“It could be worse…” or I could feel better by punching you.

A couple of Sundays ago, Limbo discussed the idea of the “it could be worse” argument.  Now, I wasn’t there, because as you all know, I got my bachelor’s in Sleep and Sleeping In – the whole ‘history/English’ thing was a façade – but it got me thinking, as it always does when I think about this particular topic.

No beating around the bush: I hate this phrase.  Sometimes it’s good to put things in perspective, such as “god, I really miss having satellite,” followed up with, “but at least we still have a house, so I guess we can do without having other TV channels than the local ones” (thoughts I’ve had before).  That’s a different argument, and not the “oh it could be worse” argument which, for me, is another way of saying “Your feelings are invalid.  Feel sad?  No, you’re just a jerk.”

I actually know people who, if someone complains about having to work a double shift, or having too many projects, or just having a bad day, will say stuff like, “Well, it could be worse – you could be starving in the middle of Africa,” or, god, this one recently – “At least you still have a home unlike those people in Haiti,” after the huge earthquake that hit a few years ago.

Wow.  Way to make me feel like I can’t ever be sad again.

Being sad, having off-days, or just plain ol’ complaining is part of being human.  If we don’t cry or rant or bitch about whatever’s going on in our lives that’s irritating us or stressing us out, we’d explode.  Comparing my situation to someone who doesn’t have water in Africa or child slaves in Singapore or whatever, is just a way to try and make me feel guilty for – god forbid – having a hard time.

I can tell you firsthand, I – and likely few others – have ever said, “Wow, you’re right.  I’m not buried under rubble in a third-world country, so I’m not sad anymore!  Thanks, that really opened my eyes!”  I just don’t understand the point of “it could be worse.”  Yes, it could, and…?  That doesn’t mean what I’m sad about or frustrated with or just complaining about is less valid.

I’ll never say, “Oh, you’re right, I could be starving in Africa, that makes me feel so selfish about missing my dead father!”  It just doesn’t work like that.  I refuse to feel selfish or like I’ve got first-world syndrome over complaining about things, and honestly, that argument reeks of attempting to do just that.

Does that mean I care less about what’s going on in other parts of the world?  No, absolutely not.  I think what’s happening in the Sudan and Darfur and in sweatshops in Asia and the mess in the Middle East is awful.  I’ve cried at news stories of those before.  But if you say something like, “It could be worse – you could be starving in Haiti because of the earthquake,” you’re just being a condescending, uppity asshole.  So you can bring the fact that children are being sold into slavery as I’m complaining about my roof leaking: CONGRATS!  You’ve earned the “irrelevant to all things” award.

Sometimes even the “at least my house isn’t foreclosed” thought (that is, the lesser version of “at least you’re not starving in Africa” version of “it could be worse”) seems kind of like an attempt to make me feel guiltier about complaining about not having TV anymore.  I’m used to having ‘x’, so when I don’t have ‘x’, it makes me feel crappy.

I’m aware there are people out there who have it worse than me – they have abusive fathers, or fathers who have never been in their lives, or they’ve been abandoned, or whatever – but that doesn’t make me miss my father any less.  That doesn’t make it immediately better for me and make me any less sad.  I was used to having my father around, now I don’t, and I refuse to feel bad for being sad about that.  My mother’s car got wrecked the other night and may have to be totaled.  Guess what, that sucks.  Yes, we still have a car, yes, we were lucky to even have a car, but guess what: it doesn’t make it suck less.

That’s just one example, and if my thoughts aren’t very clear right now/if this post seems disjointed or repetitive, I’m still having slight withdrawals from medication I’m going off of, and I just played intense video games.  But the point is: people are allowed to complain, or speak their mind(s) about how they feel like something in their life is worth being bummed about – don’t be an ass and say, “It could be worse.”  Yes, it could be worse.  So could your day if I punched you.  And???  I think it’s within my rights to complain about feeling offended at a rude customer, or having seizures, or my deceased father.  That’s not to say if used in the “well look at it this way, you had eighteen years to make great memories with your father,” or “it’s good you never had seizures while driving, though,” – a.k.a., an attempt to help a person actually feel better or to not get so incredibly overwhelmed by negative feelings, is bad.  Sometimes we need people like you to help us through bad times.  But there’s a difference between that and what I’ve described.

That “argument” doesn’t make how I feel any less valid – and it sure as hell doesn’t for anyone else, either.  Yes, keep things in perspective, but don’t feel like your feelings are less valid just because someone’s gotta be That Guy and compare your situation to starving nations in Africa.

To anyone who pulls that “it could be worse” thing on everyone – don’t be a dick.  Let people feel what they’re going to feel.  If they want things in perspective, that’s a different thing entirely, but when you say stuff like that (could be worse/starving in Africa/earthquake in Haiti), you make quick judgements on a person’s life.  You’re just being a jerk, and really, no one likes that.


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