When Someone Says, “Others Have It Worse!”

People say you make more of your problem than you should. You know their names.

They use a variety of expressions:

  • Get over it!
  • Man up!
  • Don’t be a baby!
  • It’s not so bad!
  • Buck up!
  • Others have it worse!
  • Be a man!
  • You need to tap your will power!
  • I’ve gotten over worse myself!

Your critic implies pain is a competition. If you gain the gold or silver medal, your hurt is justifiable to them. The rest of humanity, you included, ought to recover. Soon.

There are always those who score higher on the calamity scale, but their misfortune is irrelevant to your condition.

You are not a rubber ball, ready for a quick rebound. Even spheroids deflate or lose elasticity.

Many of those who utter such phrases claim they mean to be encouraging. Maybe they also throw in the expression, “You are feeling sorry for yourself.”

Self-care requires self-soothing. Grant your afflicted soul sympathy, not censure.

The friends who judge can be impatient. They suggest you’ve been down too long. A stopwatch does not enable recovery. Slip-ups and relapses happen. A hostile world can grind away, predicaments pile up and add to one’s adversity.

As Hamlet’s Uncle said to his wife,

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.

It isn’t unusual for the other to offer examples of those who found a way to thrive after a catastrophe. All praise to such extraordinary people, I say. Yet comparisons like these are a bit like standing you next to Michael Jordan and demanding you play basketball on his level.

Oh yeah, sorry, I forget you are 5’2″ and 45 years old. My mistake.

Sometimes the man indicting you points to an incredible story of bravery or loss, someone who survived mass murder or genocide. In effect, he tells you, “If he cleared the hurdles, why can’t you?”

Such an acquaintance neglects to mention all those who didn’t survive or triumph, the ones whose stories we never read or hear, many of them dead.

The fellow’s implication is that you are unnecessarily weak when you should be tough and resilient. Perhaps he thinks you bear the stamp of moral failure, a lack of character. The bloke shadows you with shame.

Whatever his motive, he provides nothing of value with words like this and much for which he might deserve blame.

I’m assuming you are making an effort. I hope you recognize your shortcomings.

It is in your interest to make the changes you need. If you are 600 lbs. and you believe a diet of soft drinks and pizza are the royal road to weight loss, the other might be alert to an issue you would be wise to address.

Frustration comes with the job of observing somebody you care about fall short. The fellow pointing his finger may be well-intentioned and clumsy with language. Recall whatever kindnesses he offers you or contributed previously.

Your task awaits: heal. Time passes, challenges persist, try again. Give yourself patience and love. Find the proper remedy with professional help.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 of the Hebrew Bible recognizes not all hardship is deserved:

Yet another thing I observed under the sun is that races aren’t won by the swift or battles by the strong, and food doesn’t go to the wise or wealth to the intelligent or favor to the experts; rather, time and chance rule them all.

Uncontrollable events may befall you, but no law compels you to be still and wait for them. Our human race is capable of creation and accomplishment. Search for a fruitful path to your own agency.

The adventure of existence continues with or without your participation. The old baseball cliche reminds us: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes the games are rained out.

For quite a few people, just surviving in the period of a pandemic is a heroic achievement. Give yourself credit.

Dissent and criticism, judgment, and shame are everpresent. Listening to disapproval remains a choice.

Walk away if possible, dismiss accusers if conditions permit, assert your worth if this is in you. Not every accusation requires a rebuttal. Again, counseling can provide assistance.

Action awaits, even if you are not now ready. Prepare as you can. Please remember what Chicago’s legendary Studs Terkel used to say:

“Take it easy but take it.”

———————–

The first image is a Frown of Disapproval authored by Me. The second is the Frown photo of Rebecca Partington. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

36 thoughts on “When Someone Says, “Others Have It Worse!”

  1. I have an awesome therapist who just turned 80 and I am 55. He became my psychiatrist 20 years ago. The last 5 years we have been working on grief and then emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse (this only in the last year when it came through in nightmares). Because the problems developed in my family of origin and I was afraid of my father who was my abuser I came to see my therapist as a father figure. One of the most important things he has helped me with is learning the continual harsh criticism I heard growing up is not reality. Through his honest but supportive role in my life I have been able to let go many negative beliefs I held until now about my worth, intelligence, potential. It also let me see that not all fathers tear you down emotionally, bully you and use you. The critics do not represent truth, just an opinion, which in my fathers case was based on his own trauma and anger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wonderful to hear, PJ! Sounds like you worked very hard with your therapist. You appear to be a potent example of what is sometimes possible in treatment. Best wishes.

      Like

  2. It’s not others telling me all those “get over it” quotes but my own head constantly pointing out almost every quote on your top list. I really am better off than most people in this world and yet, with all I have to be thankful for, depression is an every day battle, a deep whole that I cannot crawl out of and there is absolutely no reason for it. None! Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A therapist might wonder whether you are suffering from internalized messages you heard elsewhere. gb’s comment below describes this perfectly. I am sorry for the depression you report.
      Therapists have heard this type of decisive rejection of all possible explanations before. You are not alone in such a belief. That makes individuals who dismiss the usual causes of suffering enormously difficult to treat, unfortunately. They either come to treatment with great hesitation (if at all) or reject the possibility that their understanding of their life might be incorrect.
      I will offer an analogy to all those who might say there is “absolutely no reason” for their distress. Imagine you are a detective and are asked to investigate a dead body found in the street. No marks are found on the body. Might we conclude that the person died spontaneously for no reason? Or perhaps there should be an autopsy, an investigation of friends, acquaintances, relatives, and coworkers to find out more. Perhaps we should want to know whether there was a history of neglect, rejection, accidents, failures, abuse, social disappointment, divorce, etc.
      I wish you all the best, Brewdun, and I hope your life improves.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Minimizing our pain and experiences does not help us to heal. Comparing ourselves to others minimizes our pain and experiences. Healing and growing occur when we acknowledge the pain and experiences with integrity, and that is a process. Internalizing others’ negative speak about you only adds to our critic within. Countering those external and internal naysayers with being true to yourself through acknowledging your real pain based on your experiences without comparing those experiences to others’ experiences makes it easier to cope.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well said, gb! I cannot improve on your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      Thank you, Dr. Stein! I am trying to improve on everything. I replied as if I were speaking to myself. I am still struggling with acknowledging my pain and trauma from within, from alternate personalities, etc. This is why I am still stuck. But I try to be more gentle on myself and the different parts of me. I sound better than I feel at the moment.

      Like

      • drgeraldstein

        The different parts eventually have to make friends with each other in the treatment of DID. They come to realize their goal was in every case the same: to survive. Integration is down the road from this. Your attitude sounds right for the stage of treatment you are in.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you, Dr. Stein. That really means a lot coming from you. My parts know of the survival, and I am barely learning. It is sometimes painful and scary to accept them though.

        Like

      • drgeraldstein

        You (and they) are welcome. Yes, it is painful and scary in my experience as a psychologist.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Some of the littles inside like Tabitha, Mary, Penelope and Johnny appreciate you. They liked that one post you had with your grandson, I think, and the funny glasses you were wearing. It was a while ago since you posted that.

        Like

      • drgeraldstein

        That was fun. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It appears you’ve made an impressive start!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Three words I dislike hearing: 1. Buttercup (as in “suck it up buttercup), 2. Snowflake, and 3. Sheep. These words disregard the experiences and feelings of others. Ad hominem attacks do not win debates.

    Like

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      I do like the food buttercup, the wintery snowflakes that look pretty when falling from the sky, and the warm-fuzzy appearance of 🐑 sheep animals. I do not like how people have perverted these words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • drgeraldstein

        Here’s to more of all that is pretty in your life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you, Dr. S. Indeed, there is more to life than the pretty.

        Like

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Oops. Misread that. Here is to seeing more of the pretty in life, amid the not-so-pretty.

        Like

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Forgot to say that I like both the food and flower buttercups. I also still consider Pluto a planet. I may create a special place in my home to honor those things. Buttercup need not be used negatively, and I threw Pluto in there because I have also personified it. Both symbolize my heart in some way.

        Like

    • drgeraldstein

      Indeed. A strong and wise voice.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am mindful not to try to cheer people up by discounting their misery, because the pain it brings while feeling dismissed. While my late mother laid dying while on life support, I had people dismissing my worry by saying ,”Oh, She going to be fine,” with the wave of a hand that tells you to get over it. Unrelated to that people also love to tell me, “You worry too much,” or “It could be worse, you could live in a third world country.” I have learned to keep my mouth shut because be dismissed as a worrier does not help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drgeraldstein

      People who say such things engage in a combination of a power play to elevate their status (as a non-worrier individual of wisdom) and to insulate themselves against the possibility that some bad thing (like a dying loved one) will soon overtake them. You are right to dismiss them, Nancy. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Dr. Stein, thanks for that much-needed boost to my sagging spirits. I’m doing what I can to “give [my]self patience and love” and to “find the proper remedy with professional help.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      Rosaliene, I am so sorry to hear that “your spirits are sagging.” I hope that you are able to get the co fort and help you need from many channels. I hope you are able to feel what you need to feel to find release, inner peace, validation, support, comfort, and self-love in times of distress or sadness.

      Liked by 2 people

      • go fragmented gumdrops….You are so kind hearted and I frequently see you offering thoughtful words to others. It is nice to have you as part of the little gang here!

        Liked by 2 people

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you for your kind words and acceptance, Nancy. It means a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, GB. My sons have been very supportive.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        I am glad to hear you have supportive sons. Family is so important. I have even spoken with some former estranged family who are now closer to me online since the advent of this pandemic. I have called the veterans crisis line at least once a week on average, and they help me do reality checks and grounding when I am distraught. I use a bunch of resources in addition to weekly therapy. It is hard for me this week because my therapist is on vacation, but I am holding on for her return. I really like your activism, and I have a lot to learn from you and other activists. It is okay to take a break and self-care from activism or any other high-stress tax. This pandemic and its societal sequelae are stressful enough; this is a marathon of stress, not a sprint, so naturally there is bound to be some fatigue from all that ongoing stress. Hang in there. And I accept you as you are, no matter what feelings you are dealing with. You are not alone.

        Like

    • Rosaliene….You are a lovely woman…it is always nice to see you here on this forum.

      Liked by 2 people

    • drgeraldstein

      I’m so sorry to hear you are dispirited, Rosaline. I will keep you in my thoughts for a bounce back. The world is a better place for your active participation in it. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. gb fragmented gumdrops

    (((Safe online hugs to everyone))) these are tough times, and we all struggle differently. Your feelings are valid. We hear you.

    Liked by 1 person

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