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The Problem With Challenges

I hate it when people replace the word “problem” with the word “challenge.” It’s not just that they replace it but the way they do it like they’re correcting you on how a word is pronounced.

I’m not totally sure why this gets on my nerves. I have two theories:

  1. I’m insane

Of all the theories this one makes the most sense but since a crazy person can’t self diagnose properly I can’t properly explore this one.

2. It’s sick and wrong

Not gonna lie, this theory’s my favorite. I’m not sure exactly when the whole “challenge not problem” thing started but it stinks of self-help bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against self-help but I am against self-delusion. If ISIS is coming to destroy your village and do other terrible things it’s not “a great opportunity for cardio!” it’s a terrible fucking problem. If your child dies it’s not “an opportunity to make a new and better kid” it’s a fucking horrifying tragedy. If you have cancer you don’t have “a fun motivator to finish everything you’ve ever wanted to try” you have a terrifying fucking problem.

The people who are militantly against the word “problem” take a shitty situation and make it worse. Now not only did your house go up in the fires of northern Alberta but you’re a bad person for not seeing the silver lining (you’re out of northern Alberta!).

Roaaaad Trip!

People who push hard for challenge are usually the people who push hard for militant positive thinking and I’m not going to lie, there is a bit of schadenfreude in watching these people try to eat their emotions. It’s like watching a repressed closeted gay man angrily argue about how gay sex is SO WRONG! You almost want to start a betting pool as to when they’ll break as you watch them try to reframe every shitty thing in the world while silently repeating “It’s okay, it’s okay, this is all okay” to themselves. They remind me of these people.

What this attitude does is allow (or force) you to ignore the hurt or the shitty part of a situation. Haven’t these people seen Inside Out? A balance of emotions is a healthy thing. “Challenge not problem” is the mental equivalent of the Atkins diet. There is no balance and that’s the best way to be, bro. You might get short-term results but the long-term outlook isn’t as great.

Also let’s consider the source. Nine times out of ten, the people who push hard for the challenge not problem attitude aren’t people who were child soldiers, survivors of genocide or some other terrible tragedy. A lot of them were born on third base and aren’t even aware of how easy they had it. They look back at what little problems they did have and figure they’re titans for having gone through them.

There are those in the challenge not problem camp who have gone through actual horrible situations and they’re even worse because they take the fact that they had this ridiculous attitude when things finally got better as a sign that the attitude is what caused things to get better. I’ve seen that logic in other places.

Here’s the thing: there are actual problems in the world. But now not only do we have to watch hope erode as we keep getting pounded by news of climate change and war and other terrible things being done to people, not only do we get to feel less and less like we can make a difference but now we don’t even get to feel bad about it.

I’m not saying you should wallow in your problems but for Christ’s sake you get to call them problems. That’s the absolute least we can do as a society. So if you have a problem take some time to acknowledge that it sucks. You don’t even have to be reasonable about it. Have yourself a big ass tantrum in which you yell about how everything bad happens to you and no one else. Bitch to your friends, your journal, your cat. Hit the gym and angrily workout. Just get it out there so that it doesn’t get bigger and bigger until you’re new “challenge” is having to have your tear ducts removed because "the darn shucks things just keep on leaking for NO REASON. ALSO EVERYTHING IS FINE! CHALLENGES ARE GREAT!”

Does anyone have a problem with that?

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