“Shikata ga nai” is a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to “it cannot be helped” or “there is no other way.” It is a phrase often used to express acceptance in situations that cannot be controlled. This does not mean giving up during situations of difficulty but rather having the strength of heart to accept what cannot be changed and move forward in life.
The phrase has its roots in Japanese culture, specifically in the Buddhist concept of “gaman,” which means to endure or persevere through difficult situations with dignity and resilience. This blog post takes a deep dive into the meaning of this phrase and explores when (and when not) to apply it to your daily life.
Applications of “Shikata ga nai” in Daily Life
Adopting a “Shikata ga nai” mentality can be beneficial in many situations. For instance, it can help you deal with loss, rejection, and hardship. It can also help you to avoid excessive stress and anxiety. This is exceptionally helpful in situations such as:
- Natural disasters: When you’re faced with a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake or flood, there’s not much you can do to change the situation. In these situations, it’s important to accept the reality of the situation and adapt to it as best you can. Instead of hoping that the situation may change, work to mitigate its effects as best as you can and move forward.
- Illness or injury: If you or someone you love has suffered an illness or injury, it can be tempting to dwell on the negative. However, by adopting a “Shikata ga nai” mindset, you can focus on the ways that you can cope with the illness or injury more positively and continue to take steps toward recovery. Can you make them more comfortable? Provide emotional support? Etc.
- Lost job: Being let go from a job can be challenging, but it’s important to accept the reality of the situation and begin looking for new opportunities as soon as possible.
- Breakup: Losing a partner can be incredibly difficult, but by accepting the reality of the situation, you can begin to focus on yourself and heal from the breakup. Rather than dwelling on what went wrong or how you could have changed things, focus on the new possibilities and potential partners that lie ahead. Try getting out in the dating pool, meeting new people, and joining new communities!
By accepting the things you cannot change and focusing on opportunities for growth and development in areas that you can control, you can find inner peace and contentment.
The Downside of “Shikata ga nai”
While a “Shikata ga nai” mindset can be healthy in many situations, it can also pose a risk if it becomes a habit. Over time, it can lead to an attitude of complacency or resignation, making it difficult for individuals to feel motivated to take action when faced with adverse situations. This is because the “Shikata ga nai” mentality is conditioned towards accepting what cannot be changed, which can make it challenging to identify when change is possible. This includes places such as:
- Social injustice: When faced with social injustice, from racism to sexism to homophobia, it’s important to speak up and take action to create change. Adopting a “Shikata ga nai” mentality in these situations can be harmful and could reinforce oppressive systems.
- Toxic relationships: Remaining in a toxic relationship can be damaging to your emotional and physical well-being. Instead of accepting the situation, taking action to protect yourself is important.
- Unsafe living conditions: Living in an unsafe environment, such as a house with a faulty electrical system or a building that’s structurally unsound, can be dangerous. In these instances, it’s important to take action to protect yourself and others who may be affected by unsafe conditions.
Tips to Practice “Shikata ga nai”
Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can help you cultivate a sense of calm and resilience in difficult situations. By regularly practicing mindfulness, you can learn to let go of things that you cannot control and focus on what is within your power to change. Mindfulness can look like breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and more. Whatever works best for you is great.
Do Not Compare Yourself to Others
It can be easy to compare yourself to others when facing a difficult situation, but this can lead to feelings of envy or frustration. Instead of comparing yourself, focus on the things that you are able to do and appreciate what you have. Each and every person is on their own independent journey, and success should be measured by our own personal goals, not someone else’s.
Reframe Your Perspective
Try to reframe your perspective on challenging situations. Instead of viewing them as problems or obstacles, try to see them as opportunities for growth and development. Bounce back from setbacks or find alternative solutions to problems!
Build a Support System
Building a strong support system of friends, family members, or mental health, professionals can provide you with the resources and support you need to cope with difficult situations. In times of stress, it can be extremely helpful to use them as support and ask them for their thoughts and perspectives. This triangulation of viewpoints can help you gain clarity on the situation and bring new ideas to the table.
Practicing self-compassion can help you to be kinder and more patient with yourself when faced with adversity. Acknowledge that making mistakes is a natural part of the human experience and that it is okay to experience difficult emotions. Take time to treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance. This could look like a relaxing bath, yoga session, massage appointment, or a night out with friends.
Recognize When to Take Action
While it’s important to accept situations that cannot be changed, it’s also important to know when to take action. Evaluate situations carefully to determine whether there is something that you can do to change them. Additionally, just because you can’t do something, are there external resources or help that you can access to make a difference?
Always Be Grateful
A focus on gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and resilience. Try to cultivate a daily gratitude practice, such as writing down three things you are grateful for each day, to help you maintain a positive mindset and find joy in the present moment. This works great with journaling or as a way to start or end your day with an attitude of appreciation.
In conclusion, “Shikata ga nai” is not just a phrase but a mentality that has been ingrained in Japanese culture. It can be a useful tool for acceptance and resilience in difficult situations, but it is important to also be aware of its potential drawbacks. By adopting a balanced approach, one can learn to appreciate the value of “Shikata ga nai” while still striving for positive change.