“It could be worse.”
August 15, 2012 by
Categories: Mindfulness

“It could be worse” is a phrase often used after someone describes a difficult situation or even just a bad moment. While many can attest to this statement and I have used it myself often, I am also finding it important to recognize that struggling and suffering is relative. Working in the social services field, I have come across a variety of disheartening situations and events. I am left reeling at the disparity and gap in experiences between people. Most times, I walk away truly believing that things “could be worse.”

While it can be a healthy outlook and provide perspective, it can become negative when: You invalidate someone else’s experience by comparing it someone else’s, and invalidate your own experience and struggle by comparing it to someone else’s.

Things could always be better or worse in the grand scheme of things. But, what matters and how you feel about it is relative to your own experience. The worst thing that could have happened to you (e.g. losing a friend, a job) could have happened multiple times to someone else, but that doesn’t mean you hurt any less.

As a therapist, I encounter many stories of pain, joy, and struggles. You cannot imagine the palpable relief when I respond with statements such as “Many people going through what you’re going through have felt the same way.” Validation and normalizing is much more beneficial than telling someone that what they are feeling is trivial and they should not feel that way.

As I reflect on this topic, the main lesson I try to instill is to stop belittling my hardships as inconsequential or unimportant. They are real to me and that is what matters. There will always be harder and worse things occurring and that I fully recognize. However, I am still allowed to have moments where I feel upset or sad without seeming ungrateful for my blessings.

Knowing this, I also find it important to never look at someone’s background and assume that they have never suffered or struggled (or vice versa). Last, if I am just patient and let someone vent or share something vulnerable, I have to trust they will come to the bigger picture on their own terms.


What are your thoughts on this saying? How do you feel when it (“things could be worse”) is said to you?

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2 Thoughts About “It could be worse.”

  • Kristyn August 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm Reply

    I have come across many people in my life who assume that I do not know pain or suffering because of my current situation and/or age. It is the most frustrating experience to have someone say that I have not experienced true pain. Beyond frustrating, it is also hurtful and sometimes causes me to shut down. Thank you so much for writing this post…this is something that we all must keep in mind for ourselves and for others.

  • MTK
    August 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm Reply

    If I am having a bad day, I remind myself that things could be worse. But, if someone else is going through a tough time, I don’t think I would be helping a person by telling him or her that things could be worse. When people are going through difficult times, they are looking for reassurance and support that things will hopefully get better and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I believe there is a difference between reassuring once self and other people.

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