Have you ever noticed that when you’re struggling, you start to distance yourself for others? When you’re in pain, when life feels hard, you push away. Your brain convinces you that no one really understands, that no one else is having a hard time.
You might distance yourself physically, by isolating, withdrawing, or not returning phone calls. Or you might do this cognitively, thinking “I’m the only one who struggles like this” or “Everyone else has life figured out.” When you’re struggling, all sorts of doubt and insecurity creeps up. But this simple phrase will absolutely help. It’s one of my favorites, and I use it daily in my own life. Watch below!
When you’re struggling, it’s natural to distance yourself from others. This is a natural defense mechanism. It’s your brains attempt to keep you safe from judgment. Remember, your brain is wired to avoid pain. While this wiring was created with physical pain in mind, as humans have evolved, this avoidance of pain has been translated to emotional pain as well.
So when you’re struggling, your brain anticipates judgement from others. It predicts ridicule and rejection. And to avoid that pain, it pulls away from others. Your brain thinks isolating is helpful, but in reality, it makes you feel worse. Tara Brach captures this cycle beautifully. “Feeling unworthy goes hand in hand with feeling separate from others, separate from life. If we are defective, how can we possibly belong? It seems like a vicious cycle: the more deficient we feel, the more separate and vulnerable we feel.”
So when you’re struggling, you’ve got to challenge your brain’s natural defense mechanism. You’ve got to speak up, reminding your brain of what is true. One of the most helpful phrases to do this?
“I’m a human.” (Sidenote: If you choose to follow this helpful tip for self-talk, you might instead say, “You’re a human,” speaking in second person as way to grab your brain’s attention.)
It sounds so simple, and in some ways, it is. But this simple phrase shouldn’t be minimized. It makes a dramatic difference when you’re struggling. Part of being a human is struggling. While we all have different struggles and challenges, we share one very basic thing. We all struggle. It’s not just you. It’s me, it’s you, it’s your best friend, and it’s your boss. Everyone struggles. It’s part of being human.
When you’re struggling, this phrase isn’t intended to take away your pain or make things instantly better. It’s meant to challenge the little voice in your head saying, “It just me. I’m broken; I’m different and defective.”
I’ve shared before about the concept of self-compassion, an evidence-based approach to dealing with a wide variety of issues. One of the components of self-compassion is common humanity, which is a recognition of the universal nature of struggle. We all experience it; we all feel it.
So when you’re struggling, be active in comforting yourself. Acknowledge your pain. Use your coping statements. Be compassionate, and remind yourself that you’re a human.