At what point do we start to realize that life isn’t fair? I think we are supposed to learn that lesson as children, but does it really sink in? So and so got the bigger piece of cake at the birthday party, but I got a longer turn in the bouncy castle. Maybe I cried, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I don’t really like cake (suspend your disbelief for a second), and so I didn’t notice the inequality in our slices. Maybe it makes a difference if I am happy for so and so because we are good friends and I know how much he loves cake. I can set aside my own desire for a sugar rush and stomach ache if it means seeing my friend happy. Or maybe I can’t. Or maybe this gets a lot more complicated when we aren’t talking about cake anymore.
This week a prominent E! Entertainment figure stepped down after learning her male counterpart made twice her salary for similar work duties and a shared longevity with the network. Several articles emerged commenting on pay discrepancy between men and women, and not a single one lauded this pay gap as fair. Had the difference between salaries been smaller, there may have been more of a debate, but 2 to 1 makes it pretty easy for outsiders to look at and say: That’s not ok. It’s uneven and unfair. And mostly, we as human beings believe things like that should be fair. I’m not here to spark political debate, but in 2017 equal pay for equal work is the only solution, and if logic is not your thing you can step away from this blog right now, it’s not for you.
Other things are not so black and white. “Life isn’t fair,” is one of the most ubiquitous phrases around, and yet there is an internal sense of believing that while at times life isn’t fair, if we are “a good person” and work hard, and are deserving of good things, there will ultimately be some payout or balance. Whether that’s true or not might take a lifetime to answer, and requires a much more in depth philosophical discussion than I am willing to take on in blog form with only two undergraduate philosophy courses to back up my thoughts. What I am qualified to talk about and want to address is what do we do when we are moving through an unfair point in life and really struggling with absorbing the feeling of unfairness. While we are supposed to “know” that life isn’t fair, feeling the effects of the unfairness is a whole other story.
If I try to put myself in the shoes of those around me, I can easily pinpoint a moment where they felt things weren’t fair: Why am I still single? Why can’t I just find a job that I love? Why can’t I have a better relationship with my family? Why can’t I get pregnant? If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions then you know there is a sense of being deserving of what you lack, and sometimes even more so. And in those cases, there is an unwillingness to just sit back and accept that maybe it’s just because life isn’t fair.
So what do we do?
Build your support system: Whatever it is that’s troubling you, you are not the only one going through it. Find someone who gets it. Like really gets it. Facebook is a great resource for support online, and there are endless niche groups that offer a place to commiserate. (Disclaimer: they are not all created equal so I recommend reading through past posts before adding your own).
Read: Go to Amazon, type your problem, and I bet there’s a book for that. Not all problems are created equal and having more in depth advice for working through your particular strife is going to help.
Redirect: Instead of being swallowed up by the part of your life that is unfair, spend some time reflecting on the part of your life where you dominate. Maybe your family tree makes you want to buy a chainsaw, but you have a great group of friends. Or maybe you’ve experienced more financial setbacks than the guy next to you, but you absolutely love your job. Focusing on the good is easier said than done, but is worth the added effort.
Therapy: If you’ve read any previous posts you already knew this answer was coming. Having someone to talk about the unfairness with is invaluable. Someone to sit in the pain with you, for as long as you need and who is not going to make you feel like a whiny child for truly lamenting the feeling.
So it is true: Life isn’t fair. But just because we have to say it, doesn’t mean we have to be ok with it.
Photo by Lisa via Flickr