7 Steps to Getting Back Up When Life Knocks You Down
One thing that’s just as certain as death and taxes is that somehow, sometime, life will deal you disappointments.
Oftentimes it might just be a little love tap, like missing out on a job you had your heart set on, for instance. Other times is can be a crushing, devastating blow that just straight-out knocks you down, like a relationship falling apart or the loss of a loved one, for example. One that has you questioning whether or not you can actually go on.
Either way, when you find yourself set you down on your butt by life, you have a choice to make.
You can either stay down, wallow in self-pity and sadness, and get comfortable with playing the role of a failure or victim for the rest of your days. Or, you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and come out swinging.
Actually, you have a third option as well, and it’s one that most people take. But I’ll talk about that in just a while.
The fact is, nothing that life throws at you is ever something that you can’t come back from. There’s nothing that you can’t pick up and move on from.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well, what if someone has just been told they have two weeks left to live?”
Here’s the thing.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all dying. Sooner or later, death happens to all of us. For some of us it will be many years from now, and for others, even someone in perfect health, it could be tomorrow.
So being told that you have x time left changes nothing. Sure, it will be hard to cope with.
But on the plus side, it will also give you the opportunity to decide how you want to spend your final days. What you want to experience, what you want to achieve, and who or what you want to influence.
That’s one of the big lessons . . . no matter what, there’s always a plus side.
Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. So let’s start at the beginning.
Here then are my 7 steps for getting back up from a K.O. (that’s knock-out, in case you didn’t know) dished out by life. Use just one or use them all, it’s up to you. As long as you just do it . . .
1. Get it out of your system
As a human being it’s natural for you to experience emotional responses to disappointments, failures, losses, or any other setback in your life. And it’s very important that you allow yourself to do so, fully.
This is what the grieving process is all about when you lose a loved one or experience any sort of emotional loss.
Allowing these negative emotions to go unexpressed by holding them inside is toxic, both emotionally and physically. They can lead to character flaws, chronic bitterness or hopelessness, and in the long term, even physical illness.
In a boxing match, when a fighter is knocked down he’s forced to face a mandatory eight count. Eight seconds to collect himself, shake it off and continue fighting.
When life knocks you down, you need to do the same thing. Take some time out to let the emotional response, or the shock, if you like, out of your system.
Different people handle this in different ways. Maybe you need to have a deep and meaningful talk with someone. Maybe you need to yell and scream and feel sorry for yourself for a while. Or maybe you need to just be alone and cry your eyes out for a while.
Whatever works for you. Just make sure you let it out.
And there’s no set period for how long it should take. Again, it’s different for everyone. Some people are under the misconception that the longer you grieve after losing someone, for example, the more you loved them. That’s not the case. Everyone is just different. We all deal with things in our own way, and in our own time.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that to be strong, or a badass, when life knock you down you pop right back up and carry on like nothing ever happened, without even so much as a frown. There are a few problems with this.
Firstly, as I said, you hold all those negative emotions inside and they gradually poison you.
Secondly, you learn nothing from the experience, so you don’t grow. Sure, you might think you’ve learned a valuable lesson – by vowing never to let that happen again, but really what you’ve done is to build a protective barrier.
You’ve hardened your defenses out of fear, and made yourself a more cynical, more bitter person. And that’s going to hold you back from a lot of opportunities and potentially amazing experiences in your life.
There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to shake off a bad experience in your life, or even having a good cry over it. It doesn’t make you weak. All that matters is that you get back up and carry on.
A strong person is not the one who doesn’t cry. A strong person is one who is quiet and sheds tears for a moment, and then picks up her sword and fights again.
2. Stay off the merry-go-round of negativity
One of the pitfalls you may encounter while taking time out to get it out of your system is that you start to feel comfortable in feeling sorry for yourself, or in wallowing in your own misery.
Allowing yourself to purge your emotions is one thing. But regurgitating them over and over and over again is entirely another. You wind up putting yourself into an endless cycle that becomes a misery generator.
What’s happened has happened. It may be hard to deal with and get over, but continuously piling the negativity on top of the situation in your mind is not the way forward.
It’s natural to feel hurt, anger, sadness, loneliness, and so on when something bad happens to you. But the fact is that you have the power to increase and prolong those emotions just by the way you think. So you need to be careful.
Think about the last time someone or something pissed you off, for example. There was your initial reaction, which was pretty much spontaneous. But then you may well have dwelled on it, and gone over and over it in your head. And each time you did, you would have found that your anger grew.
Letting your anger out is fine – as long as you don’t hurt anyone, of course. But being angry and staying angry isn’t. Stopping yourself from recycling negativity isn’t holding in your emotions. It’s preventing yourself from generating more unnecessarily.
It’s a different thing.
In my last blog post I talked about staying in your three-foot world, which included not focusing on the worst-case scenarios, or on the what-if’s. It’s the same here.
While your heart is purging itself of its pain, do your best to prevent your head from adding to it by focusing on the wrong things. Concentrate on positive, optimistic thoughts, not on thoughts of woe and hopelessness.
It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.
3. Remember that it’s all about you
One particular pet peeve that I have is when I hear people say that someone did something bad to them, even if it’s true. For example, expressions like “He dumped me”, “They fired me”, “He cheated on me”, “She stole from me”, “He raped me”, and so on.
I hate that!
Whenever I hear people use expressions like these, it makes me cringe. Every time.
Basically, because I feel like that in doing so, they label themselves as victims of that person.
It may seem like a trivial thing, but the fact is that words have a lot of power. The words you use in your sentences both reflect and influence your thoughts, and your thoughts influence your attitude and beliefs. And they’re part of what makes you who you are.
Sure, to some degree we’re all victims in life, since we can’t always prevent bad things happening to us. But when it’s between yourself and life, that’s okay. Because that’s what life is . . . ups and downs. And it’s the same for everyone.
Being someone else’s victim, on the other hand, sucks. It’s very disempowering. It makes you feel violated or smaller in some way.
You’re not anyone’s victim. You’re simply someone who’s just experienced a down in life, and now you’re in the process of managing the situation, getting over it, and moving on stronger and wiser. So you’re not beneath anyone, you don’t hold a grudge against anyone, you’re not unworthy of anyone, and no one has any power over you.
A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim.
So when it’s some person that knocks you down in life (and let’s face it, it usually is), don’t look at it like, “they did this to me”. Feeling like a victim takes away all of your power to grow stronger.
Make it all about you and your life, not about the other person.
There’s another reason why this is important.
If someone else is responsible for the blow you’ve just suffered in your life, then naturally you’re going to think about what they did and why they did it. That’s fine. Do think about it and learn from it.
But don’t dwell on it forever – doing so isn’t going to change anything. Remember, stay in your three-foot world.
Also, don’t let it allow you to lay all the blame on them and wash your hands of the whole situation.
Making it all about you forces you to look at what ownership you have in what has happened to you. Whether you were dumped, fired, cheated on, or heaven forbid, attacked or raped, you need to think about what you could have done better or at least differently.
That’s important if you’re going to learn and grow.
I’ll talk about this more in a later point but for now it’s important to remember that you have at least some ownership in absolutely everything that you experience in your life.
4. Get by with a little help from your friends
Have you ever noticed how, when you’re experiencing relationship troubles or even a breakup, your friends and family suddenly seem to possess a surprisingly high degree of wisdom with the advice they give you? (When you ask for it that is – unsolicited advice isn’t always so helpful!)
That’s because they’re not emotionally invested in the situation like you are, which means that they can see things far more clearly and logically than you.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important to emotionally purge first and foremost after being knocked down by life, before trying to rationalize in your mind what has happened or to learn any lessons from it. In an emotional state, your judgment is quite often pretty impaired.
Either way, talking to someone you trust and can confide in about a crisis in your life generally always helps in a big way. Whether it’s to get advice on what to do next from a second perspective, to hear some words of consolation, or just to have someone lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on, sharing your pain makes it so much more tolerable.
There’s no more comforting time to reconnect with old friends and close friends and just hang out, than when you’ve lost someone in your life or you’re facing a particularly difficult crisis. It’s times like these that you truly appreciate how valuable these beautiful individuals are to you.
You don’t have to face life’s challenges alone, and you’re not being a burden on anyone by asking for their support.
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
As a matter of fact, you’ll find that when you do share these trying moments in life with someone close to you, it significantly strengthens your bond with that person. So where you may lose on the one hand from your crisis, you gain on the other.
There’s also a pretty good chance that somewhere down the line, you’ll be repaying the favor when your situations are reversed.
5. Get the most value out of the situation that you can
No one enjoys being knocked down by life.
But paradoxically, it can also be a very rewarding experience in the grand scheme of things.
Some people believe that everything in life happens for a reason.
Whether or not you’re one of those people, one thing is for sure. And that is that every negative situation in your life, no matter how painful or how devastating, has a positive side to it that can be just as significant, if not more so.
When you look at a bad situation from that perspective, it’s not hard to see why some people believe that it was actually meant to be.
The fact is, it’s your bouncing back from failures in life and the overcoming of challenges and crises that builds your character and makes you the person you are.
Character is not made of sunshine and roses. Like steel, it is forged in fire, between the hammer and the anvil.
So when you’ve been knocked down, regardless of how bad you’re hurting at the time, it’s consoling to bear in mind that what you’re experiencing is simply a natural part of life and that if you treat it the right way, it’s actually making you better, stronger person.
That should give you hope.
In the introduction to this post, I mentioned that when life knocks you down, you have a choice to make. You can stay down, feel sorry for yourself, and let the failure or the setback define you and your life. Alternatively, you can get back up, learn and grow from the experience, and fight on. That’s what this blog post is about.
The third and most common option however, is to just weather the storm – just get through it, and then carry on once again with your life from where you left off. That’s actually unfortunate.
Sure, all tough experiences build character to some extent. But unless you do your best to learn and become wiser as a result, you’ve wasted a valuable life experience. Hey, you’ve already paid the price, you may as well get the most out of it.
Once you’re over the emotional “shock” of being knocked down and as soon as you’re able, sit down and think deeply about what happened. Write down what lessons you can draw from the experience. Do it as soon as you can, while everything is still fresh in your mind.
And remember, this isn’t a five-minute task. Take your time and do a thorough job. It could take days, even weeks. Whatever.
As I mentioned in Step 3, don’t worry about other people’s role, just focus on your own. Think about how you can become a better and wiser person.
Your lessons may involve other people. For example, a situation could teach you to focus more your partner’s actions in the future as opposed to his or her words. That’s fine. Just be careful not to lay blame on others. Even if they are in fact to blame, the point of this exercise is to improve yourself so that you can grow, not to point out the shortcomings of others. That doesn’t help you. (Stay in your three-foot world!)
Remember that every negative experience is a teacher. It’s just up to you to make yourself a receptive student and get the best possible lesson out of it.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
6. Be proud of your crucible experience
There’s nothing quite like that uplifting feeling of having emerged from a tough challenge or experience in life that tested you as a person. For example, running a marathon, making a long, demanding trek through the wilderness, climbing a mountain, or bungee jumping for the first time.
It leaves you feeling invigorated and with a sense of accomplishment.
This is the very reason why we as human beings willingly choose to take on challenges in life that expose us to pain, discomfort, uncertainty, fear, and even danger. It’s because of how they make us feel once we’ve succeeded.
When life knocks you down and you’ve taken it on the chin, picked yourself up, learned and grown from the experience, and pledged to fight on as a stronger, braver, wiser woman, you should feel exactly the same way.
You should be able to look back on your ordeal with pride at what you came though and how you faced it, and the fact that you survived. And at the better person you’ve become.
That’s one more thing you can add on your list that if life throws at you again in the future, you know you’re strong enough deal with.
In fact, situations like that these make excellent opportunities to make other, overdue changes in your life. If you were thinking about joining a gym, updating your wardrobe, joining some activity group, or changing your hairdo, for example, now is a great time to do it. You can make this the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in your life.
You should never look at yourself as an unfortunate victim or someone who was wronged.
Rather, you’re someone who was tested by life, and who rose to and met the challenge like a warrior.
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.
Always be proud of your battle scars and wear them as a badge of honor. And the next time life decides to put you to the test, you’ll be all the more confident in your strength and fortitude to take it on.
7. Remember that without downs, there can be no ups
It’s natural to wish for nothing but success and good times in your life, and to work toward making that your reality. But of course, life often has other ideas.
Nobody likes experiencing life’s lows, and I’m not suggesting that you need to. But you should accept them as a natural and necessary part of life. And embrace them as such.
Remember that even sunny days can become tedious and mundane if that’s all you ever have. They lose their meaning and their value. You need the occasional rainy day to really appreciate them for what they’re worth.
The next time life knocks you down, remember that what you’re experiencing is part of what creates your future happy days. In effect, it’s part of what makes your life worth living.
Take some solace in that.
The storm will end. You will get through it, and you will emerge into a brighter, more uplifting life.
Look at this is way . . .
When you want to jump up into the air as high as you can, what’s the first thing you do? You squat down lower into a position that you can spring up from. Well, life’s the same. You need the lows from which you can bounce into higher highs.
So remember, it may not always feel that way, but as long as you don’t choose to live your life there, the downs truly are your friends.