As I sit in my living room with a group friends, I notice common trends that we all seem to struggle with: shame, guilt, trauma, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, heartache, and so on.
The one trend, however, is that they continue to compare themselves and their experience to the other peers of ours.
"I shouldn't even be upset," says one friend. "I don't really have it that badly. I mean, it's not like I'm going through a divorce or dealing with the death of a spouse, like she is."
The woman he points to looks down, ashamed and embarrassed. She does not want to feel more isolated that she already does, having friends minimize their own experience as a result of hers.
I think of the quote that is laminated and hung on the wall.
A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.
I remember that another's emotional experience does not negate or eclipse our own. We, as humans, have a tendency to try to sugar coat our experiences by bringing to mind someone that has it "worse" than we do. We misuse the concept of gaining perspective by shaming our own emotional reaction to life, causing an underlying narrative of "your feelings don't matter."
I tell my friends that I am prey to this trap as well, at times shaming my own experience and telling myself that I "shouldn't" be feeling this way or I "should" know better than to react to something.
But isn't feeling the undercurrent of all human experiences? Who are we to "should on ourselves" and develop these unrealistic expectations?
Whether the flower next to you is blooming or rotting away, it does not change your experience. I truly believe that having perspective and being able to step out of our own tiny bubble and acknowledge the ever-changing current of human emotion is absolutely important, but if we are constantly minimizing our own experiences, we are telling ourselves, subconsciously, that our feelings are not valid.
Whether or not there are starving children in Africa, experiencing heartache is still painful.
Whether or not their is a hurricane in another part of the country that is causing thousands of people to be homeless, experiencing grief is still difficult.
We need to stop minimizing our emotions.
We need to stop expecting ourselves to act in a way that is inhuman - without feeling.
What would it look like for us to simply pause and say "wow, I'm feeling a lot of pain right now" - no judgment, no labels, just simply aware of what we are experiencing.
What is it that is so damn difficult about vulnerability and feeling that we will jump through every possible loophole to go around dealing with what comes up?
Don't look at the flower next to you. Don't compare your petals, don't track the pace of it's growth.
See what happens next.