My feet hurt from walking more than four miles in my $10 sandals. I could feel where the blisters would emerge the next day. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and I wanted to go home.
“Mom,” I groaned, “when will we get to the bus stop? My feet hurt.”
“Just a few more minutes. Just a little longer.”
“Don’t forget, Pegah–someone always has it worse than you. Just imagine all those poor kids in Africa who have to walk barefooted for who knows how long everyday. Don’t complain anymore.”
I watched as my best friend quietly cried on the couch, cuddled up into a an impenetrable ball where nothing else could hurt her more than she had already been hurt. My other friend was on the couch next her, a concerned look on her face while a warm hand rested on her shoulder.
“It’s okay, Anna. It’ll get better in time. You might feel like shit now, but give it some time.”
There was a short moment of silence before my friend started again.
“If it makes you feel any better, just imagine how many other people are in the same position as you, or how they probably have it worse than you do.”
Problem solved, right?
Once that phrase comes out of anyone’s mouth, the don’t-complain-because-think-of-all-the-other-people-in-the-world-who-have-it-worse “advice” (or rather, a cop-out answer for when you don’t know what else to say), I become very upset.
I’m sorry, am I not allowed to feel the way I’m feeling? Is it forbidden to express my distress, since I know that someone out there in the world of 7 billion people most positively does have it worse than I do? How about we go find that one person on this earth and let them express their feelings while everyone else is forbidden to–that seems pretty logical.
I have a huge problem with this saying, because while I understand that the world is an unfair place to many other people, the phrase ultimately attempts to invalidate the way I’m feeling. It implies I didn’t earn my sadness or anger because my situation wasn’t problematic enough. It takes away the right for people to complain, and I think that’s the most dehumanizing part about this.
Someone out there in the world does have it worse. But am I not human too? Everybody feels, so let them feel. Let them be angry or upset or sad.
If you still don’t agree with me, let’s flip this phrase and see how it sounds. User u/spectrumbloqqer on Reddit did a great job at conveying the other extreme that can come out of this logic:
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Everybody has a right to react to whatever situation that they are in. No matter how big or small it seems on the scale we call life, every one of us connects through the natural phenomena called emotions. And when the process of expression is denied, so is our sense of validity. So the next time a friend is experiencing something troubling to them, remember that their problem is real and that it matters to them.