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Life Feels Unfair – How do I Cope?

Life's unpredictability can lead us to mutter "It's not fair," "I don't deserve this," "I deserve better," or "Why me?". This can make you feel powerless - your strength comes from how you respond to life's uncertainties, making room for growth!

Life feels unfair - this is true! It is absolutely unfair.

“It’s not fair”

“I don’t deserve this”

“I deserve better”

“Why me?”

Have you ever caught yourself muttering these negative statements? Probably yes. Have you found these thoughts to be useful? Probably no. But thinking like this is absolutely normal.  

Why?  Because it is true, life is unfair.

The concept of fairness and deservingness is deeply ingrained in the human psyche, often fuelling frustration, anger and confusion. But just because you have these thoughts, doesn’t mean they are useful and relevant. 

So with the intention of easing your mind, let’s shift your perspective completely!

its not fair

The one thought that causes so much harm

If your coworker assembles a last-minute project and is selected for a raise, while you devoted a week of day and night work without being chosen, you might think YOU deserved the raise, correct? You invested more hours and effort than your coworker, so it makes total sense that you deserved that raise! 

The idea of “I deserve” is subjective, and means different things for each individual and situation. As with the above scenario, many people get rewards for little effort, but also, many people get nothing for great effort – and vice versa.

I don’t know of a world where deservingness is consistently correlated to what people have done.

Every individual has different perspectives on what constitutes deservingness, particularly in the context of work and recognition. What one culture sees as deserving might be different than what another culture sees. And on that same notion, what one person grew up learning was deserving, might be completely different than another person’s childhood learning. There seems to be no consistent understanding or playing out of “deserve”.

Factors such as effort, skill, contribution, and adherence to established criteria can all play a role in shaping perceptions of deservingness, but these are interpreted differently by everyone. So what constitutes you deserving something?

Why Is Our First Thought “It's Not Fair”

The thought of who deserves what and whether or not something is fair arises from discrepancies between effort and outcomes. Envy and resentment can fester when you perceive someone else’s success as undeserved. However, these comparisons are based on no one else’s understanding of deserving, but yours.

But maybe you’re not concerned with others. Maybe you’ve been concerned with your own misfortunes. Consider this.

Life is not fair at the very start.

Some come out of the womb ill and some are healthy. Some are born into poverty and some are born into wealth.

The starting point of life is not equal so how can we expect it to be fair in the middle? (Connelly, J., 2019)

You might think you deserve good health, but what about those dealing with illness? If “deserve” exists, and you are saying you deserve good health, it’s like saying they deserve illness. People can do all kinds of “good” or “bad” things in life and be anywhere on the spectrum of health, wealth and relationships.

Deservingness doesn’t control important parts of your life. It doesn’t decide your wealth, your parents, or your relationships. 

Its not fair

Your power lies in how you react to life’s difficult moments.

Life will have ups and downs, but the pain of deservingness only affects you if you get angry or upset. Recognizing this will help you take charge of your feelings and face life’s uneven path with more strength and resilience.

In the end, life is unpredictable and can be unfair. The idea of deservingness isn’t as powerful as you think – unless you give this idea the power.

As you handle life’s uncertainties, your strength comes from how you respond, making room for growth.

If you’re struggling with the feeling that a situation, life or this world is unfair, it’s a totally normal thought. But it can create a lot of pain. And although this way of thinking can get you stuck, there is a way to transform your thoughts to be more productive and peaceful.

If you need support in processing how you’re thinking, connect with one of our virtual therapists and shift your perspective.

Most of the concepts in this article were derived from Dr. Jon Connelly’s (2019) teachings of Rapid Resolution Therapy.

Check out our mental health blog