Types of Adversity

When we think of adversity, there are a wide array examples that people can note as challenges. Matt O’Keefe notes 6 types of adversity that people struggle with in their lives in the article “6 Kinds of Adversity, And How to Overcome Them.” I thought this was a good overview of types of challenges we may face day to day. Many of us struggle with one or more of these in our lives, and they are often part of the reason we are looking to make a change in our life. When I lost weight, I had already overcome some of the adversity I faced (financial, social). Looking back, it would have been difficult to overcome my weight loss without the education I gained from being in a healthier social and financial situation. This is often the case, like an onion (or a Shrek), we have to peel pack the layers before we can get to the core of the problems we need to focus on.

It’s funny because after I lost weight and overcame physical adversity, there were new challenges waiting for me, so it is important for us to not take our challenges for granted and be humble in the process of transformation.

  • Physical Adversity – Whether it is weight or a physical disability, we have real limitations that our body sets before us. How can we lose weight if we do not have the full use of our legs? Although we have these roadblocks, it does not mean we have to give up completely. Sometimes we feel that if we can’t do something 100%, then there is no point in doing it at all, but Arthur Boorman proves that our physical limitations do not define our potential.


  • Mental Adversity – We don’t talk enough about mental health in our society, yet it will affect most of us (through personal experience or through someone we know). Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. [Find more stats at NAMI]. These can often be the hardest limitations to overcome because we cannot always see how mental adversity is impacting our lives. Often times, we will need some sort of intervention to overcome this type of adversity whether it is therapy or medication; depending on the severity. Some are fortunate enough that exercise, family/friend support, or activities can help with some of these adversities.

  • Emotional Adversity – Perspective during change is important, which can be difficult to have when we haven’t learned how to properly manage our emotions. Emotional health can be very contingent upon mental health. If we are experiencing depression, our apathy can alter our emotional state, or consider struggling with bi-polar disorder and feeling as if you are functioning in fluctuating emotional states. I’ll talk about Body Dysmorphia in the future, but this disorder truly attacks the physical, mental, and emotional health of a person.  Loving yourself is a big part of overcoming emotional adversity, and, to this day, is still one of the most difficult pieces to conquer for me.

  • Social Adversity – Developing social skills; the ability to talk to others and the ability to integrate into a group of people. Social anxiety as it relates to mental and emotional health can severely affect one’s social skills. I still struggle with social anxiety to this day, but part of developing my own resiliency has been understanding that some situations are good for me and will have a positive impact on my life, and thus, I should do it anyways. Sitting with discomfort is an important skill to learn. You don’t want to be so overwhelmed with panic in social situations that you are not able to grow, so start small. For me, the thought of ever going to a gym alone was well outside of my comfort zone, so when I realized I needed to lose weight, I joined a small group fitness program with 5 of my friends. Eventually, I gained the confidence required in order to venture into the gym by myself!

  • Spiritual Adversity – When I talk about belief to people, I never mean one that is religious in nature. Although that helps push some people forward, it is not a driving force in my life. For some folks, like Rich Froning (winner of several CrossFit Games competitions), God is an important part of his training and in his life. Whether it is this blatant or not, belief in something outside of yourself can aid in inspiring you to make a change. Belief in yourself is important, but believing in the world around you pushes you in a different way; a way that makes you want to participate in something more than yourself. Transformation is difficult because it requires the balance of both the internal and external versions of this.

  • Financial Adversity – This one can be the most tangible. If you are working a job that does not pay you enough, you may not be able to achieve your goals. In thinking about weight loss, you may not be able to join a gym, or you may have to work overtime, so time to even go for a run outside seems like a huge hurdle. Financial strain is a tough one because it perpetuates a story inside of ourselves that creates a belief that we are only our circumstance. It’s easiest to create excuses when you feel like you have to spend your time and resources just to pay your rent. This is not to say that these are not real issues. Growing up in poverty, I never had the education surrounding health (any type), to realize the changes I needed to make. When I got to a place where I realized these changes needed to occur, I was fortunate enough to have saved up enough money to join the weight loss program, buy some gym clothes, and dedicate to the process. It may be more difficult if you aren’t in this space, but it is still possible.

Note that most adversity does not come in a silo. Even though you can categorize it, often times they work in tandem with each other and, at times, cause each other. Being financial insecure can make it so that you cannot see a doctor or therapist, participate in social activities, which, in turn, can have a greater burden on your health. Remember to take things one step at a time.

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