You are your own Biggest Problem

I can see you scratching your head at the title. You are your own biggest problem? Huh? Well, what I really mean is this:

You are the source of all your problems. Not anyone else or anything else. Just you.

That seems a little harsh (okay, it’s actually pretty harsh), but it doesn’t make it any less true. How can I be so sure that I am the source of all my problems?

Actually, it’s really simple. I am the source of all my problems because I am the one who decides what a problem is to me.

You know how some things irritate you but don’t irritate others? You know how you read in the papers about people who succumb to road rage, or fight over something you’d consider trivial? That’s because you have defined some things as a problem to you, but these same things may not have been defined as a problem to others. Conversely, things defined as a problem to others may not have been defined as a problem to yourself.

Why am I telling you this? Why am I pointing the finger at you as the source of all your problems? Is it to make you feel guilty? To prick your conscience?

No. I’m telling you this because you are the only one who can solve your problems. No one else can solve them for you. So this is an article to help you solve the problems in your life. But before we can get to that, you have to swallow some more bitter medicine. Bitter medicine for your ego, that is.

First up. If you don’t believe you are the source of all your problems, then what you’re doing is blaming external circumstances for the problems you have. This is what most people do. Why do they do this? It’s because by blaming something external, this gives them the right to be upset. It gives them the right to be angry and to feel sorry for themselves. Most importantly, it absolves themselves of the responsibility of solving the problem. It’s much easier to blame something else than to blame yourself, a bit like how it’s easier to wallow in a pit you fell into than to work at trying to climb out. So if you genuinely believe you aren’t responsible for getting yourself out of the unhappy and troubled life you’re in, then stop reading here. Reading the rest is just going to waste your time.

You’re still here? Good. I will recommend you pause at this point and go read my article on perspective if you haven’t already, and then come back here. I mention this article because it’s very relevant to understanding how problems grow in severity in your life. Your problems grow bigger when you place great importance and significance to them. In other words, your problems become big problems because you *think* that they are big problems. This is a very important point, because once again, the cause for why the problem is so huge and severe isn’t anyone or anything else. It’s you.

You may have noticed that as your problem grew in importance and significance, you begin to complain about it more to others. You are troubled. You are depressed and in need of help. And so the people around you, those who care about you get involved. They offer advice, advice they themselves would follow if they found themselves in a similar situation. But because you and they are different people, what works for them may not work for you.

Unfortunately, most people don’t understand that, and you become frustrated at the useless and unhelpful suggestions they are making. They don’t understand you, and they don’t know how to help you. Feeling alone with your problems, they swell to even greater significance and importance, dominating your life. Your problems now are like insurmountable mountains between you and the happy life you feel you deserve. So you can’t help but complain even more, and the vicious cycle repeats itself.

If you believe what I said that you are the only one who can solve your problems, then you will know that the above paragraph is definitely not the way to go about it. Many people with problems follow the sequence I laid out precisely because they do not believe they are responsible for solving their own problems. What are they really doing when they complain about their problems to others?

The truth is, what they’re looking for through complaining isn’t a solution, but attention. People with problems want attention. Why do they want this attention? Because for a person’s problem to become bigger, that person’s ego and sense of self-importance must also grow bigger.

As I said before in my Perspective article, when you make yourself the most important person in your life, then it naturally follows that any problem you face is of the greatest importance. Nothing else matters except this problem you’re facing. Compared to yourself, other peoples’ problems aren’t your concern at all. With such a big ego, it’s only logical that you would demand that these other people ignore their own problems and shower you with the care and attention your enlarged ego feels it deserves.

Didn’t want to read the above paragraphs aka walls of text? Okay fine, here’s the succinct version: Many problems come from being too self-centered or selfish.

Self-centered people fail to realize that when people give advice, they are only trying to help. They may unconsciously drop some unpleasant truths along the way, but you not being able to accept them does not make them any less true. The people that are around you – these people who don’t understand you and your problems – they are around you because they want to help. It is true that they may not know how to help you. It is also true that they may not understand you. But they are around you because they care. Now the real question is: Do you care about them?

If you really cared about these people who care for you, you would not vent your frustrations upon them. If you really cared, you would be mindful that they are not obliged to care about your problems. If you really cared, you would understand that your problem might be causing them problems as well. But if you are self-centered and selfish, you probably never considered any of this. All that mattered to you was your own unsolved problem. I, Me & Myself.

The simple fact is: you shouldn’t rely on others to solve your problems. In fact, the only person who can solve your problems is yourself.

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

– Charles-Guillaume Etienne

Okay, so your ego has taken a huge beating and is now curled up and crying in the far corner of the room. I promise the remainder of this article will have no more bashing. Now is the time for the solution. The following pointers are tried and tested methods for solving any problem:

  1. Don’t care what others think of you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you spend your entire life trying to make other people happy, you’ll only fail miserably and make yourself miserable too. The only person you need to make happy is yourself, and guess what? You’re the only person who can make yourself happy. Isn’t that awfully convenient?
  2. Don’t impose upon others. This doesn’t mean you shut yourself away from others – it means you don’t make yourself dependent upon them for things you could handle yourself. Treasure their support and help if it is offered, but don’t be overly-reliant. If you are dependent and weak, then you will have a truly big problem when you no longer have these people in your life to depend on (Sorry, did I say ‘depend on’? I meant ‘take advantage of’).
  3. Understand what you can and cannot control. I wrote about the Zone of Control before in a previous article, so please read that if you haven’t already. Do not get frustrated with things you cannot control, because what’s the point? If you get angry at bad weather or at other people, you’re basically just wasting your time being angry, because at the end of the day you can’t control them. What you can control, however, is your own mood and how you react to external events.
  4. Don’t be a selfish self-centered person. Develop your empathy and make yourself aware of all the people in the world who have much more serious problems than you. So you’re stressed at work. Would you rather have the stress or the fear of being raped/murdered every time you leave the safety of your house? So you don’t like how you look or your own personality. Would you prefer to be concerned with whether you have enough food and water to eat and drink every day instead? As I said in my article about being happy, unhappiness is the inability to comprehend an unhappiness greater than our own. If you think that you have it the worst, then allow me to say that perhaps you do deserve the suffering your problems give you, because you obviously don’t care for anyone else other than yourself. I dare you to go read about how people are surviving in other parts of the world and then tell me how bad your lot is. Go on. Go read up on other peoples’ problems for a change, instead of focusing on your own.
  5. Stop complaining and over-thinking about your problem. As I said before in many articles (Go read them all! That would make me very happy), your mind is a double-edged sword. You can use it to cut down your problems by finding and executing solutions, or you can also stab yourself continuously with guilt and feeling sorry for yourself.

The biggest pointer for solving your problem actually has to do with what I said at the start of this article. You know, the part where I said that we are the ones who decide what is a problem to ourselves. So, it sounds obvious, but the simplest way to solve your problem is to decide that it isn’t one.

Wait, what?

I’m serious. It’s only a problem because you think it’s a problem. If you accept it, and come to terms with it, and you are at peace with it, then… it’s not a problem anymore, right? This is not running away from your problems. This is you facing your problems head on, and defeating them by taking away their ability to trouble or negatively affect you in any way.

I hope this article will help those who have been struggling with their problems for a long time. I also hope this article will serve as a wake-up call to those who think they have no choice with the life they are living. There’s always a choice. And the choice has always been yours. Thank you for reading!

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