I’ve read a lot of blogging tips that advise a writer to begin with the end in mind. Spoiler alert: I am sick and f*cking tired of the way society has made it okay for people to respond to others woes with an “it could be worse” attitude. It is hurtful.
I would LIKE to think that someone could read that and do the rest of the thought work in their own head, but if that was the case, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. Listen, we have all done this at least once in our life. This does not make us bad. This gives us opportunity for improvement. If you’re confused about what this is, it’s invalidating someone’s feelings by placing a negative connotation on the way that they feel or the emotion they are working through.
Each and every single human experience, every last stinkin’ one is experienced differently. There are no two people who are the same. So why is it that when I stub my toe, and I say “ouch!!”, some people are so inclined to say “I stubbed my toe once, and it hurt worse than that” or “You should be glad you only stubbed your toe because one time, I sprained my ankle!” or “You think stubbing your toe was bad? Just wait until tomorrow, the bruise will be worse.”
I know what you’re thinking. No person has ever said that.
But stop and think for a second. They have!
…just not regarding stubbing your toe.
I want to write about this from the place of how it affects me. This is after all, my blog. But while I share my own person anecdotes, I really encourage you to think about how this has potentially applied to you. It is highly likely that you have been on both the giving and receiving end of this behavior. And just to note, that’s 100% okay. Not because I said so, but because none of us are perfect – that’s science. I am here to learn and grow with you. That is why I created this space and that’s why I’m dumping this opinion of mine on you. If you disagree and you just think I’m a giant pansy, so be it. I digress.
As you may or may not know, my husband and I are trying to make a baby. It’s no secret in my life. Some people choose to be private about baby making and I really respect that because if I was trying to stay quiet about it, I would be suffering in silence. YES. I said suffering because that is what MY EXPERIENCE IS every month that I do not make a baby. How long we have been trying is not a variable here because we’re not talking statistics, we’re talking feelings. I wanted kids 5 years ago. I am very thankful I did not HAVE kids 5 years ago. I am now 31, married and more than ready to grow this family that I am so so thankful for.
Notice my dual mention of gratitude in the end of that paragraph. It was intentional and it’s because I know there is someone out there who is going to read a blog post about a woman who is pissed about not being able to conceive after 5 months and think “that ungrateful x-y-z”. THIS IS MY POINT.
I am not here to say that anyone is bad. I am honestly not even here to say anyone is wrong. All I am here to say is that this variety of response to my feelings HURTS me. This is not directed at any one person, but instead to each person who reads this and can relate.
I am so curious about why we do this to one another. Where did the compassion and empathy go? When did it become wrong to feel sorry for someone outside of a tragedy? Also, who gets to decide what is a tragedy? I am perplexed.
I am not writing this blog post with answers, but instead to perhaps plant a seed. I want to see who is out there that hears what I’m saying and thinks, “Shit, I’ve done it. Let me try to do better next time.” Or maybe someone will read this and think, “That seems to happen to me too sometimes and it really does make me feel bad. Now I can identify that and hopefully block some of the pain because I’M NOT THE PROBLEM.”
And what a solid realization. I have been working through this in talk therapy for a while now. When our wedding was cancelled, do you know how many people responded to that situation in a way that made me feel invalidated? Honestly, majority rules. I am aware that there are people who get married only to get divorced and sure they had a big party, but they had a shit marriage and I am the freakin’ luckiest woman on the planet to have a partner who is more than textbook perfect. I am and have been for a long time, in a state of acceptance that no matter what happens to me, there will ALWAYS be someone who is suffering more. I do not need a reminder to be grateful for what I do have when I am processing through sadness, loss or any other emotion – big or small. And neither do you. Instead what I think we might need, is empathy or sympathy. It is not wrong to feel bad or sorry for someone. That can be a stand alone action.
Maybe you lost a parent. Maybe your dog is sick and has a good shot at life after a major surgery. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for 2 years and you have no answers as to why it’s not happening. Maybe you went for a walk and twisted your ankle, but you have an event coming up that you really wanted to wear heels to and now you can’t. Maybe you stubbed your f*cking toe. Whatever it is that happened or is happening to you, you deserve to FREELY feel whatever feelings you have about whatever is happening. Without looming judgement and inevitable invalidation.
There is a bit of a side bar here and it needs to be reiterated. None of us are bad for having responded to someone else’s feelings in this manner. I think that in itself is why it’s so hard to accept that it’s really uncool to do this to someone. Because you said whatever you said, highly likely, with good intentions. And GUESS WHAT? The person you responded to this way, probably knows to the core of their soul that you didn’t mean any harm. BUT that does not make it less harmful.
If we continue to invalidate each other this way, it will become a whole other scary ‘new normal’. Speaking of ‘new normal’, how about that pandemic? In case you didn’t know, we are ALL having struggles right now. Parents trying to work full time and navigate a hybrid in-school/homeschool structure. Individuals with loved ones who are high risk, that they haven’t been able to see. Couples who planned their dream wedding and pushing their date for the 3rd time. None of those problems are bigger or worse than the other.
Are some things trivial? Yes. I am one of the most emotional individuals that I know. Sometimes the wind blows the wrong way, and I cry. Do I think that’s as big of a problem? I don’t. But when it comes to the stuff that you might see as trivial, try empathy. Because if you take the time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you will likely feel different than your impulses direct you.
If you can’t understand why someone is so upset over something ‘so small’, be the ears that their feelings can fall on safely. Or, walk away without passing judgement. It’s very much okay to say, “I can’t imagine what your struggle feels like, I wish I could help.” And then go away. Make room for someone who can be empathetic and supportive. We could all use a little grace right now. I encourage and really urge you to try to do away with whatever your “it could be worse” attitude looks like.