If you’re expecting some inspirational platitude about how each painful failure makes you that much more appreciative of eventual happiness, you should know by now to look elsewhere (or perhaps go listen to this while attempting not to cringe?). No, my argument is that heartbreak toughens you up, it strengthens your reflexes for dealing with drama, makes you a lean, mean failure-handling machine. It’s not about being jaded, it’s about using past pain to inform future responses. Never underestimate the value in learning how to take a punch, regroup, and then throw your own haymaker.
I’m not speaking exclusively about romantic heartbreak, although I’m sure that’s what springs to mind for most folks. But more broadly, I use heartbreak to refer to any scenario in which the universe stomps up and down on your dreams or when you suffer a significant personal loss or upheaval that just levels you. The blow can come in many forms, but the result is the same – you’re left flat on your back in the (figurative) dirt. And just like every well-meaning friend and self-help sage predicts, eventually you get over the pain in some fashion. And if you’re lucky, the wound heals and your emotional rear view mirror renders the person or event a speck on the horizon. But what you might not realize when you’re on your feet again is that the whole process actually served to increase your ability to handle potential future heartbreak more constructively and with a steelier resolve. You’ve got firsthand experience with pain and failure and the calluses to prove it. You know what rock bottom feels like and you can make a conscious decision not to hit it again. You’ll recognize all of the signposts along the way and can start looking for detours and exit ramps ASAP. And if you do find yourself laid out in the dust again, you will know that if you’ve gotten back up before that you can damn well do it again. And again. Repeat as necessary.
Being kicked in the junk by life is, among other things, a learning experience. In order to develop coping skills, you actually have to have coped with something. Fancy that. They can’t be developed in the abstract; they absolutely need to be road tested. And that testing can only be achieved by getting yourself burned, living to tell about it and being smarter the next time around. Lucky you.