Life can be a wild ride, can’t it? One moment, you’re soaring high, and the next, it feels like you’re trudging through mud. My life, currently, resembles the latter. It feels like no matter how much I do, there is still a mountain more of stuff to do and sort out.

Where is the promised land of a slower pace of life when you hit midlife! It isn’t on my horizon, that is for sure.

I had to take a day off work and sit in a park (photo above) recently to feel at peace, away from the hustle and bustle of home and work.

Life feels tough. But ‘tough’ is a subjective concept. While I have a myriad of things to get though with tight deadlines, I still have a comfortable first world existence – home, job and health.

Those in war torn areas have it the hardest. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in constant fear. My ‘fight or flight’ response is rubbish enough over short deadlines without having to worry over bombs dropping on my head.

Does this mean that I don’t have a right to feel stressed? So often I hear others, and myself, mitigate our problems by placing these within the context of something much larger e.g war.

I wonder whether this Is a conscience issue or simply one of being realistic about what we face. In either case, it’s worth examining what it is that makes life “tough”.

In reality, It seems to be a question that doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. That’s because the concept of a tough life is incredibly subjective, shaped by our personal experiences, perceptions, and even our expectations.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Imagine two people, Alice and Bob. Alice grew up in a bustling city with all the modern conveniences—top-notch education, healthcare, and opportunities at her fingertips. Bob, on the other hand, was raised in a rural village, where daily life included fetching water from a distant well and studying by candlelight.

For Alice, a “tough” day might involve a hectic schedule, a missed promotion, or a bad breakup. For Bob, the same term could mean surviving a harsh storm, struggling to find enough food for his family, or dealing with a serious illness without access to adequate medical care. Both experiences are valid and tough in their own ways, but they are shaped by entirely different contexts.

Personal Perceptions Matter

Our personal perceptions play a huge role in defining what we consider tough. Let’s take another example. May and Jacob both work at the same company. May feels overwhelmed by the constant deadlines and office politics, while Jacob thrives on the fast pace and sees it as a challenge rather than a hardship.

May might describe her job as tough because it wears her down emotionally and mentally. Jacob, however, might describe the same job as exciting and fulfilling.

This difference boils down to their unique perceptions and how they process their experiences.

Expectations and Comparisons

Expectations also influence our perception of a tough life. If someone has grown up with high expectations set by themselves or others, they might feel that anything less than perfection is tough. This is a problem which I suffer from – perfectionism.

Conversely, someone with a more laid-back approach might not feel the same pressure and therefore perceive their life as less challenging.

Comparisons can complicate things further. Social media often showcases the highlight reels of others’ lives, leading us to compare our struggles with their successes. This can make our own challenges feel tougher than they might actually be.

Building Resilience

While a tough life is subjective, building resilience is a universal goal.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulties and adapt to challenging situations. It’s about developing a mindset that, while acknowledging the toughness of certain situations, finds ways to cope and thrive.

Here are a few tips to build resilience:

  • Stay Positive: Focus on what you can control and look for the silver linings.
  • Connect with Others: Build a support network of friends, family, or mentors.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Prioritize your physical and mental well-being.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down large challenges into manageable steps.
  • Learn from Experiences: Reflect on past challenges to understand how you overcame them.

Embracing the Subjectivity

Understanding that the concept of a tough life is subjective can help us be more empathetic and supportive towards others. It reminds us not to dismiss someone else’s struggles just because they don’t match our own experiences. Instead, we can offer a listening ear and a helping hand, knowing that everyone faces their own version of tough times. Empathy goes a very long way.

In the end, recognizing the subjectivity of a tough life can lead to greater compassion and resilience, both for ourselves and those around us. So, let’s embrace our unique journeys and support each other along the way. After all, life may be tough, but we’re tougher together.


Feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments below. How do you define a tough life? What helps you stay resilient during challenging times?