And how you can apply the same to boost your self-esteem
I applied for my dream job when I was 22.
I had to write a tough exam but failed to make it to the interview stage. I was devastated. It felt like all hope was lost.
Somehow, I still believed in my potential. I decided to stick with the goal and retake the exam the next year.
During that one year between the first failed attempt and the next, I stayed in a shitty one-room apartment thousands of miles away from home with rats and cockroaches as my only roommates. They bit into all the biscuit packets I’d buy for myself and make weird rustling noises at night that would startle me.
I had no money for food. Some days were so bad that all I could afford was white bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never had the heart to ask my parents for money as they were also having struggles of their own. My father was going through the preparations for a major surgery, and my mother was on unpaid leave to take care of him.
Well, to be honest, I could have asked them for some money to buy proper food at least, but in my head, I “deserved” this fate because I failed the first time around.
It was a hard time, but I was pushing through. Until one day, I felt like I had no energy at all. Climbing up the flight of stairs to the first floor of the building drained me. I couldn’t study, couldn’t eat without throwing up, couldn’t take a shower, and eventually, I couldn’t even push myself out of bed. A classmate from college who lived in the same city found me and pushed me to see a doctor. It turns out I’d been suffering from jaundice for several days and had no idea.
The days after that should have been easy, but they were not. I flew back home and stayed for a few weeks with my parents. With proper food and medicines, I became healthy again. But my mental health was in pieces. I knew I’d fail the exam again. The voice in my head kept telling me I was a loser and that I didn’t deserve anything good ever in life.
It was a terrible phase, but I managed to push through.
I did fail the exam, but I found another job. And now, five years down the line, I’m planning to quit that soon and make a career shift.
As I’m writing this today, tears well up in my eyes. Those were hard times. Caught up in my loneliness and brutal self-recrimination, I could barely function well enough to solve my issues proactively. But now, five years down the line, I know if I could turn back time and delete that phase from my life, I wouldn’t.
It taught me some powerful lessons that shaped me into who I am today. And for that, I’ll be grateful. This post discusses the three most important lessons in self-love I learned from the darkest phase of my life and how you can apply them.
1. It Gets Better
Life might suck right now, but it’s impossible for things to remain bad forever.
If you feel you have no energy to change the state of things right now, you're probably right. But if you give up on yourself now, the chances are that you won't be there when you have the opportunity to turn your life around.
How to apply this
Life is full of possibilities. You might not see them right away, but they will come when you least expect them.
Until then, just hold on.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. You Are Stronger Than You Give Yourself Credit For
I thought I was losing. But I was surviving. And on some days, that’s all you need to do.
I thought my studies were failing because I couldn’t clear the exam I was preparing for. But I learned important concepts that still help me answer my students’ questions today.
I thought I let my parents down, but they keep telling me how proud they are of me that I overcame that phase.
I thought I’d never make my way out of that abyss, but I did.
I was strong even when I was breaking. I just didn’t realize it.
How to apply this
You might make mistakes, but you can always learn from them. When you look at things as they are, it might not seem like you have much good going on.
But when you take a step back, zoom out, and look at things keeping the bigger picture in mind, you’ll often realize that you’ve come a long way from where you were a few days (or weeks, months, even years) ago.
“Just because life can get crazy doesn’t mean you must go crazy. You can experience outer chaos and still experience inner peace. Nothing even needs to change outside you. This calm is available at all times. Just breathe.” — Karen Salmansohn
3. Even the Worst Days Have A Purpose
I thought my suffering had no meaning. That whatever I did was a waste of time and energy because I ended up failing the exam.
But when I look back, I wouldn’t be here writing this had it not been for that dark period. They might have been the hardest to push through, but those bad days made me who I am, and for that, I’d never wish to erase them from my life.
How to apply this
Try to look for a lesson in each failure, a silver lining in every dark cloud. When you’re caught up in your pain in the present, it might feel overwhelming and that you've nothing to look forward to in life.
But it gets better. One step at a time and things will get better.
“Inhale. Exhale. Everything is going to be ok. Actually, it’s going to turn out better than okay, you’ll see.” — Unknown.
Eventually, things fall into place the way they are meant to be. It takes time, and waiting is hard. But you’ve got to keep looking for opportunities and trying new avenues.
You’ll fail, but you’ll always learn.
And when you look back, you’ll have a beautiful story to tell.
“A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.