I do not know a single person who has not been through a hard time in their life. In fact, most everyone I know has had several difficult situations they would qualify as being hard…It’s human, it’s expected, and hard is going to continue entering into our lives. Yet we overlook everyone’s hard because we hear it so often…It’s kind of like when someone asks how you’re doing (“good, you?”, “good.”). It fascinates me that we reach out to people to help us through the hard times, but we do not put ourselves in others’ shoes when they ask for our help. We skate over their hard so we can quickly compare our struggles to theirs, or judge how they’re handling their hard, therefore we do not try to understand their struggle. We judge the level of difficulty they’re “actually” facing, and how we would handle that situation differently without truly thinking about how that must feel for them…This is so unfair.
We cannot judge or assess what someone’s hard is. It is impossible for us to determine what should or should not be difficult, and what we would do in that situation. Or if we would be responding in the same way to their hard as they are. It’s like if I asked you to rate the following life situations from most hard to least hard:
-Losing a job
-Getting a divorce
-The death of a loved one
-Telling your family for the first time you identify as LGBTQIA+
-Getting an injury that impacts your long-term health
-Being raised in the foster care system
-Finding out you’ve been cheated on
-Trying to lose 100 pounds
I would imagine for most people, it would be impossible to rate this list. And if you are able to rate this list, your list would be different than my list. The point is, we cannot determine who’s hard is more hard, or how our hard compares to their hard.
I see this happen often my field of work where a professional compares how they would handle a situation to the individual we are working with. The way I challenge this is to remind the professional that even if you and I went through the EXACT same situation, we are going to respond, process, and heal differently. Due to our current state of mental health, our environment, past trauma, life experiences, and our support system, we will all behave and respond differently, and that is OKAY. That is NORMAL. Until we are in that person’s brain and have experienced exactly what they’ve experienced throughout life, we cannot comment on how we would handle this or how hard that was.
Sometimes the perception is once someone gets through the hard, they will become a better person and there will be positive that comes from the experience… That at the end of every hard time there is a rainbow for everyone, and that everything will turn out okay. But some people never feel they can escape their hard moments, and for those people life never does seem to get easier or be okay. And for others who seem to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, it’s hard to understand those who can’t. I’ve mentioned before in A Letter To Yourself that we expect people to adopt the pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality, but what if they don’t have any boots? Then what? Typically, we make a quick judgement of their predicament rather than simply understand and support their hard time. We can just support people and not make assumptions or compare our hard, because we can’t. We all go through sh*t, we all get through it differently, and we all have our own powerful story to tell. That is the beauty. Beauty does not come from the judgement we place on others for their hard times. It comes in the way we can truly put ourselves in their shoes, be compassionate, try to understand, and be present as we would want from them. The beauty comes from the love we give people in those hard times, and the ability to learn and grow through the hard.
I have learned through my job is that it is not helpful to tell someone, “I know exactly what you’re going through”, because you experienced something similar. This statement is untrue, and I hear this all the time. Sure, we can relate to someone, but we cannot understand exactly how they’re doing, how they should react, what they need, and how they feel just because we went through something similar…Since we have all experienced hard, we can still be there for one another simply because we know what it feels like to be having a tough time with life at the moment.
I think this mentality is just as easily adaptable to how we view ourselves during difficult times. Man, ease up! We judge ourselves just as harshly as we judge others…We regret how we handle things, get upset with ourselves when we aren’t as resilient as we would like to be, and try to move past the hard rather than let ourselves accept that we are having a tough time. It’s okay to be struggling, we do not need to be so dang hard on ourselves. Remember that we are all going through it, we cannot predict our lives or always choose the cards we are dealt, but we can surrender to the hard times and accept them for what they are. We are all just doing the best we know how in that moment with where we are in life and what we’ve been given. We can love and accept ourselves, even through the times we struggle to find who we are.
Moral of the story is…my hard is no better or worse or difficult or easy or predictable or frustrating or bigger or simpler or confusing than your hard. We all have hard, and we can lean on each other too if we choose to remove the judgement and help each other through it in a pure and loving way. Life is going to throw curve balls which will include some difficulty. It’s who you are in those hard moments for yourself and others that can define who you want to be.
It’s not just your life, it’s life. Life is bigger than you. Life isn’t something you possess, it’s something you take part in and you witness.