“It Wasn’t That Bad”: the Cost of Comparing Pain

“I didn’t have it as bad as other people.”

This is a phrase I hear frequently in my office, from people with all kinds of backgrounds and stories. People who have experienced neglect or abuse over the course of their entire lives, individuals who have high pressure jobs such as first-responders or military, or who have experienced natural disasters or survived terrible accidents.

Despite the amount of pain, suffering, or trauma experienced, many individuals are quick to dismiss or minimize their pain. This belief begins to form: other people deserve help and healing because they went through something truly difficult. However, when we look at our own stories, oftentimes the seriousness or the trauma has become our normal. What looks traumatic objectively was just an average Tuesday in our household, and so we shrug it off. It wasn’t that bad.

A side effect of trauma is often believing you are unworthy of care, help or healing. When we begin to compare pain, we dishonor our experiences. We deny the truth of our own story, and we stay stuck. We hold onto our pain as we minimize it, robbing ourselves of the chance to truly move forward.

Comparison makes us choose one or the other, black or white, instead of recognizing there is room for both experiences to be true. I am hurting, and so are they. This experience is difficult for me, as their experience is difficult for them. It could have been worse, and what happened to me was traumatic and hurtful. Others deserve a safe place to heal and process, and so do I.

We are often more kind to other people in their experiences than we are to ourselves. When you notice yourself comparing pain, or dismissing your own experiences, ask yourself how you would respond to a loved one if they shared this experience with you. Would you tell them it is unimportant and dismiss them, or would you believe they are worthy of care and healing? I encourage you to notice the places in your life where you need to give yourself permission to heal, and meet them with kindness. You are worthy of help. You deserve to heal.

Written by: Courtney Hintermeyer