The human experience, not just the body, was designed to grow stronger through exertion. We aren’t static fixed things, we are ever evolving. So we grow or expand or shrink in proportion to how hard we’re working. And life provides all the exercise we could ever want, if we have the right attitude about it. And that right attitude is to actually ask for adversity.

Exercise helps us lose weight or get swole, as the kids like to say these days, by exerting our threshold of fitness. Am I one of those kids? Who knows. When we push past what we think is our limit, we find a new limit and that’s how we build endurance and power. Asking for adversity is about seeing yourself beyond your body to what it means to be human, and that includes your mental, emotional and spiritual strength.

Why do you need these? Well, consider that anxiety is actually nothing more than an underdeveloped mental muscle. Think about it. If you felt fully clear and confident in who you are and what you want and how you’ll get it, you wouldn’t feel all the feels of concern or lack of clarity that come with anxiety. If you knew who you were and how you were going to handle a situation, the time you spend feeling anxious about something is greatly reduced. Basically, the more you practice something or work at it, including your mindset, the stronger you become.

Most people shy away from it, but did you notice it never stops? And by “it” I mean LIFE? That’s why you want to ask for adversity. You want life to throw you challenging situations so you can work at developing clarity, courage and inner strength to overcome anything that comes your way.

Life just keeps sending notes or messages of terrifying news or unpleasant experiences. It sends cancer and rejection and loss and all sorts of other experiences. We don’t ever get to a place where that stuff stops happening, no matter who we are and what we’ve achieved. I mean, look at Elon Musk. He’s hella rich and famous and one of the Golden Boys of the tech world and he’s also super stressed right now because Tesla production is behind schedule. And since society isn’t kind to imperfection or low performance (ironically–blog post for another day) all the fame and fortune he has amassed means nothing in this moment. People are so forgetful and we are judged cruelly for what we are doing, not what we’ve done. I wonder if all he’s achieved has prepared him for this powerful moment of adversity. I’m willing to bet the answer is yes. He didn’t get where he is by giving up earlier in the game of his life.

That’s why you want to ask for adversity, not avoid it or hide from it. Confidence isn’t something that sticks around once you find or feel it, just like muscle. I can do 25 pushups with ease but if I don’t keep up with them for a few days, it gets harder. When I didn’t run for almost a year, I could barely jog a half mile. It felt horrible because I knew I could do better, that I was capable of more, but my body met my level of physical exertion at the time. If I wanted it to change, I needed to change how I challenged myself.

The same goes with confidence or courage. It comes and goes but the more adversity you face, the easier it is to stand in the center of the most unpleasant or disagreeable experience and not feel shaken or thrown around. You can sit in the eye of the hurricane, so to speak, and not lose yourself in the wind, rain and collateral damage.

For instance, I’ve experienced so many relationships in my life, and have had so many experiences with people that taught me so many valuable lessons, I’ve become a real ace at navigating people. My emotional intelligence muscle has grown exponentially from each encounter. People have done and said it all to me, from praise to rejection and back again. I’ve been shunned, exploited, used, abused, invalidated, courted, judged, pigeonholed, sexualized, stigmatized and exhalted. So many words to describe one human experience! Many of those interactions felt horrible at the time, real adversity I didn’t ask for or want. But from weathering all those experiences, I’ve become much more adept at reading people and their intentions and can navigate people to seek and find what I truly want and need to receive and provide. I’ve also learned how to develop more compassion for myself and other human beings, who are doing their best with what they have. I know nothing of what others do is about me but is about them and their lack of self-awareness and unmet needs. The adversity I faced all led me to the end result of more patience and realistic expectations.

From that example and so many others, when things come up now I ask for adversity rather than run away from it. I know the more I face, the better I’ll become for myself and others.

Like exercise to build more muscle and strength of your ligaments and tendons, ask for adversity in life to build strength, courage and confidence where it’s now lacking. See the challenges as something to face and ace, so you’re a stronger and more self-sufficient you on the other side of it all.


  • Dillan DiGiovanni

    Integrative identity coach

    Dillan DiGiovanni is an internationally-certified Integrative Nutrition coach, speaker and writer sharing stories about identity and resilience on the page and on stage. Dillan’s inspiration makes him a teacher for people of all identities as they practice more self-care and self-compassion for themselves and others.   Dillan has appeared on PBS/World Channel, the TEDx stage twice, and keynotes at companies like IDEO, Microsoft, General Assembly and ActBlue. He's also a Global Labs Mentor at WeWork. His writing is featured on his blog, Medium, ThriveGlobal and NJTECHWEEKLY, as well as features in Bustle and Fast Company. In his writing and stories on stage, Dillan combines his personal and professional expertise in behavior change, identity development and integrative health for people across all sectors and subcultures. Dillan earned his B.S. in Education from The College of New Jersey and his MEd with a specialization in systems, wellbeing and cultural change from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. After over a decade in New England, he now lives in his native NJ, running on 80s music and coffee and needing to eat more greens. He's currently at work on his first book.