Problems vs. problems is a problem

Problems cannot be compared to each other and be efficiently handled


Annika Pepper

Two students depict their close friendship by hugging each other. Discussing about your problems can strengthen a friendship, but only if the discussion doesn’t become a competition.

Here’s a hot take: your problems are not a competition. Problems and issues you have aren’t meant to be compared because that’s only a one way ticket to unhealthy mental habits.

You know what happens when you tell someone that their problems don’t matter? They believe it.

— Staff Writer Saijleen Chawla

People and their tendency to undermine problems of others can make them feel irrationally guilty for considering something a problem. Why? Because the people that should be helping you work out your problems tell you that your problems are apparently not big enough to worry about.

I find that debilitating and demoralizing. You know what happens when you tell someone that their problems don’t matter? They believe it. You know what happens when they believe their issues don’t matter? They will continue suffering in silence, assuming that it is their fault for feeling the way they feel, as if they don’t have a right to their emotions.

That is the start on a path straight to depression and suicidal thoughts, when it should not have ever reached that extent. Problems and difficult situations that you go through should not be seen as trivial or “nothing” because for that one person, it could be the world on fire.

To ease the burning, we tend to turn to our loved ones and friends to help us and douse the flames. Ideally, you would ask for someone who assures you that they are there to hold your hand while you tread carefully around your obstacles, and help you find solutions.

Instead, they make it a point to one-up you and your issue, turning it into a competition that they must win. Forget about them listening patiently, or helping you, because they’re too busy thinking about ways that they can degrade your issues.

Your “patient friends who are always there for you” turn on you when you need them to be there the most, chiding you for feeling the way you do, using the worst kind of emotional blackmail that is in their power. They remind you of their own problems, and that what they deal with might be more than what you could ever understand, unintentionally making you regret your feelings.

Maybe it is easier to tell your friend that their issues shouldn’t be issues because you want them to know that they are better off than majority of the people they know, and they could ideally take comfort in that. The thinking is, “look on the bright side, it’s nothing compared to ebola in Africa.”

Feeling lucky, content and privileged is a great mindset to adopt, but in the context of our own problems, it can be more a harm than help.

It’s unhelpful to compare problems when all problems mean different things for different people…

— Staff Writer Saijleen Chawla

Last I checked, your feelings are a chemical process, triggered by situations that are uncontrollable, and different for every person. The way different people react to the same situation ends up being (surprise) different and these friends do not have the right to educate you what is considered “nothing.” Problems cannot all be compared on one scale of validation. In fact, the belief that problems need to be validated in order to be considered a problem is a problem in and of itself.

Because of this belief, what should have been a patient and therapeutic discussion becomes less of a discussion and more of singular pity party over text or facetime, because two people are basically screaming at each other how their problem is the most important, which is the most unproductive outcome of this kind of conversation.

What would be more productive would be two people listening to each other, and actually considering how the other person feels. Note: not how they should feel. How they feel, even if you think their problems may not be as big as yours.

It’s unhelpful to compare problems when all problems mean different things for different people, and there are no ways to define them. You have no right to try to define something or assume something you can’t possibly understand.

If you believe that you are entitled to how your friend feels about the things they struggle with, it’s time for you to take two steps back and reassess how good of a friend you are, and how long your friendships are going to last.