Have you ever been told “someone else has it worse”? Perhaps you had a friend or parent say it, or perhaps you say it to yourself. This statement can be incredibly emotionally invalidating and/or self-defeating. When your feelings are invalidated, you tend to have more self-doubt and it can lower your self-esteem. This can have extreme negative effects on our mental wellness.
When you are told that others have it worse, it feels like you are being told that you’re struggles are invalid and trivial. Whether you are sad, disappointed, frustrated, scared, etc. Being invalidated can make you feel as less than a person. We know that it does to us. This week, we want to share our experience with this and how we overcome and validate ourselves.
Someone always has it worse
One of the great fallacies of life comes from comparing our struggles to others and thinking ours aren’t valid. Regardless of who you are or where you were born, you can always think of someone who has it worse than you. There are infinite metrics to use in comparison and your imagination is limitless. You will always find a way to imagine a person who is worse off than you. Does this mean that your feelings aren’t legitimate? That you aren’t allowed to feel stressed, sad, scared, afraid, etc? Heck no. However, it is easy to trick ourselves into thinking that. Here at Tomodotchi we did it to ourselves for years.
The immigrant struggle
Personally, we’re the children of immigrants. Our dad was a refugee from the Vietnam war and our mother is a first-generation Japanese immigrant. They had struggles that we will likely never experience.
Our dad was shot during the Tet offensive and was separated from his mother as he came to the United States (luckily, they were reunited in the US!). He never had a father in his life and had his humble home taken from him. When he came to America, he spoke no English and had to enroll in high school. He managed to survive, taught himself English and graduated from college. He carved out a path for himself with nothing.
Our mother is a first-generation immigrant as well. She came from Japan with only a hope and a dream for a better life. Japan, like many eastern cultures, especially in the late 60’s, favored males and she wanted more out of life. She also spoke little to no English upon arrival and she matriculated through the Japanese school system. She had no family, no money and nothing to fall back on when she moved to the US. She somehow was able to be accepted into a college and found a job. However, the nineties were not an easy time for women in the workplace and especially more so for those that spoke little English. To make things even harder, she had us when she and our father were still in college. Despite all that, she persevered and found her success in life.
Why do we share these stories? Because, these are the stories that we would tell ourselves whenever the going got tough. We would always tell ourselves, well our parents had it worse. That we shouldn’t be allowed to feel sad or like we are struggling. Our self-dialogue would say if they can make it through that, then we have no right to complain about anything. We never realized that we were indulging in self-defeating behavior or that we were invalidating our own feelings.
You can easily see through our stories, that indeed it’s easy to always find people who had it worse (these stories are incredibly abridged with a lot more struggles omitted). As a more universal example, just through the passage of time with increasing technology, our lives are constantly improving. The majority of us have indoor plumbing, central heat / air and easily accessible water. Those advents alone make our lives so much easier. Anyone in today’s day in age can find some way their lives are easier because of technology. Does this mean our struggles are less real?
You are valid
The answer to the above, is absolutely not. Your struggles are absolutely legitimate. As a note, it is important to recognize the struggles of others and to show them empathy. It is also critical to have the awareness to recognize that our different circumstances may allow us to solve different problems more easily. However, that in no way means your problem is any less! If you dehumanize yourself and your struggles then you are invalidating yourself.
Furthermore, if you consistently believe that your struggles are less than others, then you never actually deal with your problems. Ultimately, you keep pushing issues under the rug until they become insurmountable. We have to recognize that we have struggles and that they are real and valid in order to face them.
Invalidation creates a low sense of self-worth. When we feel our problems aren’t valid then we don’t recognize ourselves. Ultimately, you have to let yourself heal and solve your own problems in order grow and one day help others through their problems!
Overcoming self-doubt and emotional invalidation
So, how do we overcome this self-doubt and emotional invalidation? The first thing is to recognize yourself as important and allow yourself to have emotions. Shifting your mindset can have tremendous effects on your outlook. Rather than thinking that someone else has it worse and your problems don’t matter. Now, we can recognize that our problems do matter and they are difficult. We find that being able to write out our issues or discussing them with others can make them feel more tangible. You can cry, scream and feel frustration, fear and anger. After all, we’re only human! However, what comes next is the important part and ultimately it falls on us to do this for ourselves.
Once you have allowed yourself to feel the emotions and face the struggle, it’s time to overcome. For us, it’s important to recognize that nothing in life is guaranteed and often times things don’t go as planned. Our anxiety comes from the fear of not being in control and honestly, we can never control life. So, it’s important for us to recognize the need to pivot and be open to the change. There are no struggles in your life that you have not been able to solve and there is nothing that you cannot solve! Instead of pushing the problem aside and just powering through, we must recognize the issues and aim to solve the problem at its core. This is the mentality difference. Once you come through, you will see how much stronger you are and you will have gained new abilities and skills.
How can you help emotionally validate others?
The final piece is, how can we support friends through their struggles and avoid invalidating their feelings? We highly doubt anyone has ever had the intention of doing that to their friends or family. To be honest, we’ve said that line many times to people, with the intention of trying to make them feel better. For us, we realize the reason we say this is because we feel the pressure to solve their problems for them. When we don’t have an answer ready, the easiest response is to try and make their problems seem smaller.
What we’ve come to recognize is that most people don’t want you to solve their problems for them. They want to be heard. They want to feel validated. They also do not want you to make it about yourself! Don’t insert your life and problems as a comparison! This is the most important thing to do for your loved one. Hear them, be with them and support them. You don’t always need an answer! You can simply say, “that is incredibly frustrating and I hear you. I don’t have the answers but I’m here to support you anyway you need.”
Ultimately, we are all different people. We’re all born with different abilities, thresholds, and resources. We can’t and shouldn’t invalidate our emotions by comparing ourselves to one another. Again, your problems are real and valid! You are allowed to feel sad, frustrated and overwhelmed. However, it’s important to recognize the problems and work to solve them. Don’t shove them under a rug but instead actually face them. There is nothing you have not been able to face in your life and there is nothing that you aren’t able to face! If you want to see what tools we use to help ourselves through the toughest of times, you can see our post on that here. If you are feeling incredibly overwhelmed right now, we also have a recent post discussing how to overcome this. If you need a reminder how amazing you are, we have an open letter to those dealing with anxiety and depression. If you have been self-doubting yourself like we did, then we also have a post on where we find our self-worth. Finally, don’t invalidate your struggles. We have a post of misconceptions and stigmas of mental health which recognize some other ways we do this.
Don’t let anyone, including yourself, emotionally invalidate you by saying someone else has it worse. This invalidates what you are feeling and can minimize you. It’s important to recognize your validity and the issue so that you can work to solve them. We can’t help others if we don’t first help ourselves!
As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 1 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!