Hard is Hard. Complain about Broccoli and Hang Up on Insurance Scams

Society seems to have caught itself in this web of lies that makes everyone feel like we are all competing for a limited amount of “real” and “justified” pain – and the authorized support that comes with it.

We compare ourselves to others, we compare others to others, we compare real situations to fantasy – we fucking love to compare. And depending on how that one person’s situation (or our idea of it) stacks up against whatever we are comparing, we judge whether we/they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way.

toothbrush

People can be seen minimizing themselves and others all the time in this comparison war. Listen carefully.. it usually starts with “at least”.

One of the most clear, and repulsive, examples of this I witnessed was a discussion in an infertility support forum – an area that was specifically designed to provide support to those who were struggling. The desperate call for support was from a lady who recently miscarried, and the responses to her struggle went a bit like this; “Sorry you’re having a hard time, but at least it was early, let me tell you – miscarrying later is way more painful”, “I’ve had two miscarriages, be thankful you’ve only had one”, “I know of someone who had a stillborn, can you imagine how much harder that would be??”  When you see it laid out like that, it’s absurd! Why do we feel this incessant need to compare, judge, and only give support when it’s “earned”?

5583650926_c1033b88e4_b

Would it be acceptable to go up to a man who just lost both his arms and say, “Hey, at least you can walk”?

And if you think you don’t do this, double check with that voice in your head. So often we are our own bully. We don’t give ourselves permission to feel what we feel – we wind up down the comparison spiral in a heap of guilt, we try to rationalize with ourselves until we feel crazy (because despite our “logic” it doesn’t stop us from feeling), and we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve support because “it’s my fault” or “I shouldn’t feel this way”.

bully

There will always be something that could be called “worse” -but that DOES NOT mean you can’t feel shitty about your stuff. You have every right to own your experiences and you 100% deserve support.

Turns out you don’t have to feel guilty about hating broccoli just because there are starving kids in Africa.

Ash Beckham says it best – I strongly urge you all to watch her TED Talk

“..there is no harder, there is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard to make us feel better or worse about our closets and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.”      Ash Beckham 

The ridiculousness of this trap that we find ourselves in reminds me of my call centre days. My job was making cold calls to sell dismemberment insurance (you can just imagine the fulfillment this provided 😉 ). I remember having to explain to the poor fools who hadn’t yet hung up on me that they would only qualify for the money if they lost two limbs, “You can lose one eye and one arm, or one leg and one arm… and you need to lose them both from the same accident.. and it has to occur at the scene of the accident, you won’t qualify if they later remove your leg at the hospital.” Clearly, a scam. So why in the world do we buy into this  “you only qualify for support if you meet these ridiculous criteria” when it comes to our feelings? It’s no less of a scam, and it’s time to hang up.

We have to contest the whole premise of needing to earn the right to be upset. We can do this by giving everyone permission to own their feelings and provide genuine support and empathy. No more comparing. Furthermore, we need to tell ourselves that we have a right to feel this way and we do deserve support – despite what we’ve been told or what the voices are still shouting out from the background.

Go ahead, hang up on that sleazy insurance broker and curse your veggies without guilt.

kids-hate-vegetables

7 thoughts on “Hard is Hard. Complain about Broccoli and Hang Up on Insurance Scams”

  1. Great post! I love that TEDTalk – “hard isn’t relative, hard is just hard”. And I’ve always found “at least…” to be the least helpful, and most hurtful thing that can be said to someone in pain, it totally diminishes their feelings. I hate it when it’s said to me, so I’ve become really cognizant of not using it myself (not always easy

    1. Hi Jenny, Thanks for the feedback! I completely agree that it’s hard not to default to the “at least..” when trying to comfort others. We are just so used to it! I think the more we change our internal dialogue, the less this response will be our default for others too.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Well written MindfulDragon. We are all familiar with stigma but the concept of self-stigma is less well understood. We are often our own harshest critics and this is what causes us to resist seeking help, seeing help-seeking behaviour as yet another sign of “weakeness”.
    Your point about the futility and ultimate destructiveness of odious comparisons is well made too. Alain De Botton calls the consequences of this ‘status anxiety’.

    1. I’ve definitely made my fair share of mistakes when trying to support others, but through this process I realized just how horrible I’ve been to myself -like you said, definitely our own harshest critics. An exercise that really drove this home for me was a question posed in the ACT group – “If you talked to a toddler the way you talk to yourself, how well would that toddler do?” I find myself repeating the mantra “DON’T BEAT UP THE TODDLER!” Thank you for your continued support Aisling!

  3. Great post. I know I’m guilty of the “at least” comments…. its part of my standard statement when i try to give myself perspective, or be helpful to others.. But i think you’re right, it just leads to a devaluation of the experience, and subsequent feelings, and implies a need for comparison with others. Which, as you say is not helpful… and definitely not necessary.

    1. Hi Sarah, You bring up a good point about getting perspective; I see how “at least” can be used to highlight the things we are still grateful for in our lives, despite our challenges. I think the important part is to be extremely careful with what we do with that. It’s important to be grateful for what we have, but we have to be mindful that we are not using it to minimize the feelings we have about our experiences. I feel the important distinction here is the internal dialogue; it’s “I’m really sad about ___ but I know I’m still grateful that ___” versus “I shouldn’t be sad about ___, at least I ____.” When we use it to try to change our minds about what we are feeling, instead of honouring what we feel, we are using the “at least” in a damaging way. I’m glad you brought this up; everyone uses the comparing and “at least” when thinking about what they’re grateful for and gaining perspective, so it’s an important distinction to make. Thanks so much for your input!

      1. Exactly…. Thats what i liked about your post. Id never considered the consequence of saying “at least”. And that it does not allow you to honour actual feelings. Good advice. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *