Theoretically, America, as a country is dope.
It can be agreed upon by most that there are many opportunities that exist here or that can be created here that don’t exist and can’t be created in many other countries. This truth has created quite the superiority complex, though– in an abundance of opportunity and “go-getting,” we lose compassion not only for those around us, but for ourselves as well. While this country is busting at the seams with perceived opportunity, its citizens are not as full of grace, mercy & simple compassion. We thrive off of the idea that because others have it worse than we do, we are therefore undeserving of having sympathy for ourselves. We invalidate our own very real feelings by forcing ourselves to be grateful, based on the conjecture that someone else somewhere else in a far worse situation exists.
This is why we use images of the “less fortunate” – the poor, fat, ugly, etc. — or disabled to motivate us to be grateful or push through a crappy day. Essentially, we use what we perceive to be the misfortune of others to “encourage” us to feel better about our own lot. I could be wrong, but I think gratitude based on comparison is disingenuous and insincere. Not only does comparison allow us the illusion of real gratitude, it’s such a thief that it talks us out of our emotional, vulnerable moments of pain, heartbreak and fatigue. We feel like we don’t have the right to feel low because other people have bigger reasons, worse situations and more miserable existences than we do. We feel like we have too many things and too much to be grateful for, to let ourselves feel tired, sad or frustrated.
Feelings of exhaustion are followed by statements like “Well at least I have a job/ benefits/ work/ business.”
We use rationale like: “Money is tight and filling up my car is expensive, but at least I have a car” to assuage our financial woes.
Bear in mind that there is nothing inherently wrong with these statements. Sometimes we do get ahead of ourselves and focus on the wrong things. We can be irrational and overdramatic in thinking that our problems are bigger than they really are. But relying too heavily on forced gratitude sometimes causes us to ignore what we feel and keep our emotions from running their course. We will ourselves into being happy instead of allowing the weight of tough days or tough conditions to settle, even for a bit.
I say all of this so that maybe we’ll consider giving ourselves permission to feel how we feel, and to encourage us to be more genuine in our appreciation. Genuine gratitude doesn’t demand that we devalue our experiences or put others’ experiences on a pedestal. I think when we stop forcing ourselves to love every moment of every day and every situation, we’ll be able to experience a more full and brilliant array of genuine emotion.
In short: Be grateful, yeah, but not at the expense of losing compassion for yourself in life’s low points.