September 14, 2017

How to Persevere When Life is Sh*t (& a Dozen Books that Help).

Warning: Naughty language ahead! (If the title didn’t already make that obvious.)


Almost everybody I know is struggling with something.

Debt. Divorce. Health issues. Family problems. Workplace problems. Weight problems. First World problems. Trump. Never ending problems.

Eventually, all of us come to a point in our lives where we throw our hands up in the air and declare:

“I can’t deal with this shit anymore!”

What then?

What happens when we’ve reached a state of apathy—when waving our white flags in defeat takes too much effort? How do we persevere when we’re tired of trying?

Well, we can start off by deconstructing the “shit.” We can use it as a mnemonic to get back to feeling our best:

S: Self-compassion.
H: Humor.
I: Introspection.
T: Thankfulness.

Voila! Now this vulgar word can help us cultivate positive changes.

And do you know what else can help us make positive changes? Reading.

Books allow us to understand ourselves and others. They can be compasses when we are lost, and they often hold the answers to many of our questions.

So, when feeling overwhelmed by life, I refer to s.h.i.t. and these 12 books:


“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ~ Jack Kornfield

I used to think that self-compassion was the equivalent of being a victim. People’s pity was my kryptonite. I wanted to be strong and resilient so I crowned myself the Queen of Self-sabotage. I equated living in a chronic state of self-loathing to humility.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It was only a few years ago when I caught my first glimpse of self-compassion.

Yet again, I had packed on a significant amount of weight and didn’t fit any of my clothes. In the past, I would cry and berate myself until the numbers on the scale decreased. This time around, I wouldn’t let myself shed the tears as I set off to shed the pounds.

Instead, I looked into a full-length mirror and had the strangest thought: “What would it feel like to be kind to myself?”

I rarely treated myself with kindness—it was a new concept. I decided to conduct an experiment. I would try to be gentle with myself. I attempted to accept the weight while I focused on making small, healthier choices every day. I made a decision to stop telling myself what I should feel, how I should act, and how I should look. The weight wasn’t the problem. How I treated myself was the problem.

I deleted “should” from my vocabulary and learned to be compassionate with myself. Difference made.

Books that helped me become self-compassionate*:

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown (I suggest listening to the audiobook.)

Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. by Brené Brown

*Can you tell that I’m a Brené Brown fan?


“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” ~ Maya Angelou

It can be difficult to find the lighter side of life when she’s acting like a catty little bitch. Like, would you lay off already? Sheesh.

It takes courage to stare life in the eyes and laugh. So, whenever I’m feeling stuck, I pay extra attention to people with a sense of humor because they aren’t afraid to make a joke at life’s expense.

I turn to TV comedians—people like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Ellen Degeneres. I check out stand-up specials or funny movies on Netflix. I listen to lighthearted podcasts, browse the humor section in a bookstore, check out YouTube, or spend time with my most entertaining friends.

Over the years, I have learned that perspective is subjective.

Just because some people walk around with scowls smeared across their faces doesn’t mean that their lives are more difficult than people with smiles stretched across theirs. All it means is that the scowlers have a tougher time finding their funny bones.

I make it my mission to seek out laughter, and then I aim to create it because humor heals.

Books that helped me rekindle my sense of humor:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler (Again, listen to the audiobook.)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson


“Many people suffer from the fear of finding oneself alone, and so they don’t find themselves at all.” ~ Rollo May

I’m an ambivert who craves alone time. I need it. But even extroverts benefit from slowing down and looking within themselves for answers.

We don’t have to sit cross-legged in silence or attend hot yoga classes every day to find a sense of peace—though it definitely doesn’t hurt—but all of us will benefit from choosing to live a more mindful life.

We can free ourselves from destructive thoughts by giving every moment of lives our full attention. When we start to pay attention, we will notice patterns and habits in ourselves and others; when we notice those harmful patterns and habits, we can take steps to change them.

One pattern I have noticed is that many people use the word “busy” as an excuse. It is a word that irritates me something fierce. We’re all busy, but what are we busy doing? How are we choosing to spend our time? We get to evaluate our priorities. We get to say “yes” and we get to say “no.” Sure, there are some exceptions but we have more control over our lives than we want to admit.

Busyness is addictive, but being busy doesn’t prove our worth. Being busy just proves that we can be busy.

I removed “busy” from my vocabulary a long time ago.

Even though my life is as full as ever, I choose to make time for solitude and introspection because I know that I will never find peace if I am always on the go.

Books that helped me look within:

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris (Listen to the audiobook.)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz with Debra Goldstein


“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart

We can train ourselves to live from a place of gratitude. Making time—even a few moments—to appreciate the people, experiences, and things we have in our lives is important.

Focus on the good shit. Write about it. Talk about it. Mean it. Make it a habit. Gratitude: It’s not a tough job, it’s a thankful job. Get to work.

Books that helped me be more grateful:

Life’s Golden Ticket: An Inspiration Novel by Brendon Burchard

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


So, there you have it—five ways to fertilize our souls: self-compassion, humor, introspection, thankfulness, and books.

Life is challenging, there is no denying that, but it doesn’t have to be defeating. Let’s start giving a s.h.i.t.


Author: Courtney Dunn
Image: Olga Ferrer Saladié 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Taia Butler

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