Life is SO Unfair!

download (2)   Every once in a while, when I struggle coming to grips with one of life’s thornier questions, I Google the question to see what answers I might find online.

Google, my guru in a box.

And so it was earlier today. I had another blog post partially written for this week, but over the last few days I hadn’t had the energy to finish it. It was way too positive, something I had not been feeling during most of the past week. Maybe I just would skip a week on my blog. Who would notice, really?

But then I began the peel back the layers of why I felt the way I did, at first blaming others for letting me down and not treating me the way I felt I deserved to be treated. My partner John. My boss.

I kept peeling. Eventually I got down to the core of why I felt so demoralized. What I discovered there didn’t really surprise me; I have actually been aware of it off and on for years. But this wasn’t one of those self-discoveries I’m particularly proud of. Not at all.

I felt disheartened because, dammit, life is just so unfair.

Rationally, I know better. I mean we’ve all heard the question, “Whoever said that life was fair?” It’s really not. Bad stuff happens to good people. It always has. But in my mind, that’s not the way it should be.

Time and time again throughout my entire life, when I’ve encountered a situation or an experience that I considered unfair, I’ve reacted in the same way—hot, angry tears spring up, my rational mind shuts down, and it feels as though my heart has turned into a rock.

I mean, why do I give so much and get so little in return? I have been more than a dedicated partner, employee, friend. Why shouldn’t I expect Easter flowers, a significant raise, or some unsolicited encouragement and support in return? I’ve been there for them, right? Shouldn’t it work both ways?

Life is just SO unfair!

When I finally recognized that this fairness/unfairness concept was once again the source of my discouragement,  I wanted to come to terms with it once and for all (which of course probably hasn’t happened—we are all works in progress). As I said, rationally, I know life isn’t fair. Why do I keep expecting it to be, only to be disappointed over and over again?

So I turned to my guru Google, and I typed in the search box, “How do I stop expecting life to be fair?”

The first page of results from that search contained articles that pretty much told me I should put on my big girl panties and just deal with it. Not very helpful because, as I said, my kneejerk response to anything I perceive to be unfair has always been immediate and automatic. I wanted guidance on how to change how I’ve been feeling in recent days. Telling me to just get over it didn’t cut it.

I kept scrolling. On page three of the Google search I came across the first article that struck me as helpful. Once again, it didn’t tell me anything that, on a rational level, I didn’t already know. But it explained my dilemma in a way that I could embrace at a deeper level, making it possible for me to break the downward mood spiral I’d been on and giving me the energy to write this new post.

You see—and you may already totally get this, but I obviously still needed enlightenment—that sense of unfairness unfailingly occurs when we set expectations for people, places and things that we have no control over. When those expectations aren’t met, we experience disappointment, resentment, and maybe even anger. We focus on what we believe should have happened, or should have been said or done. We justify our reaction by thinking that we would have behaved differently, or that we deserve to have our expectation met because, doggone it, we’re hard working or loving or honest or thoughtful, so we should get something in return for that.

And sometimes that happens. But quite often, it doesn’t.

Rather than get all worked up about it, then sink into a quagmire of defeat and lethargy, the emotionally healthier approach (and physically healthier approach, for that matter) involves resetting one’s perspective. Instead of mulling over the perceived affront or letdown, concentrate on all that is wonderful and good about your life. You’ll immediately feel an energy shift. I sure did.

So a couple of things didn’t go the way I wanted them to this week. Big whoop. I have my health, my family, my friends, my house, my yard…and that’s just for starters. I have Google to pose questions to. And the Syracuse University men’s and women’s basketball teams are both in the Final Four for the first time in school history.

But expecting people or circumstances to behave a certain way is simply unrealistic. It’s like expecting perfection from the weather, or travel plans to go flawlessly, or basing our financial future on lottery tickets. Expectations over things we can’t control creates stress. Releasing those expectations creates energy.

I hope, if you’ve come across this post, that it energizes you as well. Let’s face it, the world needs all the positive energy it can get. Each of us can contribute to that.


11 responses to “Life is SO Unfair!

  1. Thanks so much for this! I appreciate your honesty. It took me years to tackle the truth about life being unfair. Now I want to instill that truth in my kids every chance I get because I certainly don’t want them to be living in any illusions. Life is tough, and perhaps one of the blessings is knowing that it’s tough for all of us in some shape or form. We aren’t alone in struggling or disappointments; each one of us has to deal with what we can’t control. Counting the good stuff (like you did) sure puts things into perspective. Thanks!


      Hi Alice–this means so much, coming from you. Thank you for your feedback–and for continuing to be an inspiration to me, as a writer and as a person.

  2. Love this post! I have always loved your writing voice and this is no exception.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I also had one of those weeks and this post couldn’t have come across my lap at a better time. It gives more meaning to the sticky note I have on my computer that I don’t read often enough, “If you can’t change the situation, change your mind.” I’ve always appreciated your perspective and time is no different.


      Sorry to hear you had one of those weeks too, Jolene–let’s make a pact to have a totally better week ahead! Thanks for the feedback, as well as for sharing your quote. It perfectly captures the lesson I need to keep relearning, too.

  4. I had a boss (who I considered a mentor) when I was in my mid-20s. She told me something I never forgot. Oh, my boomer brain may need to stir the sleeping brain cells to recall it when I need it, but so far, I still remember. 😉

    After being let down by another “friend/coworker,” I said to my mentor, “I don’t think I will ever get used to being hurt like this.” Her response was, “I hope you don’t because it will change who you are as a person. And that’s pretty special.” It’s helped me immensely over the years. Hang in there. 🙂


      Thank you for this, Cathy. You’re mentor was right–
      it’s not about not getting hurt or feeling disappointment, but what we do with the experience that matters.

  5. You hit the nail on the head, Mary Anne! After my husband’s brain injury, I wallowed in “it’s just not fair!” for 18 months of misery, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Then I gave myself an ultimatum: either be miserable, angry, and a horrible person to be around the rest of my life or just try to accept it and find the good again. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m not all the way there, but every day does get easier. I find joy in watching my children growing up and becoming responsible, reading a good book, watching my favorite shows on TV, having enough money to pay the bills, watching my kitties play and lots of other things that some people might think are stupid or pointless, but they get me through. Even a good night’s sleep will put me in my happy place.
    So thanks for your article – I think every person on the planet has felt that life is unfair at some time.


      Yes, and I also think we (I) need to be reminded that the unfairness in life varies from one person to the next. Thank you so much for your comment, Shaunna, and for further helping me to put things in perspective.

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