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Growing up, I was often taught that someone always has it worse.
It didn’t matter if my three goldfish died in one week, my half brothers overdosed three times, or I got screamed at half a dozen minutes; I was taught to look on the bright side.
At least I have food.
At least I have water.
At least I have shelter. Even if that haven wasn’t always a place I desired to call home.
While this is certainly true, and I do believe God wants us to be thankful for what we have, this mindset set me up for failure and repressed emotions at an early age.
The more we focus on others, the more we are typically able to rejoice and look on the bright side. This is a good thing. It’s the nature of Thanksgiving, and because it forces us to look beyond ourselves, it’s highly effective. But when it comes at the expense of ignoring what we are going through, our invalidated experiences only fester.
Let me explain.
The Problem with Invalidated Experiences
When I was in college, I broke my foot during dance class. It was unexpected. Extremely painful, and changed the trajectory of my life for the next 6 to 8 months. People were constantly asking me, “What happened,” “How long will you be in a cast,” and “How do you get around”? Their questions were genuine concerns about my healing process. But not once did someone tell me, “Your broken foot isn’t that bad,” or “So and so broke their leg, so you should be thankful it’s only your foot.”
My point is this: While it’s extremely important to maintain a spirit of thanks and gratitude, it’s also important to validate and reflect on the experiences you go through (especially the hard and ugly ones you may often try to force down or ignore). And if I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her to do these two things:
1. Listen well and
2. Manage your symptoms often.