“I got it bad. You don’t know how bad I got it. You got it easy. You don’t know when you’ve got it good.” — Nik Kerhshaw, American singer and songwriter
It is human nature to think the issues we face daily are more significant, serious, or challenging than those of our neighbours.
I suppose that makes sense as these issues are happening to us directly. We all have issues to contend with and, depending upon who we are and where we live, they can run the gamut from acne to finding our next meal.
Understand, it is not my intent to undermine the significance of issues you may be facing. While some issues we face are simply frustrating or worrisome, others can be truly overwhelming: loss of employment, a death in the family, the end of a relationship — a terminal disease. If such is your burden, my heart goes out to you. I do, however, believe the burden of many issues can be lessened with a healthy dose of perspective.
My friend Peter is what you might call the handyman’s handyman. He can build or fix just about anything. A while back, while installing soffits and fascia on his daughter and son-in-law’s home, Peter had a serious accident. Unbeknownst to Peter, his son-in-law had use the table saw to cut some boards and adjusted the height of the blade.
Five minutes away from finishing the job, Peter ran the last piece of fascia through the saw nearly severing both thumb and forefinger on his left hand.
Peter spent time in the hospital and even more in physiotherapy, eventually returning to the hospital a few months later for surgery to remove scar tissue around the tendons. Peter stopped by my office the other day.
He held up his left hand and wiggled his fingers and thumb.
“That was a tough break for someone who works with his hands.”
“This?” he said, opening and closing his left hand. “This is a cinch!”
Peter looks for the lesson in everything.
He went on to explain how he had just seen a gentleman in the mall with only one arm.
The other was missing at the shoulder.
“There’s a question I always ask,” explained Peter. “It helps me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with getting on.”
Peter’s question is as simple as it is profound: would anyone be willing to trade places with me? Says Peter, “If the answer is yes, then I know I don’t have it nearly as bad as I think — it’s time to stop the pity-party.”
I understand now why I had not heard Peter gripe about his situation — never heard him ask the question, “Why me?” Peter is someone with a strong sense of self and grounded approach to life. Like Peter, many people believe there are reasons why we go through what we go through. There are life lessons to be learned and shared.
Our focus on personal issues is often narrow because we use only our own frame of reference for comparative purposes. In other words, we are comparing our current state of affairs with our past or desired state and thus moving into resistance.
Visit any hospital and you’ll come away with an understanding that there are people who have it a lot worse than you. Visit other parts of world and you’ll draw the same conclusion. There are people everywhere who would trade lives with you in a heartbeat.
We run into a problem when we believe that our problems are insurmountable. Yes, there are situations where problems overwhelm us. Especially so if we believe we stand alone and should be able to single-handedly resolve the problems in our life. Such a belief can easily create a perception where problems appear larger than life.
Often, one of the hardest things we can do is admit we need help. One of the best things we can do is reach out and ask for it.
You never stand alone. Others are always ready to help.
Ann Landers, the American advice columnist, was once asked, if she could share only one piece of advice, what might that be? After much consideration, Ann said, “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’”
Appreciate your life. There’s always someone who has it worse than you do no matter how bad it gets. Perspective can help you move through even the most challenging situations from a place of power as opposed to one of fear and bewilderment.
Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.