Have you ever heard someone bluntly observe: “there are children starving in Africa, you know.” It’s a sweeping, and more than a little offensive, comment used by people who have zero inclination to empathise with others – the ultimate cut down of absolutely any problem or emotion that you might have or feel.
But maybe they’re right? Because in reality, I live in a nice house, have two lovely (most of the time) kids, we have food on the table – what right do I have to feel anxious, stressed, depressed? How dare I feel this way when others are going through such dreadful things??
This becomes a noisy, internalised narrative, a new anxiety all of its own – my feelings are petty, over-indulgent, selfish. I don’t have the right to feel this way. That thought permeates the brain and guilt undermines everything.
- Guilt that I had a moan about the kids, when someone else can’t have them.
- Guilt that I found it overwhelming when 3 things broke in the house at once, when some people don’t have a house at all.
- Guilt that I felt sorry for myself when I was poorly, when there are children battling cancer.
Ultimately it drives you, not only to not properly address your own problems, but to start to believe that you’re somehow a terrible person because of them. It’s a whole other reason why people don’t talk about these kinds of anxiety issues.
So let’s get this straight – we ALL have the right to feel, and to express those feelings. Our problems, and other people’s problems, are not mutually exclusive – both can, and do, exist at the same time. Our problems don’t diminish the struggles of others, and they don’t mean we’re not grateful for what we have.
It’s OK for us to have our own emotions, to have problems from big and life-changing to small and petty, that affect our individual little lives. It’s OK, and it’s normal. Let’s absolve the guilt. Because guess what – our individual little lives are everything to us.