Me: I’m really sad my daughter’s kindergarten orientation has been cancelled. She’s my only child and I was really excited about.
Asshole: Well at least it’s not her high school graduation. It could be worse you know.
The above scenario, which happened this week, is an example of someone being an asshole.
Yeah, I’m fully aware it could be worse. I guess that means I’m not allowed to feel sadness about anything that is less than the worst case scenario.
“Don’t feel sad your spouse is dying, at least you got to know what love is.”
“Sorry to hear about your miscarriage, at least you are able to get pregnant.”
“I know you’re mad because you didn’t get the promotion but you should just be grateful you have a good job.”
“I know you are going crazy at home with your kids, just be happy you aren’t quarantined alone with nobody to keep you company.”
Are you guilty of this? If you are, then you need to stop, because you are damaging your relationships.
My daughter’s kindergarten orientation may not matter to you, but that doesn’t make it insignificant. It matters to me and I would appreciate it, if every time I say I’m sad about something being cancelled during a pandemic, I don’t have to take a big ole shame trip.
“It could be worse…”
“At least it’s not…”
“You think that’s bad, listen to this…”
These are all examples of things you should NOT say when someone is lamenting about something that has made them feel sad, angry or frustrated.
I totally understand why people say these things. They are trying to make you feel better. They want you to buck up and look on the bright side. Unfortunately, it rarely works. At least in my life, I can say it usually leads to embarrassment, guilt, or shame.
Let me make something very clear…you can be sad and grateful at the same time. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Expressing sadness does not mean that you are suddenly ungrateful or oblivious to the good things in your life. You can still be super grateful for your kids while they are making you crazy. You can be angry you didn’t get the promotion and yet still be fully aware that you have a good job. You probably don’t need that pointed out to you.
And yes, I’m fully aware that missing my daughter’s high school graduation would be much more difficult than her kindergarten orientation but when I’m expressing my grief to you about the situation, that’s not the time to shit all over my feelings and tell me I should just be grateful it’s not worse.
You are allowed to have these feelings and you are allowed to express your feelings without having them shit on. You’re human and you’re going to feel all of them. It’s impossible to be happy all the time and frankly, it’s unhealthy to strive for that.
Negative emotions, such as sadness, anger and frustration can teach you a lot about your priorities and values. They show you care, that you are passionate about something and when expressed the right way, they can create feelings of relief, community, and safety.
So, if you’re reading this article and you realize that you are guilty of minimizing someone’s feelings and belittling them for not “being happy regardless” I want to teach you what you should say the next time someone is lamenting about something. Just say…
“I’m so sorry.”
Then you shut the fuck up, sit quietly and you listen to them. Listen to them express their feelings. Don’t try to fix it! Don’t try to make them feel better. Just sit with them. I can promise you that after they have expressed their feelings, maybe after an awkward silence or two, they will change the subject so you don’t have to; and because you sat with them in their moment of pain, they will feel better and they will believe that you are a safe person for them…NOT an asshole.
Thanks for listening to my rant. While it has nothing to do with financial independence, I think it’s important that you aren’t an asshole. Mainly because there’s nothing worse than an asshole with a lot of money!