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