When you’re feeling down, just remember there’s a lot of people who have it much worse than you do. I bet they’d die to be in your shoes. Why do you think you’re so special? Really, you’ve got nothing to feel bad about.
Does that make you feel better? Of course it doesn’t.
Perspective can be good. Sometimes you have to ground yourself to really see the scale of your problems. A major disaster is suddenly more manageable when you see it through an outsider’s perspective. It can be helpful to remember where you stand. What privileges do you have, for example? What do you take for granted, yet others struggle for every day? These are all very important things to consider – don’t get me wrong – but sometimes people get too caught up in these comparisons. One person’s problems do not cancel out another person’s. Too many people invalidate their own feelings, because they’re too caught up in somebody else’s.
The unfortunate truth is there are people worse off than you. That does not mean, out of seven billion people on this earth, only the poor person right at the bottom of the food chain is allowed to feel sad. Would you say that only the guy at the top is allowed to be happy? How can you be smiling? You didn’t win the lottery today. You didn’t get a new puppy. If we can take our happiness seriously, despite people being better off than us, why do we ignore our sadness, as a result of those worse off?
If you had a shit day at work, you are allowed to feel crappy about that. Yes, somebody probably got fired today. Yes, somebody somewhere had a much worse day than you, I’m sure. But that is irrelevant. Do not feel bad about feeling bad.
Often people feel guilty about their feelings because they seem so trivial in comparison to others’. Often, we ignore the problem, mistaking this for moving on. But you can’t move on from it – you can’t turn your feelings into positivity – until you admit how you feel in the first place.
Traumatic events can often be shrugged off if your experience seems more bearable than somebody else’s. Take the Manchester bombing, for example, at Ariana Grande’s concert last year. Lots of people were damaged by this, understandably. But many also dismissed their feelings, telling themselves they should be grateful. Rachel Atkinson, a survivor of this terror attack, explained in her YouTube video, “I can only imagine the guilt [Ariana Grande] feels because I feel it too. Even though we didn’t cause it, you still feel guilty for being okay, for being safe, for not being hurt and for coming out the best you could from a situation like that. You feel guilty to be happy.”
The deaths and injuries at the Manchester terror attack are an awful tragedy in their own right, but they don’t override other people’s feelings about the matter. And that applies to anything. No matter how silly or overdramatic you feel, your feelings are valid.
You may think you’re being strong, recognising the brighter side of the situation, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, positivity is the kind of thing we need during these times. But don’t mistake this for guilt. Sometimes we stay strong to hide the guilt we have for feeling bad in the first place. The initial pain you felt therefore isn’t being dealt with – you’re just adding to the problem by making yourself feel ashamed on top of it.
It’s quite common for people’s psychological problems to stem back to an event in their life that may have happened years ago. We may not have realised how much something affected us at the time because we never acknowledged our feelings. Perhaps you had to stay strong for somebody, and didn’t feel you were in the position to feel down too. It can be complicated. This is why it’s better to be open about our feelings to begin with. Deal with them – don’t brush them under the carpet – because they could come back to get you.
You have no obligation to always be happy. We’d all like to be, but you are not failing, nor are you any less of a person if you are not okay. If you’ve been waiting all year for the summer, and now it’s here you're hating this heatwave, you can admit that without feeling like an asshole. If everyone seems to be having the time of their lives at some party, you're not pulling a dick move if you’d rather just go home. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be happy. But it should be genuine – not forced. It’s okay to not be okay, and realising that is the best thing you can do for yourself.