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  • Writer's pictureRuth Gorrie

Is it OK to not be OK when others have it worse?

Updated: Jan 17

Is it ok to not be ok when others have it worse? Ruth Gorrie. The Hope Room Counselling

I tend to be quite open about whether I'm OK or not and how I'm feeling or have felt, whether that's in person or on social media. But the other week, after being quite honest, I had a pang of guilt. There was someone in particular that I imagined reading what I wrote and how that might make them feel. I imagined them thinking 'Huh, what has she got to moan about? She has this and this and this - things I long for. She doesn't know what it is to feel low. If I had her problems my life would be a doddle'.

Maybe they would think that, and maybe they wouldn't. They are certainly too kind to say it if they did. I'll probably never know.

It made me think though. Was it OK for me not to feel OK? Was it OK to verbalise that? Was it insensitive to people who are struggling far more than I? Should I just be grateful for all the great things in my life? The things that get me down are nothing in comparison to what others are coping with.

They were the thoughts that went through my head, me, a counsellor and someone who is so passionate and definite about the fact that all feelings are valid; that openness is good; that it's really important not to push feelings aside but to acknowledge them and see what they have to say.

And if that's what I felt, even though I am so strong in believing those things, then what must others feel too?

It's no wonder we have a society that is more comfortable burying their feelings than addressing them; that feels embarrassed and ashamed to admit certain thoughts and feelings; that says 'Yeah, I'm fine thanks. How are you?' when in reality they are facing very real and difficult emotions and circumstances.

I think this dilemma - 'Is it OK to not be OK when others have it worse?' can particularly be a problem for those with low self-esteem. 'Everyone else is more worthy than me'. 'What I feel doesn't matter'. 'I'm not worthy of anyone's time and care'.

Is it ok to not be ok when others have it worse? Ruth Gorrie. The Hope Room Counselling

Your feelings are valid

Just because someone else has it worse than you does not make how you feel any less valid.

Read that again and let it sink in.

Just because someone else has it worse than you does not make how you feel any less valid.

If we followed that line of thought I wonder how bad things would have to be before they were deemed valid.

How can we measure suffering?

How can we compare one person's form of suffering with someone else's?

When I look back to the things I once worried about as a child or that got me down then, they may seem ridiculous now - so small in comparison to the things I have gone on to face.

But at the time they were big things and by wrestling with them and working them through I grew as a person. I was shaped. I learnt resilience and learnt about myself: who I was, what mattered to me, what I valued; what made me happy and what made me sad; what I was good at and what I wasn't. I learnt about life and courage and bravery and overcoming. I learnt to get back up; that things don't stay the same; that better times may come; that good can come out of bad. I learnt about friendship and communication. I learnt so much as part of the journey.

And the same is true now.

What I feel now, what you feel now, it's part of our journey, our development, our growth. It is valid. It is OK.

Is it ok to not be ok when others have it worse? Ruth Gorrie. The Hope Room Counselling

Toxic positivity

I'm a big fan of counting your blessings, keeping a gratitude journal and taking time to ponder the good things. They are powerful resources at our disposal. They are free. They are effective. But...

They are not meant to be a source of denying what we're really feeling or thinking.

They are not a means to sweeping our emotions under the carpet.

They are not an encouragement to silence and suppress our pain.

They are not an excuse to never take the risk of being vulnerable.

By all means count your blessing and be grateful. In fact, please do count your blessing and practice gratitude. Practice, practice and practice it some more. They are amazing resources, Use them and be amazed by their benefits.


Also practice listening to your emotions and what they have to say to you (read more on this in my other blog... And share your pain. Acknowledge it, admit it, feel it, work it through and share it.

It needs an outlet. It needs support. It needs acknowledgment.

Is it ok to not be ok when others have it worse? Ruth Gorrie. The Hope Room Counselling

What keeps us silent?

So, what are we afraid of that stops us from opening up and acknowledging what we're thinking and feeling?

- Fear of being misunderstood

- Our pride being wounded and strong image shattered

- Fear of it being used against us or of being judged

- Shame

- Fear of others talking about it and taking it out of context or getting it wrong

- A feeling that we're the only one in the world to feel like this

- Fear of crying when we say it

- Because we're so used to the message that we should think positively and be grateful for what we do have

- Fear of it sounding stupid

- Because we feel so stuck that we can't see that talking about it will make any difference or will only add to the problem

- Fear of not being able to find the right words and it coming out all wrong

- Because we can't cope with worrying how it will affect the other person on top of dealing with our own emotions

- Fear of upsetting or offending someone

- Because it feels too complicated to explain

- Fear of what others will think

- Lack of opportunity

- Fear that it will be awkward and the other person won't know what to say or how to respond

- Fear of not being taken seriously or believed

- Fear of what response we may get

- Feeling stupid for having those thoughts and feelings in the first place

- Because people are busy and we don't want to put anyone out by taking up their time

- Fear of being liked, loved, accepted or approved of less because of it

- Because we don't know how to initiate the conversation

- Fear that we'll be laughed at

- Because others have it far worse

Cor, what a list! And I'm sure there are plenty more reasons that could be added.

Did you read any of those and think 'Yep, that's me'?

Pushing our feelings away, ignoring them and denying them seems quite an attractive option in the light of that list.

Is it ok to not be ok when others have it worse? Ruth Gorrie. The Hope Room Counselling

How should we respond?

The messages in our head are not necessarily right.

They are worth acknowledging and recognising, but we always have the choice of whether to listen to them and take them on board or not.

Taking the risk.

It doesn't mean you have to tell anybody and everybody. It's important to pick carefully who you share with. Some of the above reasons may be fear that is worth overcoming, but they may also be wisdom warning you and keeping you safe. Take a moment to consider whether your 'because' is fear or wisdom.

Sometimes a friend or kind ear will do, and sometimes there's benefit from seeking out a professional, someone who is trained and equipped to listen well, where what you say is confidential and in a safe and non-judgmental space.

Counselling is a great place to practice saying out loud the things that cross your mind but that don't feel acceptable to say in normal life.

I sometimes wonder what the world would look like, how fake it would seem, if no-one was real enough to share how they really felt. It's a scary thought for me. I think it would be awful - horrific! And then I wonder how close we are to that reality.

I think of the times I have shared deeply with another, or they have made themselves vulnerable to me, and how strong the connection feels in that moment. It's a fragile, vulnerable moment, but binds us together deeply and carries an incredible power to change how we think and feel. It's truly beautiful. A priceless gift, and I want more of it. And I want others to experience more of it.

Because it is transforming.

The opposite seems to happen when nothing deep or real is shared:

- Lack of connection

- Surface friendships or acquaintances

- Loneliness

- Isolation

- Depression

- Low self-esteem

- Numbness

- Feeling stuck

- A narrow worldview

- Staying the same

Vulnerability is a risk, but is it as big a risk as the list above?

Vulnerability is an investment. An investment in connection, of relationship, of growth and development, of stretching our minds, of changing, of being known, of feeling alive.

Where are you at with all of this?

I'm aware as I write this that I do better with sharing how I feel once I've come through the worst of it rather than in the 'rawness' of it. That's my thing to work on.

What's yours?

In summary: all feelings are valid; suffering can't be measured or compared; counting our blessings and practicing gratitude are good, but alongside rather than in replacement of, acknowledging our feelings; feelings need an outlet; there are many reasons we struggle to share how we feel; the tendency can be to sweep our emotions under the carpet; but sharing and vulnerability bring connection and growth.

Please feel free to contact me for support if you'd like it. There really isn't a criteria of how big your problems need to be in order to access counselling. Your feelings are valid!

Ruth Gorrie

Coventry, CV2

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