I like to share stories on the blog about individuals who have used their experiences of pain and struggle to make a difference. These stories are intended to be humbling and inspiring but, as with anything, it is possible to use them against ourselves. When we see what others are dealing with, our critical minds may start their negative chatter telling us that “we have been so lucky and shouldn’t be struggling so much. After all, look at this person who has been through so much and has thrived and continued to be positive. What am I doing? I am pathetic.”
A self-deprecating attitude has the ability to take an inspirational story and turn it into proof of our own perceived failure or inadequacy. In playing out this way of thinking, we are undermining our own struggles, judging ourselves as failures or unworthy of what we have and, ultimately, loosing out on an opportunity to feel connected to and inspired by another person. What happens when we respond compassionately to ourselves and the stories of others? Personally, I feel connected instead of jumping right into self-comparison. Comparing suffering is a tricky game to play in the first place. On the one hand, I think that it’s important to have some perspective and appreciate the things that we have in our lives. On the other hand, comparison can be a very toxic way of relating to oneself and others. What do you really get out of it? How much truth is there in our comparisons? For example, can you really compare the pain and suffering of losing a limb to crippling depression? Different people will have very different responses to this question and it also just seems completely absurd to even try to compare these scenarios. When I let go of self-comparison, I feel inspired and I can focus on what I share with others – pain and the ability to choose my attitudes toward it.
With this in mind, I do believe that stories about people who are struggling should inspire gratitude for what we have and a desire to help but beating ourselves with guilt or a sense of failure is another story. So if you struggle to feel connected and inspired by the stories of others, then take the time to notice those feelings and remember that we are ALL fighting a hard battle and the best way to cope is to remember this connection.