I find that my thought/growth process runs in cycles. The past few weeks I have been mulling over the ways in which comparisons can affect us. Trust me. This isn’t me “theming” my blog posts but the natural progression of my conversations leading up to my Friday writings. During a phone date with one of my cousins we were discussing the habit we have of shrugging off our problems because they are nothing compared to someone else’s. She dropped the phrase First World Problem and said that in comparison to other people’s struggles she had no right to complain.
While I agree with the foundation of this phrase, I’m not fond of where it has led us. So many of us are convinced that we can’t have an open discussion about what we are struggling with because it sounds like we are complaining. The fact that we have it so much better than other people should not negate the fact that every single one of us is working thru or dealing with something. Yes, it may not be starvation or Ebola or civil unrest but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Your pain or frustration or confusion is real and it matters. To believe otherwise leads to feelings of guilt and ultimately it locks us into place. We can’t progress from where we are because we can’t be honest about it without feeling like we are whining.
About 15 years ago when I started to talk about the abuse I endured as a small child I found myself downplaying it with statements like, “But it wasn’t as bad as what happened to D, so I really should be grateful.” I was in essence saying that because my experience was less horrific than my friends, I should suck it up. To a degree I felt guilty expressing my pain, anger and humiliation because I knew people who had endured far beyond what I had. This was counterproductive and hindered my ability to talk thru the hurt.
Eventually, I came to understand that we cannot use another person’s experiences as the measurement of our own. Comparing your life to someone else’s and saying you can’t cry because it is nothing compared to what the person next to you is experiencing will paralyze you. I’m not saying you should fall into The Pit of Despair (Princess Bride reference) when you have a bad day either. Our goal should be to find the middle ground. We need to start by being honest about what is going on in our life, understanding how it affects us and then deciding what we can do to move thru it and grow.