Why is life so unfair?
During periods of struggle, I’m guessing that you’ve asked yourself this question. It’s only natural when life seems to be punishing you for no other reason than to be cruel.
The truth though, is that you’re stronger than your circumstances. No matter the injustice that life throws your way, you can overcome these struggles.
And even more than that, you can use the unfairness of your life to your benefit by making something of yourself despite the suffering.
This article will delve deeper into the question of why is life so unfair, and then talk about several different strategies you can implement to combat the unfairness of life.
3 Reasons Why Life Is So Unfair
It’s true that every job applicant should be judged strictly on merit, regardless of family background or connections.
It’s true that in an ideal world, we’d all endure the same level of suffering, trauma, and loss.
It’s true that if life was completely fair, we’d all be born into families with the same level of opportunity and wealth.
But we don’t live in a fair world, and we never will. You’re never going to be playing the game of life on a level playing field.
Before going into what you can do about this, here’s 3 simple reasons why you’ll never stop asking the question, “why is life so unfair?”
#1: Everyone Wants What You Want
If you’re reading this article, it likely means that you want more out of life. Well, the reality is that so does everyone else.
Many times in life, we get into trouble when we think we’re special.
This belief manifests itself in conditions like social anxiety, which plagued my life for years. For those of you who aren’t familiar with social anxiety, it’s an anxiety disorder that’s characterized by an intense fear of being judged negatively by other people in social situations.
It’s an irrational and debilitating fear. And even though the belief comes more from a place of fear than arrogance, it’s actually quite a self-centered approach to the world — it assumes that you’re special, and that people are watching your every move waiting for you to slip up.
The reality is far different — people are so consumed with their own thoughts that our actions aren’t nearly as important as we think they are.
The belief that we’re special also causes problems when it comes to assessing our own level of ambition. I’m a huge offender of this, because for a long time I believed I was special for having so much ambition.
I wasn’t special at all! Everyone wants to achieve their goals and dreams. Everyone wants to be happier, richer, and more fulfilled.
The world isn’t fair because everyone is in a race to get the best of everything in life, and some people are given a significant head start.
- Some people will possess more talent than you.
- Some people will be born with more natural intelligence than you.
- Some people will have more opportunities due to their family’s socioeconomic status
- Some people will encounter improbable strokes of luck that greatly accelerate their progress
You might not have any of these advantages while going after the life you want.
Is that fair? Nope.
Is that just how life is and how it always will be? Yes.
#2: Self Interest Reigns Supreme
Sometimes other people are the biggest culprits of us asking the question, “why is life so unfair?”
Maybe at one point you developed feelings for someone and they didn’t feel the same way.
Maybe you’ve been let go from a job because management decided that they needed to cut back on staff to improve margins.
Maybe you’ve been on the wrong end of gossip about your personal life that’s had a negative impact on your personal relationships.
In all of these events, self-interest is driving behavior. At the end of the day, when faced with a decision, most people will place their needs above the needs of others.
It’s a survival instinct that’s been hard-wired into us over thousands of years of evolution — we all do what we feel we need to do to survive and thrive in this world.
It’s not evil, it’s just human nature. At some point, you’ve likely made a decision to benefit your own self-interests that’s negatively affected the lives of other people, even if you didn’t know it at the time.
Does that make you a bad person? Of course not, it just means that you did what you thought was best for you, which is what we’re all trying to do in this world.
#3: Pain Doesn’t Affect Everyone Equally
Right before we both started high school, one of my best friends lost his mother to cancer.
She was a wonderful woman, and I couldn’t believe she had been taken from the world such an early age (she was in her late 40’s when she died)
I also couldn’t comprehend why this was happening to my friend, who now had to go through the rest of his life with a gaping hole in his heart. Incredible pain had been inflicted upon him, and there was nothing he could do about it.
This taught me a very important lesson about the nature of the world — pain doesn’t distribute itself equally among the population.
It’s true that life is suffering, yet some people feel the weight of this suffering significantly more than others do. As you’re reading this right now, there are some truly horrible things happening in the world.
- Sons/daughters are losing their mothers and fathers unexpectedly
- Mothers giving birth are losing their babies in the womb
- Innocent people are becoming the victims of evil crimes
Events like these are inevitable, and when they happen to you or someone you’re close to, it’s understandable to wonder why is life so unfair.
And yet, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change the fact that bad things are going to happen to good people, all you can do is hope that they don’t directly affect you or the people you care about.
We’re all going to experience pain in our lives. For some of you, the level of pain you experience will be healthy and manageable.
Unfortunately, there are some of you reading this who have endured, or will have to endure a tremendous level of physical and emotional pain. You’ll constantly be questioning “why is life so unfair?” and wonder why the world is such a cruel, nasty place.
Where you end up on the sliding scale of pain largely comes down to luck — the only thing you can do is focus on managing whatever comes your way.
What Should You Do When Life Is Unfair? (4 Tips)
We can’t change the fact that life is unfair, so what can we do to combat the inevitable suffering that life will throw at us?
Here’s four different things you can do to push back against the unfairness of life:
- Focus Only On What You Can Control
- Seize Your Opportunities
- Let Your Work Ethic Define You
- Prepare For The Worst By Controlling Your Environment
The rest of this article will cover each of these strategies in more detail and give you a roadmap for tilting the odds of fate in your favor.
#1: Focus Only On What You Control
When things aren’t going your way, it’s easy to lash out at the world being cruel. Unfortunately, no amount of complaining about the external world will change it’s unfair nature.
At some point, instead of constantly asking yourself, “why is life so unfair?”, you have to shift your internal dialogue.
Here’s a more productive question —Despite the bullshit that life is throwing my way, what can I do to fight back?
The game of life is won by people who master what’s within their control, and let go of the things that they can’t control..
Get laid off from your job? Sure, it’s not going to feel good in the present moment, and it’s okay to sit with that pain for a few days.
But when the resentment fades, you’re given two choices:
- Option #1: Continue to sit and wallow in your anger, using the pain as an excuse to stagnate and not look for any other opportunities.
- Option #2: Focus on what’s within your control and execute the action steps necessary to make the best out of a shitty situation.
You can choose to start rebuilding your resume and tailor it to the job that you want to find next.
You can look in the mirror and honestly assess your own performance, and craft a plan for fixing the weaknesses that played a role in you being let go.
You can choose to send in 5-10 job applications per day so that you give yourself the best chance of landing back on your feet.
These are all positive actions that would improve this situation, and you have total control over whether or not you execute them.
So whatever the source of unnecessary pain in your life, write down 5-10 action steps that you can complete that will address this source of pain.
You can’t take on all 5-10 at once, so focus on one at a time and make incremental progress every single day. And if you have the self-discipline to do that, you may find that the world is a much more opportunistic place when you show some grit.
#2: Seize Your Opportunities
Given that the world is an unfair place, you must take advantage of opportunities that the world throws your way.
Successful people are masters of seizing opportunity. Average people tend to let opportunities pass them by and then curse the world for their bad fortune.
The world doesn’t distribute it’s opportunities to everyone equally. Some people get the benefit of being in the right place at the right time more often than others, but we’re all in that position at one point or another.
The only question is whether or not you’re going to act at that moment.
I guarantee that if you look back on the positive events that have happened in your life, most of them were preceded by you seizing an opportunity.
The dilemma with opportunities is that capitalizing on them requires getting outside of your comfort zone. The single biggest culprit of a failure to seize opportunity tracks back to fear — fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear being negatively judged by others, etc.
If you want to make your own luck in this world, you have to get comfortable with fear. You must learn to take action in spite of it when opportunities arise.
One of the best ways to do this is through comfort zone challenges, which essentially force you to practice facing your fears.
The inherent nature of comfort zone challenges is that there’s potential for embarrassment or rejection. And although it feels scary to embrace these emotions in the moment, what lies on the other side is a greater sense of freedom.
Each time you face fear despite your brain’s urges to retreat, you build up evidence in your brain that you can handle discomfort and take risks in spite of your emotions.
And when you become that kind of person, seizing opportunities becomes far easier.
I’ve included an article below that outlines some of the best comfort zone challenges you can attempt that will help you practice your ability to handle fear.
- Related Article: Comfort Zone Challenges That Will Change Your Life
#3: Let Your Work Ethic Define You
There are a bunch of things in life that you have no control over.
You don’t have control over whether or not you were born into money. You don’t have control over your genetic code. You don’t have control over the actions of others, and the negative consequences of those actions on your own life.
With that being said, there’s one thing that you always have control over no matter how dire your situation is, and that’s your work ethic.
Working hard doesn’t guarantee success, it just tilts the odds in your favor. And the level to which the odds shift in your favor is directly related to your level of commitment to your craft.
Early on this blogging journey of mine, I realized that I didn’t have much control over when it was going to start to take off:
- I couldn’t control whether or not my guest posts to other blogs were accepted or not
- I couldn’t control whether or not other influencers in the self-improvement world would mention my content or not
- I couldn’t control the speed at which my content would start to rank in Google.
However, I did have control over the amount of posts I published each week.
In the blogging world, more posts means more opportunities to rank in Google. More opportunities to rank means more traffic. More traffic means more money, and more money means having the resources to make this my full-time career.
Published posts is the one key metric that makes all of the things listed above possible. Furthermore, it’s something that I have 100% control over, which means it deserves every ounce of my limited focus and attention.
Now for you, this key metric may be different. In any endeavor, there’s a number of different actions that can improve your chances of success.
However, there’s typically one thing you have control over that has the greatest influence on your overall happiness, fulfillment, and success.
So instead of asking yourself “why is life so unfair?” ask yourself this:
What’s my one key metric? What’s the one daily action that will significantly move the needle in my personal and professional life?
If you work in sales, that one key metric might be the number of calls you make every single day or the number of emails you send out.
If you’re a writer, that one key metric might be the number of words you write every single day.
If you have aspirations to become a world-class chef, that one key metric might be the number of classes you take to improve your craft.
Focusing on this metric won’t guarantee success, but it will give you a chance to smartly outwork everyone who wants what you want. And you’ll be less affected by the slings and arrows of fate when you adopt 100% responsibility for a metric that has a tremendous impact on your outcomes.
#4: Prepare For The Worst By Controlling Your Environment
“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” ~ James Clear
Oftentimes, we underestimate the impact of our environment. This is a fatal mistake because human beings are a product of the environments that they’re in.
Given that the world can be an unfair place, we need to do as many things as possible to tilt the odds in our favor.
If you were to suddenly lose a family member due to illness, would you have a strong social support system to rely on? Or, would your lack of social connection accentuate the despair that comes along with losing a loved one?
The world taking away someone that you love is a horrible tragedy that you can’t prevent. However, the strength of your personal relationships is an environmental factor that influences how you come out of this tragedy.
It also happens to be 100% controllable. There are several other examples that we could dive into, but the bottom line is this:
Bad things are going to happen to you in life. Most of the time you don’t know when, where, why or how they will happen, but be rest assured that your day is coming. The only thing you can do to prepare for adversity is to design your environment in a way that facilitates your ability to handle the consequences of fate.
The type of people that you associate with. The ease of access to distractions that impede your personal and professional growth. The places that you choose to spend time in.
These are all environmental factors that you can determine, life doesn’t have to determine these for you. And when adversity hits, these factors often play a huge role in the way you handle it.
Why Is Life So Unfair Quotes
I think a nice way to wrap up this article is to mention some inspirational quotes about the unfairness of life and the power we have to overcome it.
So without further ado, here’s a list of hard hitting quotes that highlight the harsh nature of life, and what we can do about it.
- “Life is unfair but remember sometimes it is unfair in your favor.” ~ Peter Ustinov
- “So I came to the realization. Nothing in life is unfair. It’s just life.” ~ Rob Lowe
- “Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” ~ Muhammad Ali
- “The problem isn’t that life is unfair — it’s our broken idea of fairness. Meaning, our idea of fairness is self-centered.” ~ Tony Warrick
- “The only thing that makes life unfair is the delusion that it should be fair.” ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli
- “One of the most fascinating lessons I’ve absorbed about life is that struggle is good.” ~ Joe Rogan
- “The happiest people don’t bother about whether life is unfair. They just concentrate on what they have.” ~ Andrew Matthews
- “Life happened. In all its banality, cruelty, and unfairness. But also in its beauty, pleasures, and delights. Life happened.” ~ Thirty Umrigar
- “Life isn’t fair. It never will be. Quit trying to make it fair. You don’t need it to be fair. Go make life unfair to your advantages.” ~ Robert Kiyosaki
- “Life isn’t fair. No matter what life throws your way, no matter how unfair it may seem, refuse to play the victim. Refuse to be ruled by fear, pessimism, and negativity. Refuse to quit. Be a warrior and work through whatever life throws your way with courage, love, and positivity.” ~ Zero Dean
- “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities.” ~ Jordan Peterson
- “When life puts you in touchy situations, don’t say “Why Me?” Just say “Try me.” ~ Dwayne Johnson
- “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” ~ Unknown
- “Sometimes it takes a good fall to know where you really stand.” ~ Hayley Williams
- “Sometimes, life is unfair and you have to suck it up and move on and not use it as an excuse.” ~ Robert Kraft
Final Thoughts: Why Is Life So Unfair
The world isn’t always going to act in your favor, so you must learn to act on the world and make the best of your situation.
Usually, this means focusing on what you can control. The world can be a horrifying unfair place, but it also rewards those with the courage to become the master of their fate.
If you accept the fact that life is unfair instead of cursing the fact that it is, you’ll be more likely to work towards your goals and dreams with persistence and perseverance, knowing that you and you alone are responsible for creating your own happiness.
Hopefully the tips outlined in this article put you on the path to doing just that.