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Do you ever study all night for an exam and go to class the next day saying something along the lines of, “I’m so tired; I only slept for three hours”? 

And to this, someone responds, “You got so much sleep; I only slept for one hour and I didn’t even get to study like you because my dog fell in a puddle and I was fighting off the Loch Ness monster.” 

I’m sorry that happened to you, but why did you feel the need to invalidate my struggle? You didn’t just set a Guinness world record for that right now. 

What they could have said is, “Oh no, don’t worry, this exam will be over soon and then we can both go take a nap because I didn’t sleep much either.” Look at that: a nice, supportive response. You’re stating your trouble without competing. 

Obviously, this example is a very minor, less harmful one, but it still puts the issue into perspective. Everyone always wants to prove that their life is the hardest. 

So why do people do this? What’s the point in trying to prove you’ve had it harder? 

I’ve thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion that people need an excuse for their failures — it’s really as simple as that. You’ll see this come out the most when doing group work; that’s when everyone wants to tell you about how hard their life is. They need an excuse as to why they couldn’t pull their weight in the project. A simple “I’m sorry I didn’t manage my time well, but I’ll get it done as soon as possible” goes a much longer way than “I had seven other things due, and I had watch my siblings, cook, clean, work five jobs, go to Narnia and come back before the clock struck 12.” While this may sound a little insensitive, it’s important to understand because everyone else also has things going on in their life. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Just because they’re not sharing it with you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

You don’t get to determine whose life is hard and whose isn’t. You only know so much about someone’s life. To be honest, everything you know about your best friend could even be a lie because you only know what they want you to know. 

The truth is, most people don’t even realize they’re doing it. The next time someone tells you about their troubles, such as details about their bad day, before you compare their bad day to yours, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is going to comfort them in any way. If not, then don’t say anything. Sometimes it’s better to just sit and listen instead of giving your two cents. 

Thamilini Balakumar is a Global Business and Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo. She has a passion for creative writing and storytelling. In addition to writing, she tells stories through her photography and videography.
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