There are times when a lot of us think that Life has probably dealt us all the wrong cards because nothing seems to be going in our favour. It’s during times like these that we often find ourselves thinking about how it would be if we were in someone else’s shoes instead of our own because, from where we stand, things look like they’d be a lot easier on their end. And it’s when I find myself wishing to live somebody else’s life, I remind myself of a story that I read back when I was barely eight or nine years old.
Long story short: a man who was tired of the burdens he was forced to carry was shown a room full of bundles (metaphorical burdens) that he could choose from, but every other burden seemed heavier than his own, no matter how much lighter it looked from a distance. I don’t think I understood the meaning of this story back then, but for some reason, it serves as a reminder every time I think how much easier I’ll have it if I lived anybody else’s life. It’s a reminder that everyone has their own struggles and that they cannot be compared.
Which brings me to the point that no matter how supportive we are as friends, we all have uttered the phrase, ‘This is nothing. There are people who have it worse’, or maybe we have started comparing our stories to theirs when they have tried to have a conversation with us. Let me tell you why this needs to stop. In the simplest of words, ‘You are not living their life for them, and it also means that you cannot tell them that their problems aren’t as big as they seem’. People’s definitions of burdens vary vastly from one individual to another, and this is something that we cannot ignore.
This also means that we are not allowed to invalidate anybody’s problems when they choose to confide in us enough to be vulnerable and honest with us. Not only is it rude to tell someone to ‘Suck it up and brave the storm’ when all they want is someone to talk to, but it also shows that we aren’t really the good listeners that we claim to be. There’s a difference between a person who patiently hears their friends out and a person who begins to compare their struggles. If you can help it, don’t be the latter.
We need to stop speaking over people whose voices actually need to be heard. Our problems may seem like a big deal to us, and they are, too, when you look at them from a personal level. But take a few steps back and look at everything going on around you, and you’ll find that you are luckier than most. I can’t say that about everyone because, like I said, the weight of the burdens we carry differs from person to person. All we have to do is lend a patient ear to those who want to talk, without giving our two cents unless we’re asked, and let voices that need to be heard, be heard.
It’s really not that hard to comprehend. And I’m not saying that I’m perfect, because I know I’ve spoken over my friends in the past. I’m not proud of it. But once I realized that it was a toxic behaviour on my part, I consciously made an effort to stop doing so, not just because I want to be a better person, but also because it’s the right thing to do. We all make mistakes. Some of us realize it early on, others don’t. But what really matters is how willing we are to do better.
And no, this is not me bragging about how I overcame a toxic behaviour. This is me on a journey that I know a lot of you are on as well. This is me sharing a story in the hopes that some of you can find it relatable and see that nobody is perfect and that we all make mistakes along the way. But we all unlearn and grow to be a better version of ourselves because we start to realize the impact of our words and actions on the world around us. You never know what the repercussions can be.
So, maybe it’s high time that we stopped comparing our struggles and started to behave like the good listeners that we all claim to be to the people we care about. It shouldn’t take a friend telling you to stop speaking over them for you to change. It’s all about how well we know ourselves and how much better we want to be as human beings.
Think about it a little, won’t you?
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