You go to call an auto service, and your cell phone battery’s flat. Maybe you can walk to the gas station you saw down the road instead. You check and realize you left your umbrella at home… again.
“Why is life so unfair?” you wail to the dark, gray sky.
If questions of unfairness are running through your mind on repeat right now, check out this guide to discover key reasons life is unfair and find out what you can do about it.
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1. You View Life As a Competition
Failing at the competition that is life is one of the main reasons a person might ask, “Why is life unfair?” But it turns out that the competition might be all in our heads.
It’s not untrue to say that life is a competition. From a very young age, we’re taught to excel—in school work, sports, and more.
This usually involves competing against our peers for higher math grades or that coveted gold medal in track.
Of course, everyone can’t be at the top. (Though today, participation trophies are just as celebrated by many parents as a first-place ribbon… as they should be!)
But being at the bottom of any type of ranking—whether you missed out on the painting prize as a kid or the job promotion as an adult—can make you feel like you were handed a bad lot in life.
Thankfully, it turns out the only person you’re competing with in life is yourself!
To help overcome that feeling of failure, you need to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
In most parts of your life, you get to decide what you eat when, who you interact with, what you do for work, and, most importantly, how you react to circumstances you’re faced with.
And any time you feel like you have a hard time deciding how to feel or react, you can choose to take a break from the situation.
2. You Can’t Find Happiness
Honestly, life is unfair at times. Some people focus so much and so often on the unfairness of it all that they struggle to find happiness in their lives.
There have been many studies into happiness in recent years. Yale University even hosts a Coursera course on the science behind the feeling. Clearly, we’re all fascinated with the subject.
You might believe that it’s unfair you can’t find happiness when everyone around you appears so, well, happy. And that’s the key: they appear so. But are they really?
It turns out that many (dare we say most) of us simply aren’t happy. We’re too wrapped up in trying to achieve things we perceive will make us happy but… won’t.
Things like material wealth, professional success, and harmonious relationships.
So, how can we shake this feeling of unfairness at not being happy and feel satisfied with our life? It turns out calm-loving groups like Buddhist monks have it right.
The path to happiness involves slowing down, disconnecting (from the world around you as much as the internet), and learning to just… Let. It. Go.
- Start a meditation practice
- Connect (really connect) with friends and family regularly
- Take care of your mental health (which means seeking professional advice when you need it)
- Aim to earn around $95,000 a year—a figure studies show leads to life satisfaction
3. Everyone Wants the Same Thing As You
You think you know what you want, and you don’t have it. What’s more, you think everyone else has it. And this makes you feel like life is so unfair.
Surprise! It’s not that simple.
So, you think you’re unique. And it’s not surprising. Most of us do—because we’re told we are by our grandparents, parents, teachers, and best friends.
It’s not to say you’re not special. Everyone is… genetically speaking.
The problem is that many of us fail to realize that everyone else thinks they’re special, too. And they’re striving for the same milestones you are.
It can start to feel unfair when others hit milestones that seem out of reach for you.
The fact is, someone is always going to be more talented, smarter, wealthier, or [insert adjective of your choice] than you.
That’s it. Just one word.
The minute you start questioning why everyone else seems to have it so easy, take a step back. Look carefully at your life.
If you really think about it, doesn’t your life resemble more of a roller coaster than a downward spiral? It’s full of highs and lows, sure, but a lot of it follows a steady middle-of-the-road track.
You need to accept that you won’t always be the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the smartest, the bravest, the most traveled, and so on.
And that’s totally okay.
When you fail to meet your expectations, accept that as nothing more than objective fact… and move on.
4. Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
Comparing yourself to others may be another reason you’re asking, “Why is life unfair?” And it’s no wonder when we’re bombarded with images of other people’s “perfect lives” on social media.
People have compared their situation to that of others for decades. Think of the “keeping up with the Joneses” homeowners of the 1950s and 1960s.
But just because we’ve done it for ages doesn’t make it the right thing to do. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons leading you to think life isn’t fair.
Comparing your life to how you perceive others is a recipe for unhappiness. Unless you know someone very well (and we mean every aspect of their past and current life), it’s impossible to know the privileges they’ve been exposed to.
You also don’t know if the life they’re projecting into the world is just that—a projection. It’s an illusion built on things like debt or deceit.
There are a few things you can do to squash your comparison habit.
First, learn to recognize your triggers—that is, know when you’re most susceptible to falling into the comparison trap.
Perhaps it’s when you’re mindlessly scrolling through your socials at the end of a long day. Maybe it’s when you’re window shopping on your way to the bus stop after work. Then, limit your time spent on those platforms or in those places.
Next, try to give yourself some grace. Comparison often comes from a place of guilt or shame that we haven’t achieved what we thought we would be on a set date or within a specific timeframe. But life is a journey, not a race. Be compassionate with yourself.
Consider, too, that others may be thinking the same thing about you! Write down all the things that others might covet in your life and celebrate them.
5. You View Yourself As a Victim
Sometimes, feeling like life is unfair sometimes (or all the time) is a matter of perception. If you constantly perceive yourself as a victim of circumstance, you’ll always feel like you’ve lucked out.
If you consider yourself a victim at all times, it can lead to feelings of powerlessness. And this can, in turn, make you feel that life is always mistreating you.
Of course, there are many legitimate reasons to feel victimized. You should never discount those feelings in situations where they’re warranted.
Feeling victimized can be an alarm bell that lets you know you’re in a dangerous, unjust, or traumatizing situation.
Instead, we’re saying that if you always feel victimized, take a step back and examine the problem from all sides.
Bad things happen every day to pretty much everyone. But instead of shutting down when the inevitable occurs, you can learn to build resilience in the face of adversity.
One helpful technique is shifting the narrative from victim to survivor. The latter has positive connotations of fortitude, allowing you to play an active rather than passive role in your future.
Mindfulness meditation can help you build resilience, as can connecting with support groups and engaging in self-care practices.
But don’t be shy to seek professional help (such as mental health counseling or therapy) if you’re struggling.
6. You’re Consumed by Self-Interest
Life is not fair, right? Well, it seems the answer to that question all depends on how self-interested (or self-centered) you are!
It turns out you might be your own worst enemy when deciding whether life is fair (or unfair, as the case may be). And the culprit is self-interest.
Self-interest is defined by someone placing their needs above others—sometimes or always. In other words, they desire a positive outcome for themselves in every interaction and event that takes place in their lives.
Consider this scenario: you and several other staff have been let go from work due to downsizing. You could take this personally, thinking that it’s a case of unfairness.
In fact, it has nothing to do with you. The economy is in a downturn, and the company simply can’t afford to keep on that many staff.
If you want to stop being so self-centered, you need to work on your mindset. This can be tough for someone used to always putting themselves first.
Some tips include:
- Giving others your full attention (i.e., listening to the thoughts of others)
- Getting into the habit of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (cultivate empathy)
- Using more “we,” “them,” “they,” and “you” statements over “I” or “me”
- Working on your ability to compromise with others
- Sharing praise and attention with others on your team
- Avoiding the leadership role—at least some of the time
- Celebrating the success of others
Try incorporating some gratitude exercises into your daily routine to help you overcome feelings of self-interest.
7. You Seem to Be Really Unlucky
There are all sorts of superstitions related to luck. Everything from walking under a ladder to breaking a mirror can supposedly give you bad luck.
Sometimes, thinking you’re unlucky can lead to a sense of unfairness.
Have you ever heard the one about the pothole? The more you focus on a pothole in the road, the more likely you are to drive over it.
The gist is that the more you focus on the bad things in life, the more they seem to happen.
Feeling down on your luck is legitimate, but it often stems from poor framing than any actual possibility of being cursed with so-called “bad luck.”
You may view life too negatively, be a passive rather than active participant in your life, or have crafted your entire identity around the difficulties you experience.
You may also suffer from anxiety—a mental health condition that can be treated with therapy and medication (or both).
A lot of this stems from worrying too much about what already happened (the past) and what might happen (the future).
You must remember that you can’t change the past—what has happened is already behind you. You need to learn to move on.
And the future, well, there’s no way of knowing what the future holds for any of us, no matter how many tarot card readers or fortune tellers you visit.
Using techniques like mindfulness, physical exercise, and journaling to focus on the present can help you overcome the sense that you’re experiencing bad luck.
After all, the present is predictable and safe.
Why Is Life So Unfair? Explained
Every single one of us has—at one time or another—pondered the answer to the question, “Why is life so unfair?”
It could be because you’re unable to conceive that much-wanted child. Perhaps you missed out on your shot at the Olympics.
Or maybe it was something more mundane, like no one leaving you a slice of the cake a colleague brought into the office.
But maybe it’s just a case of reframing these struggles. After all, without them, we wouldn’t appreciate the good times.
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