I am always a little dismayed when people come up to me at an event and relate a trial or tribulation story of their own to me, though perhaps not for the reasons you may think. Without exception somewhere during their recounting they will say “of course this is nothing compared to what you have been through”. They feel as if somehow, they need to trivialise feelings they have about their own challenges.
Firstly, I would like to say here and now that I am always flattered that someone feels comfortable enough to talk to me about their troubles. I may not be able to help directly, though I may be able to suggest places/people who can. However, perhaps just being able to share their concerns or woes with a person who is not directly connected with them or their lives is of some comfort. The first step, I always feel, to them finding the help they need and, as I’ve talked about before, I always like to give them my undivided attention as I recognise what a brave step they are taking.
However, that phrase “of course this is nothing compared to what you have been through” is something I wish would disappear. Why do people trivialise feelings that are important to them?
When you trivialise feelings through comparison
It is so easy to compare ourselves to other people and then use that comparison to trivialise what we are experiencing. Stop it. Each of us is special, unique and important in our own lives. Our thoughts and feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s and you should never be made to feel that you should apologise for who you are or what you are going through. To you it is important and that is all that matters. The only difference between what you are facing and what I did is that they are exactly that, different experiences, neither being more or less than the other.
No wonder that so many people feel their troubles are something that should be hidden from others or they think that everyone else is such a “sorted out” person and they are alone in being a mess. It’s the old imposter syndrome showing itself again which should be banished from our thinking. In my experience, that “sorted out” person has plenty of issues they are dealing with. It’s just they may be better at hiding them than you.
That’s not to say that there won’t be days when you feel more, or less, confident, feel more, or less, able to tackle challenges standing in your way. The trick is to pick your time to confront them, keeping to the times when you do feel strong, able and confident.
Acknowledge rather than trivialise feelings
I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half the things I have if I hadn’t learnt this early on. Even now there are some days when I am a bit wishy-washy. I recognise the days when I am a little indecisive or don’t feel sure of my ground and on these particular days I simply defer making any important or big decisions and always leave myself wriggle room so I can re-group and work on my confidence to get my equilibrium back. The last thing I do is trivialise these feelings; they are an important indicator of my ability to manage my workload and cope without burnout.
One of my favourite films is called The Help. In it a maid called Aibileen is seen talking to her young charge and says “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. Even if you don’t truly believe the first two believe the last as it is so true for each and every one of us. So, rather than trivialise those feelings, acknowledge them, work with them and don’t go comparing yourself to others. You are unique and important.