The Courage to Push Through Our Pain

Metallic wire mesh transform into flying birds on sunset sky background

In order to truly fly, there is something that we must do first.

This week, I’m going to ask you to do something very interesting, and it’s potentially something that no one has ever asked you to do before.

I’m going to ask you to change your relationship with pain.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

That’s because, in a sense, it is scary. But it’s also necessary. Especially if you’re reading this and you are slightly interested in living a more positive life.

Ready?

Increasing Your Pain Tolerance

If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.” -JD Houston

Many people I know tend to avoid pain.

It’s understandable, right? It is so much easier to avoid pain than it is to learn to push through it.

I actually used to believe that.

Now I understand the truth, and here it is:

There is nothing more beneficial for our overall well-being, happiness and success than increasing our pain tolerance. 

Contrary to popular belief, our lives actually become easier once we are able to deal with pain more effectively.

This is going to be harsh (and intentionally so) because I know how much my life positively transformed when I heard this truth for the first time. Hopefully it will help someone reading this as much as it helped me. Here goes:

If you are unwilling to push the boundaries of your pain tolerance consistently, you are doomed to live a mediocre life. Even worse, you will die without knowing what it is like to achieve or experience anything close to your fullest potential. In other words, a low pain tolerance = a small life.

Ouch.

It’s true, isn’t it? People who can’t tolerate pain end up living tiny, sad lives that are exemplified by either A) living in constant fear of being hurt or B) doing anything to avoid pain–even at the detriment of their hopes and dreams.

Coming from personal experience with both of the above, I can confidently say that neither is an ideal way to live.

Understanding Pain

When I’m talking about pain, I’m not referring to physical pain (actually in some cases, I am), I am mainly referring to our willingness to push through temporary emotional discomfort to reach our goals.

And any goal that’s worth having in this world (cleaning up our eating habits, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, learning to stand up for ourselves, sharing your art with the world, etc.) is probably going to hurt a little initially.

  • It could hurt to choose veggies instead of the chili cheese fries that you’re craving.
  • It could hurt to be the first to say “I love you” without any idea if it will be reciprocated.
  • It could hurt to release your album, start your blog, or open your business knowing that you could fail and become the butt of numerous jokes.
  • It could hurt to workout hard at the gym, especially when it would be so much easier (and less painful) to stay in your warm and comfy PJs.
  • It could hurt to put money toward getting out of debt instead of buying that new 4K Ultra HDTV (that you probably don’t even need.)
  • It could hurt to finally confront the person who has been making your life a living hell.

Sure, all of those things could hurt. But here’s what absolutely will hurt in the long-run:

Consistently using the anticipation of pain as an excuse to stay stuck in a smaller life than the one you deserve.

The only way to lessen pain’s effect over your life is to experience it. Read that sentence again because it is so true.

Once you fight through pain, the pain shrinks and your pain tolerance expands.

And once your pain tolerance expands, you become more willing and able to experience more of life. That includes trying new things, learning things that you’re not good at, doing something that scares you a little to expand your comfort zone, learning not to take yourself so seriously, and most of all, living life to the absolutely fullest while you’re alive and able to do so.

Isn’t this why we’re alive in the first place?

Pain isn’t going anywhere, so running away from it doesn’t make any sense anymore (actually, it never did.) The fear of pain has controlled me for most of my adult life, and I’m committing to push through pain because I know that I will be of a greater service to my loved ones and to the world if I’m able to do so. I’m done with living small, and I hope that you’re with me on this.

For me, that means more vulnerability, trying new things in a very public forum (stay tuned for that shortly), going after goals that are way outside my comfort zone, delaying gratification when I would rather watch a movie or sleep instead of work toward my dream, and making my health a priority in ways that I never have before.

Are these changes scary and will they hurt?

Hell yes! But those things are not nearly as scary and as painful as this:

Leaving this earth and allowing my dreams to die inside of me, because I was too weak and cowardly to fight through my pain in order to claim them.

We All Have Drama

When some people aren’t running from their pain, they’re doing something even worse.

They’re glorifying it.

Everyone reading these words (myself included) has some serious drama going on in their lives right now. That’s why it is so dangerous (and deluded) to think that you’re the only one who is dealing with any drama. You’re not.

Personally speaking, I used to glorify my pain and drama all of the time.

  • “None of these people know what it’s like to be broke.”
  • “None of these people know how hard it is to keep up in school with a learning disability.”
  • “None of these people can relate to being bullied.”
  • “None of these people understand what it’s like to deal with racism.”
  • “None of these people know what it’s like to fail over and over again.”

Blah, blah, blah…I’m embarrassed to admit that I would clutch onto my pain like a toddler clutches onto a security blanket. Even worse, I would wrap myself up in it and use it as an excuse to not take the necessary action to do something about my life.

Here’s what I know now. There is so much more to life than clutching onto our pain.

Our pain will never make us unique or special, because we’re all dealing with it in one way or another. Pain makes us common, not special. But do you know what will make us special?

Our response to pain.

Don’t be one of the people who chooses to hide behind their pain. We’re all hurting in one way or another (yes, all of us.) The real question is, will you be one of the special ones who makes the life-altering choice to rise above their pain? This is something that I believe we can all do, starting now.

Will it be easy? Probably not.

Thankfully, I know something that can make it easier.

Courage Needed: Apply Within

I have said it before and I’ll say it again:

There is no greater enemy to humanity than fear.

It has unnecessarily destroyed more lives than any disease ever could. That’s why there is no more important trait to develop in our lives than courage.

It may hurt initially to push the boundaries of your pain tolerance, but once you do, you have effectively reduced the amount of power that the pain has over your life.

But I’ve said enough about this. So, what’s it going to be?

Are you going to keep running away from pain? Are you going to use your pain as an imaginary badge of honor? Or are you going to commit to fight through pain to reach the treasure that’s waiting for you on the other side?

In the end, we can’t wish ourselves to be more courageous. We can’t passively think and dream about a day when we’ll be able to push through pain, and believe that “thinking and dreaming” will make a damn bit of positive difference.

There’s only one way to do it, and this quote says it flawlessly:

You don’t think your way into a new way of acting, you act your way into a new way of thinking.” -Keith Ferrazzi

Starting today, let’s commit to take action to push through our pain. Yes, it will hurt. But on a positive note, when we get to the other side of the pain, we will be changed forever.

And it’s that new person who will have the power to positively change the world, and more importantly, your own world too.

Your Turn

Have you ever avoided pain or hidden behind your pain as a “badge of honor?” Have you ever fought through your pain to reach a goal that you didn’t think was possible? Either way, jump into the comments and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. This is so spot on Shola!! I recently fought the fear of publishing my very first blog! it was so scary to do that but finally I did it! I am currently writing my first post and I hope it helps others! I still don’t know what kind of posts I will write in the future, but I know things will get sorted out! Thank you for such an inspiring post, Shola! this one goes to my favorites list!!

    Happy Monday!!

    • Right on, Sofia! I still remember the fear of hitting the “Publish” button on my first-ever blog post, and I’m so glad that I was able to push through those self-defeating thoughts in order to make it happen. A year from now (or much sooner), you’ll look back on your initial blog post with so much joy and satisfaction that you did what so many others just talk about. Well done, my friend!

  2. Thank you Shola! This is a great read!! Pushing through the emotional pain is difficult enough, but having both emotional and physical…wow! I am proud of my accomplishments in both arenas. I started painting in journals (after 30 years of not even seeing a brush) to help with my pain management…because my physical pain never goes away. But when I broke through the emotional pain with courage (yes, dealing with years of drama caused by a relative) I found strength to deal with my physical pain. Now I am not perfect, the emotional pain creeps back in and I do have those ‘pity’ parties but I am more aware and stronger emotionally to push it aside. I have challenged myself and am currently painting the “Women’s Series” and hope to be in a gallery in a year. Completed are ‘Grief Never Dies’, ‘Validation’, ‘Beauty Within’, ‘Serenty’ and I am working on ‘Victorious’. I found you a bit ago and you were speaking to me. This is a wonderful read and again, I thank you for all that you do with your smile that is so contagious. Have a great day! Anne

    • Anne, I love what you’re doing with your Women’s Series of paintings! You’re right–the focus of this post was mainly about emotional/mental pain, because when you add physical pain into the mix, it becomes so much harder for people to move forward. Even so, you’ve found a way to do it :). I commend you on your strength, and specifically, how you’ve transformed your pain into something beautiful with your art. You are such an inspiration for all of us.

      Also, thanks for the compliment on my smile!

  3. Hi Shola, what a terrific post! I appreciate that you addressed not only fear of pain, but also the habit of glorifying pain. I feared pain for a long time, as I’d had so much as a child, that I thought any more would literally kill me. It took a long time to understand that, as an adult, when I feel pain, I have choices, to make changes, learn lessons, and grow. And I sure used that pain as an excuse for not taking responsibility for my own life. It’s true, start with small steps, start taking a few lumps. A person really can learn to tolerate the pain, keeping focused on the end result, and manage the process.

    • Hey Donna! Yes, glorifying pain is such a soul-decaying habit, and sadly, I can say that confidently as someone who engaged in said habit for years. As always, you never disappoint in bringing the wisdom, and I agree with what you said wholeheartedly–every positive change starts with small steps and finding the strength to push through the inevitable lumps that will be waiting for us. I believe that anyone who can do that will enjoy a more positive life than they ever thought possible.

  4. Thank you, Shola! This is what I really need to know just now. So, I’ll try to swim out of my sh*t period of life) Emotional pain and life-from-my-dreams. I just realize this 2 things may walk together… Thanks again!

    • Remember Olenka, as the saying goes: “when you’re going through hell, keep going.” Don’t stop my friend, this pain will pass–you got this!

  5. Hi Shola,
    I love your blog! This topic resonated so well. It gives me a completely different view of how to deal with fear and pain. I don’t want to hide behind it anymore.
    Thank you!

    • Right on, Michelle! Since fear and pain will always be a part of our lives, the best way to deal with them both is to face them. And believe me, even though it might not be easy, you have everything within you to plow through them both.

  6. Hi Shola!
    First off, I have to let you know that I read and tweet so many of your blog posts. You have a way of making the reader feel you are talking directly to them. Beautiful! I love the way you approach really tough subjects that allows each of us to truly look inside ourselves, find the truth, know it is ok to feel vulnerable and really evaluate our lives. You are an inspiration! This article really spoke to my heart. Almost a year ago I decided it was time to really share what I have learned over the last decade regarding energy medicine. I thought the best way to do it would be via a website using video as my main source of communicating and demonstrating how to heal from the inside out. Here is where I had to “push through the pain”. Every time I would go to make a video I would come up with some kind of excuse….. “I need a better camera.” “ The lighting is horrible.” “People will think I am crazy.” “I don’t sound believable.” “What if nobody cares?” “What will my friends and family think?” “Who do you think you are?” and the list goes on and on. I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest the first time I hit that upload button and then published! It has been almost a year now, and even though I have not become a Youtube sensation nor have I had thousands of visitors to my website, I feel a sense of peace inside. I feel empowered knowing that I am truly living my purpose by giving people hope that they too have everything they need inside themselves at this very moment to live a life that is happy, healthy and abundant. That is exactly what your blog does! You are a beautiful soul! I look forward to the next post!

  7. Dear Shola, Thank you so much for your articles…you have a big heart! God bless you!

  8. I am so glad I found this website! Great articles. I really need this kind of positive thinking in my life right now. Shola, you do great work!

  9. Hi Shola! LOVE your blog–your writing proves that words really do have the power to transform lives! Having reading your March ’15 post “What You Allow,” I was curious, how do you distinguish between situations worth pushing through the pain, and those that are causing needless pain that we should not allow? Not every situation that we can endure is worth enduring, but the tricky thing is identifying which is which! I’d love to hear your take on this. Keep up the great work!

  10. Michelle Gilliam says:

    just ran across this blog tonight. Not missing a word of it. I have read a few other sites along my journey lately but this site for some reason just resonated with me. I have been utterly ALONE thru this…. And yes unfortunately, I am one of those who is experiencing the awful heart ACHE of the NEVER AGAIN… My heart aches terribly but..after reading what you had the courage to put out there, I can honestly say now I will forever equate pain with growth.. I don’t feel so alone anymore and I am YAY motivated to continue on my journey. I also have never had the courage to reply to anything like this as I am not articulate and get embarrassed of my lack of writing skills..You helped me just write it ya know?? You spoke to me tonight and I thank you for finding your courage to share to help people like us!!! I wish u continued success!!!

  11. Christine Haas says:

    This post really resonates. On 12.13.16, I was strangled on a CalTrain platform at 8.25 p.m., no camera, no lights, so little hope of finding the perpetrater. After having a couple of week s of horrible flashbacks and trying to seek medical help over the Holidays (impossible), i joined Krav Maga, promised that this event was not going to impact me and I have been almost 100% fine since. Almost. Bonus: Krav Maga is kicking my a%$ and getting me into shape

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