My mother always used to tell me that there were starving children in India. I should be grateful for what I have, she said, because other people had it so much worse. They lived on the streets, they didn’t own any shoes, their parents didn’t love them, and they couldn’t afford food. Here I was, an honor student, living in nice suburban home with a ‘caring’ mother, four cats, and fancy meals from Whole Foods. I had no right to complain; I was one of the lucky ones.
So what if my dad was dead? So what if I had an eating disorder? So what if I couldn’t afford Prada purses like all the other girls at school? So what if I got a B in calculus? So what if I had no friends? So what if I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed? It didn’t matter, because there were bigger problems. I was a brat for whining, and I should just get back to my homework so I could get a nice job and help the starving children in India.
I didn’t matter; I wasn’t suffering enough. I was a white, middle-class, smart, pretty, American girl; I was fine in the grand scheme of things. I needed to suck it up, eat more, appreciate what I had, and work harder at math. I was being selfish, and that wasn’t fair to the starving children in India. I should just get over myself and focus on them, right?
Sure, it sucks that there are starving children in India, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Their suffering has nothing to do with me, and their problems do not magically preclude mine. My troubles exist independently of theirs and are important regardless. I need and deserve help even though someone, somewhere, somehow has it worse than I do. My struggles are valid; I am valid. Your struggles are valid; you are valid. Don’t let anyone ever, ever tell you otherwise.