Validation

Friday posts are not my thing. For the past few months, blogging about things other than my day-to-day life has not been my thing. Writing to deal with emotions, however, has always been my thing, so here we go.

Recently, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated with one of the most positive cliches out there.

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

Before you write me off as an ungrateful fool, I want to make it clear that I agree with this statement at face value. Life, for the past week or so, has not exactly been rainbows and butterflies and sparkles, but just because things haven’t always been perfect doesn’t mean I think I have nothing to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head, more than enough food in my cupboards and refrigerator, and clean water coming out of my faucet, which is not something a whole lot of people in the world can say–not even something a lot of people in our own country can say. I have plenty to be thankful for, I recognize that, and I truly am thankful for it.

However.

I feel like there’s a subtext to that statement: There is always something to be thankful for, so stop complaining that your life is hard. Stop wallowing in self-pity. Stop whining. Stop being sad. You have something to be thankful for, and your life could be worse than it is.

While that may be true, I think this discounts suffering, and I don’t think that’s okay. I don’t think it’s okay to look at whatever is upsetting you and think, “I shouldn’t be upset about this. It could be worse. I’m selfish for being upset about this.”

No. You’re not. Because if it’s upsetting you, it was important to you, and you deserve to have someone validate those feelings.

I very much believe that suffering is suffering, period, and it frustrates me when people minimize the fact that they’re suffering because “it could be worse.” Maybe it could be–it probably could be–but that doesn’t mean that whatever is causing you to suffer in that moment doesn’t hurt. Though your suffering may be small in the grand scheme of things, it still exists, and your hurt shouldn’t be blown off because it’s not “big enough.”

My past couple of workouts have ended up being a lot longer than I originally anticipated due to mid-workout teary breakdowns for a whole lot of reasons. The phrase “There’s always, always, always something to be thankful for” kept coming to mind during these moments, and if I’m being honest, it just made things worse. Yes, I recognize that I have things to be thankful for, but right now I’m upset, I’m hurting, and I don’t want to feel belittled by some cutesy Pinterest phrase because I have an apartment to live in, darn it, so I don’t have the right to be unhappy.

Because honestly, that’s just not true. I have the right to feel, I have the right to acknowledge that something (or the culmination of a lot of somethings) is bothering me to the point of tears, and I have the right to recognize that the brokenness of this world does not manifest itself exclusively in superstorms but can also manifest itself on small, personal scales.

Let me be very clear: I do not write this in any way to minimize the unthinkable suffering many people on the East Coast are going through at this exact moment. I would never try to equate my recent troubles to the massive amount of pain and loss blanketing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and every other location that felt Sandy’s unrelenting wrath earlier this week. There are quite literally millions of people suffering because they’ve lost their food, they’ve lost their electricity, they’ve lost their possessions, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their loved ones. The scale of their suffering does not in any way compare to mine, and I desperately hope no one walks away from this with that thought.

I also do not write this to throw myself a pity party on the Internet. I don’t like reading self-serving woe-is-me blog posts that fish for half-hearted virtual reassurance any more than the next person, and that is not in any way my intent with this post.

My intention is to validate. To reassure both myself and anyone who happens to stumble across this post that it is okay to not be happy all the time. It is okay to acknowledge that you’re hurting, and it is okay to be upset that your expectations have not been met. It is, of course, equally important to deal with those emotions in a healthy manner so that they do not control your life. But in that moment of suffering, in that moment when you’re on your floor in tears, it is okay to feel what you’re feeling. Whatever brought you to that point is not stupid. It is not insignificant. It is not dumb. It is real.

There is always, always, always be something to be thankful for.

But that doesn’t make you a bad person for not always, always, always being thankful.

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13 thoughts on “Validation

  1. wow, just wow. you really wrote about something that I have been thinking a lot about. lately, especially with all that happened with sandy, I have felt truly ungrateful and selfish for ever thinking I have a problem. people constantly kept writing ‘i hate how people complain about little things’. but i felt like it was a back hand at anyone like myself who ever has a bad mood.

    anyways, before I ramble. I so appreciate this right now.

    • Thank you 🙂 I feel like little things are often an indicator of bigger things, too — you know, like when you have a breakdown because you can’t find your Chapstick or whatever. Chances are you’re probably not really *that* upset about the Chapstick, but rather there have been a lot of little things that have built up that made that one little thing become a big thing. There’s a difference between being a snobby princess and genuinely having something wrong, of course, but discounting someone’s bad mood because their problem seems small to you isn’t fair.

  2. Haha I was going to comment with “AMEN” too. Erin beat me to it!!

    But seriously thanks for writing this. I’ve been struggling with similar thoughts lately and felt bad for being unhappy because “it could always be worse”. The combination of those two feelings was really unsettling so thank you for addressing it!

  3. This is something that literally haunts me on a daily basis. I am part of a social justice community on my campus and we are inundated everyday with the suffering of others and the blessings we possess. While I am truly grateful for what I have, I suffer too (like you) from the guilt that my complaints are nothing compared to the poor and suffering of the world. It is so hard to get anything productive done when all I can do is fall into this vicious cycle of hurting and then feeling guilty about my “issues”. I honestly believe that if we accept our suffering find the source of the problem, solve it, then we will be better able to tackle the bigger problems of the world!

    • I really, really love what you have to say here, and I think what you said in that last sentence is super important. If you’re stuck in that cycle of hurt and guilt, it’s extremely challenging to do something productive for others. And I’m one million percent with you on finding the source of our own problems and solving them from there. Simply acknowledging that something’s wrong is huge, but it doesn’t make it go away. You have to know why something is wrong, you know? If you don’t know the answer to that, it’s so hard to move forward.

  4. Pingback: Best Body Bootcamp Week 2: Same but Harder | accidental intentions

  5. See you shouldn’t feel bad about taking so long to read my blog posts because I am equally as terrible about reading yours on time (I always take forever to read Friday posts because I hardly do any blog reading over the weekend!)
    Anyways I definitely agree with this post. It’s okay to be sad or in a bad mood or angry. I think for me there comes a point when I just need to let something go and I have a hard time with it. I know it’s time to move on, but I still want to be hold a grudge or wallow in my self pity. When I get to that point, that’s when I should remind myself there is always something to be thankful for, but I shouldn’t feel bad about the way I was feeling before that.
    Hope this makes sense.

    • Haha well I guess if we’re equal on being behind, then there’s no need to worry! 😉

      I completely agree with what you’re saying here. I think it’s just as important to let go of what’s bringing you down as it is to acknowledge that something’s bringing you down, and it’s completely okay that you’re not happy in that moment.

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