By Mark E. Smith
Have you ever thought, I shouldn’t feel this way because others have it worse than I do? Most of us have reasoned with ourselves in that way at some point. While it’s empathetic toward others and is a coping mechanism, it has a huge downside: self-invalidation.
The fact is, everyone has struggles. However, trying to compare our adversities to those of others is impossible – because we are us and others are …well …others. Your struggles are as valid as anyone else’s because struggling isn’t based on a definable scale; rather, it’s relative to each of our experiences.
I know what it’s like to live with severe cerebral palsy, and I’m fairly emotionally adept at doing so. I’m struck when others express to me that they are inspired by me because as they face their adversities, they know individuals like me “have it much worse.” I understand the good intentions of such sentiments, but I also don’t want others discounting the totally valid emotions around their individual situations, as they very well could be struggling more than I am relative to our own circumstances. I have no idea what another is dealing with, and I never want anyone diminishing his or hers own adversities based on my visible ones.
All of this ties back into realizing that there’s validity in all adversity, in all struggles, for each individual. Just as we are kind enough to give credence to the struggles of others, we must extend it to ourselves, where we don’t compare and create a scenario of self-invalidation, but one of common experience. Adversity is not a measurement or a competition, and there’s certainly no hierarchy. We each have our struggles and no one can say one is easier to cope with than another. It’s all relative and individual.
Now, I’m not saying to wallow in self-pity – that’s at the other end of the scale and can devastate your life. What I am saying is, we shouldn’t dismiss our struggles because others have struggles. Everyone’s struggles should be embraced – including our own.
Ultimately, the truth of adversity is this: There are no struggles more or less significant than others…. Simply different.