Have you heard statements like,
“Thank God we are even able to eat. What about those who do not have anything to eat?”
“You are even lucky you have someone to call daddy. What about people like us that lost our parents from childhood”
This is what we call comparative suffering and it is a negative coping mechanism which involves trying to make someone’s pain insignificant or too significant in comparison with how we feel or what we are passing through
Many of us are used to invalidating other people’s experience think we have gone through worse while the rest of us are spend valuable time invalidating our experiences thinking it is less of what people have/are going through.
I recognize that the intent behind comparative suffering is usually a good one as we tend to use it to show gratitude. For instance, using the first example above, the speaker is trying to show appreciation for having a meal to eat despite the difficulties or hardships.
But like every other coping mechanism, comparative suffering does not last. It eventually wears out and we are back to the very beginning. Rather than having to deal with the pain or problem now, we tend to ignore it and live with it. You know what that means? It will always come back to haunt us.
Also, comparative suffering means you lose sense of empathy. So, rather than empathize with those close to you going through difficult times, you begin to judge them based on how much you think you have endured in this life. For example, “why are you now crying because of this small thing? If I now tell you my story nko?”
It is a means of invalidating other people’s feeling. Meanwhile, if you process your feeling and you acknowledge your pain and suffering, you grow more compassionate for others around you. I love our Brene Brown puts it:
“Empathy is not finite. When we practice empathy, we create more empathy.”
The moment we fail to show ourself kindness, we can never be able to share kindness to those in need of it. Stop judging people based on how much suffering you are going through. Stop the fear and scarcity mentality. Because measuring your pain with others’ is a useless way to live
Most importantly, stop using comparative suffering to make yourself feel small. It is not humility. It is insecurity. Yes, you made 2000 naira today compared to another that made 20, 000 naira but do not see yourself as insignificant. Own your win. Celebrate your win.
You will become parents in the nearest future if you are not one yet. Do not ever judge your kids based on some other kids. Never! Never make statements like, “You do not even know that their are kids out there in need of food to eat and you are wasting food here”
Never! You can be grateful withouth comparing or invalidating another’s pain.
You can correct without comparing to another person.
You can accept your small win rather than comparing to someone with a bigger win.
You know how? It starts by owning up to your emotions rather than denying them.
Does it make sense to you?