Anyone remember this game? We used to play it all the time when we were kids. In fact, my daughter was playing it just the other day. Her friend came to play, and in the midst of an intense discussion about the merits of being able to successfully lasso a younger sibling’s leg with a shoelace, the line in the sand was drawn.
“MY family is better than YOUR family!” Uh oh. Tears erupted, accusations flew, emotions ran high. Remember all the versions of that statement?
“MY Mom can beat up YOUR Mom!”
“MY car is faster than YOUR car!”
The funny thing is, when you think about it, there’s nothing really WRONG with any of these statements. Every individual thinks they have the best family, best car, best parents (well, maybe not everyone…), best life. Why would we have chosen them if it was not so??? So it’s not really wrong to say such a thing…. It’s just not really helpful.
SO! It’s a good thing we grow out of that stage eventually, right??
Ummmm….wellllllllll…..actually, most of us don’t. We simply disguise it and reuse it in a different form (see, it’s recycling, we’re just being efficient, right??). Let me set the (fictional) stage.
I’m at a wedding reception. I’m sitting at one of the fancy white tables with a few other people, all making conversation about various topics. I’m tired. It’s been a long evening. My two kids are tired and cranky, I spilled strawberry cake on my brand new dress, I have to get up early the next morning for a meeting, and to top it all off, my daughter runs up to me and head barrels into my chest.
“ALYSSA!!!!” After some scolding and very frustrated sighs, I send her back off to reak havoc on her next victim.
As I am visibly agitated, the others at the table begin to console me.
“Hey, it could be worse; you could have 5 kids like me!”
“How can you be stressed, you only have TWO?!”
“haha, you’re right.” I say, and in increased frustration, I belabor through the rest of the evening.
The translation of their statements? “*scoff*. MY stress is better than YOUR stress!”.
Unfortunately, most of us do this to each other. We even do it to ourselves! We’ve all caught ourselves chanting the “Children are starving in China! War is breaking out in the Middle East! What do I have to be upset about”, AMIRIGHT?!
If I’d had the (fictional) courage to respond to these (fictionally) well-intentioned (fictional) folks, my response would have likely gone something like this:
“Really, I shouldn’t be stressed because I only have two kids? Because you have, what, 10? Well, when you had only 2 kids, you were just as stressed as me. And yes, if I had 5 kids, 2 kids would seem like a walk in the park! But I don’t have 5 kids, I have 2. So I will go right ahead and reserve my right to feel stressed about my 2 kids just as you felt stressed when you had 2 kids.” *Curtsy* *Skip away*
Probably not very helpful either….
Here’s my point: when you’re stressed, do what’s helpful, and leave the rest behind. There are times when it is actually quite helpful to play the “ItCouldBeWorse” game. Sometimes you’re just in the kind of mood where you want to brush off your struggles, turn to the sunshine, and remember everything you’re grateful for.
And sometimes you’re not.
And when you’re not, don’t worry, you don’t need to torture yourself by repeating how Susie might get kicked out of school, AND her parents are getting divorced, AND her brother is in rehab, AND her dog died, AND she has diphtheria, AND she’s losing her house so she has to move to Africa and starve and fight in wars and live her life with only three toes, blah, blah, blah….
Sure, there are people out there who have it much worse than you, no doubt. And it’s worth recognizing that at times. But your life is just as valuable as theirs is. Your stress is just as worthy of your attention as theirs is.
So give yourself a break. If someone comes at you with an “ItCouldBeWorse” and you feel like vomiting in your mouth, just let it float away with the wind. You’re allowed to be stressed about your midterm, your boyfriend being a jerk, your parents fighting, your college decisions, your wayward child, your mounting bills….
Because at the end of the day, YOU are the one who gets to live your life; the good and the bad. Own it. And give yourself a little more room every day to be you.
Be Real. Be stressed over stupid things. Find helpful ways to cope with it. Be human. Be You. And don’t let anyone convince you that you’re better off being any other way.
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