Embrace the Suck + Build Character

Immediate disclaimer: Embrace the suck is a term used by the military, which may lead you to believe I’m military. I am not. Service men and women are among the most resilient and inspiring people on the planet, IMHBAO (in my humble but accurate opinion) so if there’s a motto they go by, you bet your tukus I’m going to see if it can apply to your life and my life. Turns out it can! Read on to see how:

Sh*t happens. 

Life is not easy, and if you cave to every hardship, you will not get very far in anything. School, relationships, work, sports, even things you do for fun, won’t last very long if you give in every time the going gets tough. You’re smart, you know that. Yet in all of our lives, there are times when things get hard. Like really, really hard. Or face a major disappointment.

For example, maybe you’re a writer trying to get your first book published and your manuscript gets rejected. Maybe you’re a lady hoping to ask out your crush, only to realize he has a girlfriend (who’s extra pretty). Perhaps you’re a painter and that gallery you absolutely love just declined to host your work.


At that point, we can be so tempted to just call it quits and plop down onto the couch with self-pity and self-doubt to keep us company. Maybe all the people or organizations that rejected us were right. Obviously they can judge us or our work way more accurately than we can. Obviously our work isn’t good enough. Obviously we’re not pretty enough. Obviously we’re just not enough overall.

Ok my dear, stop right there. You are enough, trust me. 

When the going gets tough, you have to get tougher. How to do that? So glad you asked. Here are two of my favorite methods:

1. Embrace the suck.

As tough and cool as this sounds, it’s merely a mental shift. Badass military men and women might not admit that they have self-talk, or that they work to improve it, but they absolutely do. Over and over again special ops instructors say that completing the course is mostly mental. So what does embracing the suck mean, and how does it help?

It means that when you experience discomfort, either mental or physical, you make yourself ok with it rather than giving into the instinct to make it stop any way you can. For example, when soldiers have to march somewhere in the scorching desert with 150lbs of gear on their back, do you think they whine and complain and have a pity party? They might be tempted to, but what would that fix? Absolutely nothing. So instead of complaining, they can instead say, “I’m hot as hell, I’m sunburned, my feet are blistered, there’s sand in my eyes, my back hurts like hell, but that’s ok. This discomfort will end eventually, and until then I need to stay focused on the mission so I can keep my brothers and myself alive.”

Rather than fixating on how to make the pain stop (when we can’t make it stop we usually complain instead), focus on the fact that a little discomfort and rejection is ok. 

Even Shakespeare said, “Let thee embrace me, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course”.

Hard times build strong people, and the strongest of those have mastered their own minds and attitudes.

2. Build Character.

This ties closely with embracing the suck. When you start shifting your focus from what’s wrong and to what you can do to move on, you build character. You build emotional intelligence (EQ) and mental toughness. Who couldn’t use a little more of that?

So your first manuscript was rejected, and that stung. But you’ve embraced the suckiness of that, and are looking towards the future. You’ve matured through that rejection, and are prepared for the possibility of your work being rejected again. That won’t stop you though; no, you have the emotional intelligence to recognize that that’s just part of life. You’ll submit your painting to another gallery, and you’ll ask out your next crush. 

Neither rejection nor failure are the end of the road for you—or your dreams.

Building character not only means that you trudge on despite setbacks, but that you also grow from each set back. If ten thousand galleries turn down your painting, you’ll have the self-awareness to wonder if your skills need to be honed. If you decide they do, you’ll do it. You won’t complain, won’t rant and rave about all the wasted time or people’s taste being horrible.

You’ll just do what needs to get done because that’s what successful people do.

All this being said, we all have bad days. We all have melt downs every now and then (I know I do!) and the Self brothers (Pity and Doubt) will show up. That’s totally ok. None of us are impervious to every set back, or to disappointment after disappointment after disappointment.

We’re human and there’s only so much we can withstand. In those times, I like to make sure to have a couple people nearby who I can really trust to support me, lean into God, and find ways to relax and de-stress. 

Taking the time to recover from major disappointment is ok; just don’t let it turn into weeks or months. When you can scrape yourself off the floor and keep moving, remember to embrace the suck and build your character.

What about you—what hard times have you been through and how did you get through them?How have they helped your thinking? Tell us in the comments below!

Much love,