Life gets really hard sometimes.
There will be days when you do not want to get out of bed.
There will be days when you physically cannot get out of bed.
We have all experienced days like these and when enough of these days string together we start saying and feeling like we are “in a slump”.
When weeks go by like this we get depressed. When months go by, we think about giving up.
This is normal; you are not alone in feeling this way. We all do sometimes—it’s natural.
You can’t experience the highs of life without the lows.
What’s important is to recognize that these feelings are temporary.
What’s important is to focus on the hope that tomorrow can be a better day.
Sometimes tomorrow won’t be a better day. Sometimes tomorrow will be worse than today.
But there is always the possibility that tomorrow can be a great day. That’s what we need to hold onto.
I’ve come to realize that perception is key.
The most important thing is not what happens to you but how you perceive what happens to you.
When you look back on your day, what do you think about? What do you remember? That smile on that cashiers face when you asked how their day was going? Or the anger and frustration of getting caught in traffic again?
How you choose to see the world is how you experience it.
There are so many things that I want to do in my life.
I want to travel the world, start my own company, get married, have kids, be happy, achieve financial independence, go into space, play around in virtual reality, and make the world a better place.
We all have these lists, our dreams, our goals, our aspirations of what the “perfect life” will entail.
Maybe you have not thought about yours in a while, maybe you just crossed one major thing off your list last week, maybe you are completely content with your life, maybe you have given up.
Whichever way you think about your dreams, you are right. How you choose to see things is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A friend of mine recently reached out to me and told me that he had been going through a rough time lately.
He told me that he has been feeling depressed, is having trouble getting out of bed every morning and feels like a complete failure.
After I asked him a few questions regarding why he is feeling this way I found the root cause.
He got a lot lower score on his MCAT test then he knew he was capable of—and just like that, his self-worth crumbled away.
Imagine seeing your dreams get crushed right before your very eyes and it being entirely your fault.
Ever since he was a child he has wanted to become a doctor.
He has volunteered in hospitals and worked his ass off. He went to an Ivy League school and graduated with a 3.9 GPA in its Pre-Med program.
He was on-track and he was doing great and all that he needed to do next was to prepare for the MCAT and ace that—just like he had been doing throughout his entire college career—but this time he fell short.
This time he failed.
Failing something that is very important to us really sucks.
I would rank it as one of the worst things you can experience right behind the death of a loved one and/or betrayal by someone you trust.
Maybe it’s because when you fail at something important all of those insecurities that we have in our head get a free pass to run rampant for a little while:
“You’re never going to amount to anything in your life.”
“Why even bother putting yourself out-there, nobody wants to hear what you have to say.”
“Everyone is just going to laugh at you.”
“You’re ugly. You’re stupid. Why would anyone want to be friends with you?”
No matter who you are you are going to have to fight these voices in your head that bombard you with negativity.
We all do—it’s a part of being human.
However, the important thing is to resist listening to these voices.
That despite whatever the demons in your head might be telling you, you take it with a grain of salt.
You do this because you believe in yourself.
Believing in yourself does not mean that you are not self-critical.
It does not mean that you think that you are perfect and that everything you do is right.
It does not mean that you are ignorant to the world; it does not mean that you are delusional.
Believing in yourself means that you are your number 1 fan.
Believing in yourself means that you appreciate yourself.
Believing in yourself means that no matter what happens, you will pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and tell yourself that you’ll do better next time.
My friend did not believe in himself.
He did not feel bad because of the low score on his exam; he felt bad because he attributed his low score to his self-worth.
This made him spiral into a hapless situation where instead of picking himself back up he pushed himself further into the dirt.
He would skip out on review sessions. He would delay taking the test again. He would go to bars when his peers were in the library.
He would listen to the negative voices in his head that told him that he was not good enough; that he could never do it; that he was actually less of a person than he thought he was; that he did not have the power to ever turn things around; that things were destined to be this way forever; that he was a failure.
After my friend told me how bad he was feeling I told him to try and view his life from a different perspective.
He lives in New York City.
Not only did he go to and graduate from college—something that over 90% of the world population does not do—he graduated Summa Cum Laude from an Ivy League University.
Education-wise his accomplishments rank somewhere in the top 1% of the entire world, all by the ripe young age of 22.
He’s applying to medical school, where the average age of a first-year student is 26 years old.
He has overcome a plethora of challenges, obstacles, and difficulties that many people would be honored to have done.
Yet despite all of that, the only thing that he sees is his current failure, without acknowledging any of his past successes.
This is something that we all do.
We forget the positives and harp on the negatives.
Instead of congratulating ourselves on what we have accomplished, we demoralize ourselves about what we have failed.
We don’t believe in ourselves.
I once heard something about regret that has stuck with me ever since.
That you should not regret anything in your life because regret is only useful for figuring out the things that you never want to happen again.
Once you know the things that you never want to happen again then that regret turns into wisdom, and wisdom builds character.
We are all so quick to regret our failures without ever learning from them.
We are so quick to forget our accomplishments and harp on the negatives without putting our lives into perspective.
You are not your mistakes. You can do better. You will do better.
You are better than you give yourself credit for.
It’s time to open your eyes to your own greatness.
Grab those rose-colored glasses that you use to view everyone else around you and look in the mirror.
You are the acclimation of a unique universe of experiences and events, of successes and failures, of thoughts and feelings, of love.
You are beautiful and amazing because you are you; there is no one else in the world like it. It’s time for you to realize that.
It’s time for you to realize that believing in yourself is a choice.
It took me a long time to believe in myself. It took me a long time to love myself.
I, like Holden Caulfield—could only see phonies all around me.
Everyone was not who they said they were; everything was a sham.
I was a phony.
I smiled when I was not happy. I laughed when I was not amused. I said I cared when I really didn’t. I thought that the world was out to get me and that nobody understood how I felt.
Then I realized that the problem wasn’t with the world around me. I realized that the problem was with myself.
I did not care about myself. I did not love myself. I did not believe in myself.
I relied upon the affirmations of others to recognize when I should be proud. When I should be happy. When I should be ashamed.
I spent so much time focusing on what everyone else thought and wanted me to be that I never paused to think about what I wanted. About who I was.
I would drink a 12-pack by myself because people thought it was cool.
I would come in first in a race to hear someone tell me “good job”.
I would smoke weed to numb myself to the emptiness that I felt inside of me.
I was tired all of the time. I was late to school everyday. I would sleep until 3 pm on the weekends.
I felt like I was an actor in my own body. I had a mask for every situation. I told people what they wanted to hear.
My parents were so proud of me. My friends loved me. I cried myself to sleep sometimes.
I could never understand what was wrong with me.
I felt like I was condemned to live a life of misery.
I did great in school. I had amazing friends that would go to the ends of the earth for me.
I had an awesome and beautiful girlfriend that would knead out all of the petty stresses and frustrations of my life like a master masseuse.
Then I would blow up on her for not paying attention to me. I would yell at her for the tiniest indiscretion—like messing up the directions on Google maps.
I would take out the frustrations of my life and how bad I felt on everything around me. I would be so quick to blame the world for my problems without ever looking within myself first.
It wasn’t until college that I started to understand what it meant to really love myself. What it meant to believe in myself.
How to view my life from a 3rd party perspective like I always viewed everyone else’s from.
How to be proud of my accomplishments, to not sweat the small stuff, to live life in the present moment, to recognize that the past is in the past and the future does not exist yet.
That how I choose to view the past is what gives it power.
That humans are terrible at predicting the future—if I did not know what I was going to eat for breakfast the next morning how could I possibly know what the next month, year, or decade had in store for me.
I realized that the past was there to learn from and that the future was there to look forward to.
I learned that by living life in the present moment the way that I wanted to, that was happy and fulfilling, that was productive, where I surrounded myself with people that I loved and admired—that life got a whole lot better.
I was excited to get out of bed and learn something new. I was excited to meet new people and put myself out there.
I actively searched for new opportunities that I found interesting. I smiled a lot more. I was happy. I believed in myself.
Believing in yourself does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and patience and wherewithal.
It takes strength, the kind where you keep putting one foot in front of the other even when you are not sure if your body will listen.
But most of all it takes conscious effort.
It takes you proclaiming that you are going to decide from now on how you are going to see the world.
How you are going to choose to perceive what matters and what doesn’t.
How you are going to do everything in your power to ensure that you live each day to the fullest.
That if you are happy with whom you are today, everything will eventually fall into place even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That despite your past and despite whatever you may have thought about yourself yesterday—today is a new day and today you will choose to believe in yourself, and that alone will make all the difference.
(P.S. Before posting this article, I spoke with my friend that I mention in it and I asked him if it was okay for me to post this.
We had this conversation a while ago and I wanted to be sure that he would not feel uncomfortable for me bringing this up in a public spotlight.
I also wanted to correct anything that I may have misinterpreted.
He really liked the article and was happy to be a part of it; he did however have a few things that he wanted to clear up.
Namely, that it was not the test that affected him so much, it was the way in which he let the negative emotions he felt about himself to take over.
Having been in similar situations, I completely agree that they can become quite paralyzing.
However—things are different now.
I am ecstatic to report that he is doing much better. He told me that he has gotten back on track and is doing everything he can to bring himself to a better place.
He’s not there yet, but as long as he keeps putting one foot in front of the other he will be there before he knows it and I’m so excited to see what it’s like when he does.)