It is important to acknowledge and validate your own suffering irrespective of its intensity relative to the suffering of someone else. You don’t have to suffer the most in order to have suffered.
It can be a real challenge to allow yourself to have a hard time. All too often, even in the midst of struggling, you say to yourself, “I know someone else has it worse.” While that may be true, it is not usually helpful or healthy.
I think that people who struggle with mental health issues are particularly prone to fall into this trap. I hear many people on my new favorite podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression, minimize their own struggles and say that others have a much harder time.
This is a cognitive distortion—a mental trap that has the effect of trivializing your experience. It actually doesn’t matter at all if someone else has suffered the same, or less, or more than you. If you are suffering, let yourself suffer. Acknowledge that it is hard. Validate your experience. Treat yourself with compassion.
This can be much easier to see when framed in the context of someone else, instead of yourself. Imagine this scenario. A friend comes to you and describes a situation that is causing her anxiety and stress. You listen carefully, and after she has broken down crying and shared everything with you, you respond, “I know someone who has it much worse than you. You ought to be grateful you don’t have it as bad as she.”
How would your friend feel in that moment? Instead of offering sympathy and compassion, you have made her feel insignificant and worthless. You have not validated her or the experience she is having.
When I think of this example, I have a visceral reaction. I cannot fathom doing that to someone else. And yet, I do it to myself all the time. All. The. Time.
My hope is that in thinking more about this, I can remember to treat myself with kindness and compassion. I urge you to do the same. We are all in such need of this.