“Your story is unique to you…It’s not worthy of comparison”

We all experience pain, sadness, grief, and hurt, but why do we feel it’s necessary to compare our struggles, I’m not sure anyone wants that first medal, and as a runner, I sure do love me a medal! I have felt guilty throughout my life for being sad, upset or hurt for whatever is going on in my life when I know others have it worse. “There are starving children in the world, so stop complaining about your problems!”

I met a woman in my apartment complex about one month after my separation that was recently divorced. We were discussing our stories and I was sobbing over what I had been going through, then she informed me that her ex-husband was arrested for one of the largest child pornography stings in Colorado, while they were married. She was blindsided, shocked and realized she was married to a man she didn’t even know, who had been living a second life. Because of his actions and arrest that made the news, she lost many friends, her job and she had to move because she was being harassed by strangers stating she must have known what was going on.

She lost the life she had known and lived for 20 years and in one day, it was all wiped away like a dream and everything changed. At that moment I remember saying to her, “Wow, you win!” She stopped me and said “No, there is no winner of the pain game, we are both going through hurt. My story might sound more “shocking” but that doesn’t negate that you are also going through pain and hurt, your pain is just as real as mine.”

The problem is we all do that too much, we all compare not just our pain or struggles, but we compare our entire lives to others and it’s not healthy. My blog today is going to focus on comparing your struggles, but there is an inspiring blog I encourage you to read, written by Joshua Becker, that is titled “Stop Comparing Your Life. Start Living It.” It encourages you to stop comparing many areas of your lives to others and focus on you. He says, “Comparing yourself to others will always cause you to regret what you aren’t, rather than allow you to enjoy life as who you are.” And the words I loved most in his blog, “Celebrate who you are. There are many wonderful things about your life. You are an artist…or a businessman…or a mother…or a good listener…or a generous soul. You have much to celebrate and are entirely unique. Any comparison between you and another person is like comparing apples to oranges. They aren’t living your life, you are.”

The struggles you have gone through in your life might not be as devastating as what other people have gone through, but you can’t discount your pain because of that, there is no competition for who has had the worst life experiences, you still have your hurt and that is real. Of course, there are always people who have it better or have it worse but comparing your pain to someone else’s is dangerous. Who are we to judge how someone else is feeling, and you feeling like it’s not right for you to hurt because someone else has it worse is only going to set you back in your recovery. By comparing your pain and your struggles to someone else’s, you are denying the fact that your pain is real; you are diminishing your own pain, stating is not worthy of expressing.

Let’s say you lost your job and you are devastated. Another person could have lost the very same job as you, yet their circumstances in life have them feeling relived and excited about what’s to come versus you feeling anxious and scared. If we can process the exact same experience in such different ways, then there shouldn’t be comparison in “whose life is worse”. The way you process your own struggles is unique to your story, you can’t compare “Who is processing it and handling it better?”, just like you can’t compare your life struggles to someone else’s.

I met a friend for coffee after I lost my job a few months ago. We met to talk about how I was doing when the conversation shifted to him talking about his breakup that just happened. I was so sad for him and let him talk and listened with empathy and compassion. As I was talking to him about some of the things I could relate to with my divorce I also talked about my grief about losing my two dogs and my job. At that moment he said to me how sorry he was for talking about his breakup when I had gone through so much more. I stopped him right there and said “No, your hurt is your hurt, don’t compare it to what I have gone through because everyone has to right to feel their pain.” We all need validation that our pain is real and I was 100% honest in those words I spoke to him. I was empathetic and very sad for what he was going through and not for one second was I thinking “wow, I have had it worse, what is he so sad about?”

In 2006-ish I heard Aaron Rolston speak at a conference about amputating his own arm after being trapped for 5 days in Horseshoe canyon in Utah. He was telling his story about solo hiking in 2003 when a boulder became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall. He hadn’t informed anyone about his hiking plans, and he didn’t have a cell phone to call for help. During his 5 days trapped he sipped water, ate the small amount of food he barely slept as his arm was in excruciating pain. After accepting he was going to die, he carved his name and date of birth into the stone with his pocket knife and videotaped his last goodbyes to his family.

His last night in the canyon, Aaron began hallucinating seeing himself with his future child and part of his arm was missing. That next day he knew he needed to get out of the canyon, using the same tool he used to carve his name into the rock, he began slicing at his arm with the dull two-inch pocket life, a process that took over an hour, and freed himself from the boulder. https://www.aronralstonspeaker.com/

A few weeks after I met the woman in my apartment complex, I came across Arron’s book that was given to me at the conference he spoke at. I remember looking at the cover of the book and remembering his presentation and I thought to myself that I was pathetic for crying about my divorce when this man almost died alone and had to cut his own arm off. Then I realized, I was doing it again, I was comparing what I was going through to what he went through. I remembered what the woman had recently said to me “there are no winners of the pain game”. Your pain is YOUR PAIN!

I understand comparing a divorce to amputating a limb is not apples and apples, I did not have to cut my arm off like Aaron Ralston, but there is a part of me that felt like I lost a limb when I lost my husband. Having been with someone for 23 years, he was a part of me and all that I did and I knew learning to live without my “ex-husband limb” was going to be hard. Aaron’s presentation was not just about his experience inside that canyon, but he related what he went through with struggles that we all have and how we all have our own boulders in life.

I heard a great saying once and for the life of me I can’t remember where, but it said, “Don’t try to compare a paper cut to stiches because they both draw blood”. Comparing your life to others will only cause you to question yourself rather than allowing you to tend to your own wounds, process at your own pace, heal and move forward. Your struggles are part of your journey, part of your unique story that are not worthy of comparison. As Joshua Becker said, “They aren’t living your life, you are.”
Remember, You Got This!

Author's Bio: 

My passion is to help individuals create their own recipe for life. People who are experiencing grief, loss, anxiety, stress or feel “stuck” and are having trouble moving forward in life while taking care of themselves along the way. I encourage others to building strength and finding balance in their own lives.

I have suffered from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, panic attacks, bullying, abuse, autoimmune disorders, low self-esteem. My rock bottom was losing my sense of self after a 23 year long relationship came to an end.

I often felt like I was running around in circles, taking steps forward and then backwards and would never getting to that finish line. I was exhausted physically and emotionally and didn’t know how to stop the cycle. Through a great deal of personal work and support, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and broke through barriers I never thought I could.

I have experienced significant life changes including loss, fear, disappointment, abuse, betrayal, sadness, abandonment, pain, suffering anger and rage. Having learned so many valuable lessons along the way, once looking at myself as a victim, but changing my mindset to see myself as a student of life, learning and growing everyday; now able to help guide others the same way I helped myself.

I believe that no matter our race, gender, religion, physical ability, political affiliation and socioeconomic status, we must take care of ourselves. Self-care is not selfish and to be the best partner, spouse, parent, employee, employer or to be the best YOU…you have to take care of yourself. Put the oxygen on yourself first or you won’t be able to help others.