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The Danger in the Phrase “Well, They Have it Worse”


This quote appeared in my Facebook feed this week and it made me say “Yes!” at the top of my lungs!!

Here are some common phrases I hear when it come to sadness:

“Well, so and so has it so much worse, I can’t really complain.” (Left unspoken: I mean I am buried under so much grief and pain but I don’t think anyone cares so I better just suck it up)

“At least I am not so and so, I can’t imagine what they are going through.” (Left unspoken: because I am really struggling here and feel like a loser because it is so hard)

“I SHOULD be grateful at least we don’t have it as bad as so and so” (Left unspoken: I am grateful for my life and I don’t want to be dealing with this other issue that is hard)

“Complaining doesn’t do you any good…just need to keep soldiering on.” (Left unspoken: Soldiering on is all I know to do, because again no one really cares…I mean, I haven’t really shared it with anyone, but I know they won’t care)

“My life is great (left unspoken…I mean I am totally miserable and hate getting out of bed) but from the outside my life looks totally great”

I hear these quotes every day from my friends, clients, and family.  And my first thought is…When is it bad enough to complain? When do we get to sit down and just cry our eyes out, lose our sh*t and feel the pain?

When someone dies?

When someone has major pain and then dies?

When someone is crippled, has major pain and then dies?

When someone is crippled, has major pain, has dementia and then dies?

Here’s the thing…someone ALWAYS has it worse. If you look long enough and hard enough you will find someone else with a worse story, more suffering and more pain.

Since when is our ability to feel sadness, grief, and pain, contingent on the severity of the problem?

Somewhere along the line we convinced ourselves that we are being polite by not sharing our suffering and I am going to call BS on that.

We aren’t polite we are silently suffering, we are hiding our pain, fear and sadness in the guise of polite. Polite doesn’t protect us from pain; it doesn’t keep the suffering away (from us or anyone else). It doesn’t even protect us from being vulnerable.

Here is one thing I know for sure, believe me, I do not want this fact to be true: If we don’t experience our pain it will come show up over and over again until we deal with it.  We carry our unexpressed grief and pain with us, and it comes back and gets compounded with every new grief and loss. It oozes out in our anxiety and stress; it shows up in our backaches and stomachaches, it appears in our drinking of a glass or 3 of wine, and our eating of a bag of chips.

Emotions are like a bad penny, we can’t get rid of them unless we acknowledge them, share them and shower them with compassion.

It is OK to be scared, angry or sad REGARDLESS if you believe someone else has it worse. You ignoring your pain does NOTHING to soothe theirs.  You ignoring your pain doesn’t make you feel more gratitude, feel better or help anyone ever.

So let’s stop belittling our stories and everyone else’s…let’s stop comparing our pain. Let’s stop being so damn polite. Next time you hear yourself or anyone else say one of those statements above.

  • Remind them it is ok to feel sad.
  • Remind them not feeling their pain doesn’t help anyone.
  • And if it is someone else, remind them you are there for them if they want to talk.

These are 2 of my favorite posts on dealing with tough emotions
You Can’t Ignore your Past: Heal it Don’t Ignore It
A Few Thoughts on Feelings

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