There is so much pain and suffering in today’s world. You might wonder if your problems really matter or if you’re allowed to be impacted. You might think that because so many people have it worse, you’re not allowed to feel how you feel. If you’ve ever wondered, “Is it OK to feel bad when other people have it worse?”, today’s video is for you!
This week’s video was inspired by a reader who asked an important question. She shared that she was struggling with some stuff in her life, but she reported feeling guilty. Recognizing that so many people have it worse, she felt like she couldn’t express her feelings or be discouraged.
And she’s right in some ways. People all around us are dealing with incredibly challenging circumstances. They’re dealing with grief and loss or coming to terms with serious health diagnoses. People in parts of the world are fleeing violence and persecution. Millions of Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And just one glance at the news, highlights social injustice in nearly every crevice of our world.
People are experiencing horrific pain right at this very moment. So it’s natural to wonder, “Am I allowed to struggle? Am I allowed to feel overwhelmed, sad, or angry? Is it OK to feel bad when people have it way worse?”
My answer, loud and clear, is yes. Yes, you’re allowed to struggle. Yes, you’re allowed to be impacted. Yes, you’re allowed to feel sad and angry and scared and overwhelmed. You are absolutely correct that someone out there has it worse than you. But that doesn’t mean anything about you, your experience, and your right to feel your emotions.
Your emotions and your experience are always important. They matter, and they’re valid. No matter how small or personal they may seem, they matter. Part of being a human is struggling. And just because your struggle isn’t as big or life threatening as someone else’s, doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Is it OK to feel bad when others have it worse? Yes. Absolutely. That being said, a little perspective is important. It’s important to recognize the struggles of others. To step outside of your experience and empathize with what others are going through. This perspective taking is a way to gently challenge the all or nothing thinking you get caught up in. Your emotions can often balloon out of control, and it’s important to keep the pain of others in mind, gently challenging the idea the world is out to get you or that no one can possibly understand your pain.
Your emotions are valid. The place where you want to do some very gentle challenging is around the magnitude of those emotions and how much space you let them take up.
Here’s a good example. Several years ago, I had to get blood drawn as part of a routine physical. I’m pretty terrified of needles, primarily because I have little to no pain tolerance. Days before the blood draw, I started to get anxious, dreading the anticipated pain. I did my best to use all my coping skills, but on the day of the appointment, I could feel my anxiety spiking.
It would’ve been easy in that moment tell myself to stop being a baby, because other people have it way worse. But that would’ve been shaming, and it wouldn’t have been helpful at all. So I acknowledged my anxiety and dread. I acknowledged my fear. And then I also acknowledged that other people were dealing with a lot more physical pain then a blood draw. I thought about how many people in that very moment were probably getting IVs or undergoing major surgery. I thought about kids with chronic health conditions. And I thought back to just a few weeks prior when I sat with my best friend, as she received chemotherapy. Thinking about those people gently reminded me to keep my anxiety in perspective and not let it balloon out of control.
So my self-talk shifted to sound something like this. “Allison, you’re scared and anxious, and you’re dreading the pain. You’re a human; you’re allowed to feel scared. And there are also people all over dealing with a lot more than a blood draw, so let’s keep that in perspective. This is nerve-wracking, but you’ll get through it.” Is it OK to feel bad when others have it worse? Of course. Is a little bit of perspective also important? You bet.
Acknowledge your pain, and be gentle with yourself. You’re a human, and you’re allowed to struggle. No matter what else is going on in the world, no matter how many people have it worse, your emotions and your feelings matter. They’re important. And if you stifle them, minimize them, or pretend they’re not there, you’ll end up feeling ten times worse in the long run.
So acknowledge your emotions. Name them. Know that they’re important. And gently hold the awareness of others in your mind, remembering that you are not alone. Part of being a human is struggling, and we’re all allowed to do that.
Wondering how to talk to yourself in the middle of a difficult moment? Watch this; it’ll help!