Spare a thought for those worse off

14 Feb

When I was growing up and doing my fair share of teenage wallowing, people would often say to me “Look at so and so, they’re so much worse off than you”. And yes, they were, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I invariably still felt just as down, sad, panicked about whatever my worry of the moment was, however trivial (and of course they almost always were). I just felt guilty as well.

This kind of thing is of course grossly exaggerated in the twitter-cum-bloggosphere. It’s a space for extreme dichotomies. A lot of crap gets talked about – what so and so had for dinner, how Mr X’s bunion is particularly painful tonight, why Miss Y is feeling fat and down in the dumps. Juxtaposed against this frivilous, self-indulgent chit chat are people blogging about mind-blowingly traggic events. Suicide, domestic violence, poorly children. And yet, I’m not saying this with any kind of criticism. I’ve done, and I do both regularly, and I strongly believe that both are valid.

Some people responded to my post The arrival of my beautiful boys by telling me (albeit in a roundabout kind of way) to buck my ideas up and think about those that don’t get to hold their children at the end of it all. From the pit of my stomach I can understand the cruel contrast and can see why some would find my mindless wanderings offensive. But the notion that this somehow invalidates my feelings doesn’t rub with me. Should you never discuss your hopes, fears, sadness in case it offends someone worse off? Is it always an offense to wallow in self pity unless it is objectively, rationally justified? Because there is always, and will always be, millions out there that are worse off than us. Living in sin in our comfortable third world.

It’s really a nonsense. I’m not talking about knowingly offending someone in pain or fear. I’m not talking about refusing to spare a thought for the millions out there in life-threatening situations. You know well that I give this kind of thing a lot of thought, but experiences are not validated through comparison. We don’t win the right to feel them in some kind of tit for tat emotional tug of war. They are real, raw, profound, no matter how small or large, significant or self-absorbed they might seem to someone else.

Even now, amidst all this, I still stand by that.

19 Responses to “Spare a thought for those worse off”

  1. TheBoyandMe February 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    You are entitled to every feeling you have. You are entitled to express those feelings. Anyone who has a problem can either: shut up and keep it to themselves, or offer some support. Negativity doesn’t help anyone!

  2. keatsbabe February 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Fab post. Life is not a game of Top Trumps. Our experiences are our own to make sense of (or not, as is my usual way) and we have a right to our feelings. No-one should invalidate them. Respect is needed on all sides when pain, fear and sadness are under discussion.

  3. Rosie Scribble February 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    You are absolutely right. Experiences are not validated through comparison. How we feel is how we feel. People go through different experiences; people cope in different ways. No one is no better or no worse off, everyone has a right to be heard and understood. If we went around thinking about those we perceive to be in a worse situation, we’d beat ourselves up all day and get absolutely nowhere.

  4. Lottie February 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Well said! I can’t stand it when people jump on a bloggers back with their self righteous comments of what’s right and wrong. A blog post is merely a few thousand words or less from a moment in a person’s life and should be read as such. If someone chooses to write a trivial whingey post then so what? We all have trivial whingey moments just like we all suffer great loss and pain at some point in our lives. We’re human and our emotions are valid at that moment no matter what.

    Yes, there are always people worse off but when going through hard, sad, painful times there are also a lot of people better off. Our feelings are our feelings regardless of others situations and I think we should all be allowed to wallow on occasion and acknowledge our pain.

  5. Mwa (Lost in Translation) February 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    The only valid topics for discussion are war, famine and disease. Not your own, though – only other people’s. Only I prefer to talk about poo, toilets and gay porn. So sue me.

  6. All for Aleyna February 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    There is an old Chinese proverb – “my cut finger is worse than your broken leg”. A person’s issues can not be trivialised if they are affecting that person’s life. You are entitled to your feelings, what a great post xxx

  7. Livi February 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I totally agree. People are so eager to tell others that their emotions aren’t valid, that we somehow don’t deserve to feel bad because there our problems aren’t important/painful enough.
    Your emotions, positive and negative, are just as valid as everyone else’s. You have every right to feel the way you do. *hugs*

  8. kelloggsville February 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    I remember somebody telling me if all the problems of all the people in the world were thrown into a pile in front of you, you would probably grab your own back. I guess this is true much of the time but sometimes our own problems are so horrid we would be very glad to trade. Sometimes things are so very hard and one persons issues at any given moment are incomparible to anothers. I liked the Chinese Proverb – says it all quite succinctly.

  9. Mama-andmore February 15, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Fab post (did someone say that already? Perhaps my contribution is invalid then…) – so true, when my mother would say “eat up, this was made with so much love and there are people who have no food”, well I can’t make them less hungry or me less full. What you feel is what you feel, and your reality is the currency you deal with, so as long as we appreciate our blessings, I can’t see why if you want to complain about the stone in your shoe you shouldn’t. Suppressing your feelings just leads to frustration or worse yet guilt at undeservedly complaining.

  10. Doodlemum February 15, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Comparison is a dangerous thing. To be looking over your shoulder in fear of what someone may think is pointless. To be wanted and understood are human needs that we wrestle with. I for one believe everyone has the right to voice. It’s a great debate, because where does one draw the kine without overexposing oneself to rejection?
    Great post lovely. x

  11. TheMadHouse February 15, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I am so with you on this one. Our experiences are ours and only comparable to other situations in our own lives. You can not compare my sufferings to someone else’s in an honest and open way. I may have suffered, but I have my husband at my side through all this, where other people may not be so lucky to have someone who they love holding their hand.

    I hate the fact that my mother in law always takes the opportunity to belittle anything by insisting that she has had it harder, been through much more suffering or such like.

    I agree with keatsbabe that life isnt a game of top trumps.

  12. Rachael February 15, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I saw a counsellor once who said it’s a very British thing to brush off feelings with an ‘oh, but x has it far worse than me, I shouldn’t grumble’. We’re a strange bunch.

    Thinking of you just now, and sending love.

  13. Deer Baby February 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Totally with you on this one. I like the term ‘grief olympics’ I’ve heard around – people trying to out do each other and put it in some sort of chronological order/ranking system. Everyone’s feelings matter.

    Thinking of you.

  14. scribblingmum February 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    My Mum always told me that any feeling I had was true and no-one had the right to tell me otherwise. If I felt it, it was real. Simple as.

  15. Marylin February 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    I totally agree with you. Just because it’s not “as bad as some things” doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Wonderful post!

  16. Laura Tyrrell February 16, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    I really feel that the worst thing that has ever happened to a person or the most difficult thing they’re experiencing now deserves respect and sympathy at the least. No one escapes difficulty or sadness in their lives. It’s not a competition to point out who’s worst off. We’re all in this life together and need to be kinder to each other

  17. Scottish Mum February 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    What a great post. Thanks.

  18. Iota February 19, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    “Life is not a game of top trumps”. Love that comment.

    You will always be able to find someone worse off than you, whatever your situation. There is a place for looking on the bright side, and optimism, and counting blessings, but there is also a place for getting in touch with feelings of sadness, loss, woe, and all the rest of it.

  19. missjacq February 19, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Great read. Yes there is always somebody worse off than all of us in this life. However you are entitled to your own feelings and opinions. Its life, we all have our fair share of happy, sad,emotional, depressed,exciting days etc.. What might be important to one person might not be important to another and vice versa.We often forget that. Besides I think its your blog and you are entitled to write about what ever you want. If it offends people then I’m sorry but they don’t have to read it do they? Keep writing about what you want to and whats important to you, don’t worry about what others think. They clearly don’t worry about how you are feeling or woudn’t make judgmental comments so don’t waste your time or energy worrying about them.Life is far too short. You are doing a great job. I’ll certainly be reading more in the future.

I'm all about the debate. Would love to hear what you think.

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