Think of all the times you’ve said you were tired, only to be told by your friend that they’re more tired. Or more stressed. How about when you started a new hobby and they made a throwaway comment about how it will only last a week.
How about when your supposed friend repeatedly makes comments that are completely insensitive, despite the effort you make to not do such a thing?
These are common routes that conversations take, but why should they be acceptable?
Why is invalidating someone else’s struggles, because you’ve had it worse or endured more seem acceptable? It shouldn’t be. It’s not a competition as to who has had it worse, but why do we treat it as such?
I try to watch what I say as much as I can, taking in who the audience is and tailoring it accordingly. As a vulnerable person myself, I know that others have their own history and are fighting their own battles. Why am I writing this? Well, not that long ago I was really trying to ensure I was catering to someone’s needs, as much as I could, watching the language and terminology I used in order to make someone feel as comfortable as possible. So that they didn’t feel isolated. Just so they felt ‘normal’ (whatever that may mean). I really tried, going out of my way to be considerate. Yet that same person would talk to me about suicide attempts, diet food, comment on my body size. Would tell me that I wouldn’t be able to juggle University work, boporecoverywarrior and the gym (things had to give at times, but never once did I give up on any of these things). I felt betrayed by the fact I truly tried, yet it wasn’t being reciprocated and it sent me down a spiral for quite a while.
I am still a vulnerable person.
What hurt the most though? Was that after a single night where I had other things going on too, I was then told that I didn’t care. That I dismissed them. That I made them feel awful. (I am yet awaiting an explanation as to why this is).
Hands up if after having a fall-out with someone, you’ve spent the weeks following completely ripping them to pieces? I’m the first to admit to this, although I am working on trying to reduce this. I’ve spent months doing this in fact, because I’m hurting. I’m angry. I feel betrayed. I feel cheated. But why?
It goes back to invalidating someone’s struggles/problems just because you might have had it worse. It goes back to the lack of consideration; despite someone experiencing vulnerabilities such as yours. It goes back to having my goals in life shredded up and being told they won’t work without any evidence. AND IF EVEN THERE IS EVIDENCE, WHY TEAR THEIR DREAMS DOWN???
Why are we tearing each other to pieces and bringing others down? Why can’t we spend our times helping each other through it? Being more aware of what is being said and to who?
It goes back to that saying of how friends lift each other up, not tear each other down.
There are steps all of us can take to do this – not just to friends and family, but even strangers.
Next time you’re at an event chatting away to someone new, try to consider what you’re saying and the impact it might have on the other person. Is there any need to talk about potential triggers (so for example, weight loss, death, LGBTQ+, etc.). Obviously tailor the conversation accordingly – if you’re at an LGBTQ+ event, talk to your hearts content, but as someone that is just an ally to the community, I would think about how I approached the conversation to learn more about the community, without being insensitive, disrespectful and rude. Basically…. Think before opening your mouth hahaha.
As friends, support each other. Someone starts a new business? Offer support and encouragement. Just because it might not work out, doesn’t mean you should pre-empt this. Support their dreams, aspirations and goals. Just like you would like them to do so for you.
Remember that everyone has their own things going on, and you should never assume that how they may appear is actually how they are doing.
Lift others up. Learn who you are and what you enjoy. Support each other. Be different – change the dialogue, change the conversation norms. You’re tired and so’s your friend? Go grab a cup of tea, talk about why you might be tired and grab an early night. No need for competition! Tearing others down and invalidating their struggles offers no good.