Yes Your Problems Are Valid

I grew up knowing that all the people who live in Somalia are starving. If your household was anything like ours then you know of the “incentive” some mothers would use to ensure that their kids finish their carrots, pumpkins or other eeky veggies. (To this day I still cannot stomach cooked carrots, pumpkin or french beans)! When this incentive failed (which it inevitably did), she would threaten us with a severe beating and we would have to sit at the table till every single morsel was off the plate. Luckily we had cats and the felines quickly learnt whose feet to sit at under the table for discreet food drops when mum wasn’t watching.

I always used to wonder though, what did eating my carrots have to do with starving Somali people? Like, if perhaps I didn’t finish my food, could it then be shipped off to feed one of them?

Closer to the present, I have noticed that the greatest hindrance to life’s solutions is comparisons. We are always comparing ourselves to one thing or the other. If we get a pay increment at work, it still isn’t enough because there is someone we know that earns more. Or whose car is bigger. Or whose house is owned and not rented. We place lots of conditions on our right to contentment thanks to all the comparisons that we subject ourselves to.

That’s not the only disparaging aspect of comparisons however. Often without even realizing it, we use the very same comparisons to shame people about their issues or concerns. The same way my mother tried to use it unsuccessfully to shame me into eating those yucky carrots. You know it because at some point you have done it to someone else, just as I have.

Have you ever tried to talk to someone about something that you’re going through, only for this person to tell you that you should be grateful to be alive, or have food or have a house etc? Or worse, did the person tell you about how their problems are way worse and delve into a blow-by-blow account of their issues leaving you feeling like crap for ever opening your mouth? Or have you ever started to talk about a problem you have and the first sentence out of your mouth is “I know this sounds silly/stupid/like a small thing……” Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If yes, then you have been shamed at some point for something you felt validly enough about to vocalize. And you were probably shamed by someone you felt should have known better.

When I first started dating my husband, I would constantly apologize for my feelings. Whether angry, hurt, sad, whatever I felt; I would always feel the need to say I was sorry. He always responded the same way and to this day this phrase reverberates in my head.

Feelings are neither wrong nor right. They are simply what you feel.

This phrase had such a huge impact on me. Knowing that I didn’t need to validate my feelings created a safe environment to simply release them. Talk about them without feeling like I would be judged. Or shot.  Or shamed. It also helped our relationship to grow to the point where I knew that I could express anything I was feeling safely and he would not take it personally. The trick of course was to express my issue as what I was feeling and not as an accusation towards him. The latter will predictably turn anyone on the defensive.

Despite knowing all this, during my initial self-exploration sessions, I started every single sentence with that phrase. “I know this may sound silly….” It took a couple of sessions for my “sage guru” to constantly affirm to me that whatever came out of my mouth was valid. My regression made me realize that I am still constantly apologizing for having any issues at all. That I still feel the need to validate a low mood or a sense of discontent or anything vaguely construed as negative.

After a while of validating myself and still getting shamed, inevitably I simply shut down and didn’t open up about anything at all, no matter what I was going through. Outwardly I put on my brave face which fooled a lot of people. Inside however, I was piling up unresolved issues which was the result of constant shut downs.

You see, when people constantly shame you for even having an issue, you convince yourself that what you’re feeling isn’t actually valid and train yourself to numb the feeling. What you may not realize is that you are actually not dealing with the underlying issues that led to the feeling, hence a buildup of pent-up emotions which eventually go boom! Not to mention the additional resentment that you feel towards the person shaming you.

So this is what I have learnt. Every single feeling I have is valid. After all why did God put such a feeling in my body if it serves no purpose? Every feeling I have is a sign of something. Usually something that I need to address. Ignoring the feeling only makes it worse and postpones the inevitable which is that I will have to face it anyway. Most importantly I have learnt who to speak to when I need to vocalize what I feel. The initial step to dealing with anything is to acknowledge its existence and vocalizing it is a critical part of awareness. Most people will tell you that just saying something out loud helped them to actually start dealing with it.

If someone trusts you enough to tell you about something they are going through the least you can do is put your own issues aside and listen to the person objectively. If you find yourself inclined to give them a comparison analysis of how someone else (or yourself) is doing worse, or how they should at least count their blessings, just hold your tongue. It doesn’t help at all and only makes the person feel worse.

The truth is gratitude and problems are not often directly related. Simply being grateful for everything you have in your life does not automatically save you from having problems though it will probably alter your focus and attitude towards your problems.

The first and toughest step is to talk about your problem. After that anything is possible.



Anger Most Foul

This morning I lost my temper. Like really lost my temper. For those who don’t know, I have a relatively short fuse but I also tend to calm down pretty fast. This morning however was different. I experienced a rage I have never ever felt before. This morning I finally understood what the phrase “blind rage” means. More importantly, I truly understood and felt just how far it had the potential to push me and just how much destruction I was capable of in those tense heated uncontrolled moments.


To cut a long story short, I have a very arrogant neighbor who during the night decided to block my car just to make a point. We spent 10 minutes trying to wake him up, only for him to wake up and tell me he had done it deliberately. To add insult to injury, his car apparently needs 30 minutes (I am not making this up) to warm up before he could move it. (I’m not entirely sure that his car runs on fuel; perhaps dirty water?) Anyway, as his car warmed up, we engaged in a heated shouting match for all and sundry to hear. Finally he moved his car and I drove off in a major huff trying to calm myself down with all the positive energy and self-talk that I could muster.

Thinking about it as I drove to work reminded me of a recent article I had read about in the dailies a couple of weeks ago where a motorist shot and killed another in a road rage incident. I have always wondered how angry someone would have to be to take out his gun and shoot someone else just for crossing him in traffic or whatever trivial reason. Just to be clear, I am making reference to level headed, intelligent people who can actually fathom the consequences of their actions. However, today I realized that had I been a licensed gun owner (or quite honestly, had any other weapon in my reach), I would have probably used it. In the heat of the moment of course. And while this may seem crazy to even admit, to be honest it just made me realize how human I am. With very human feelings and some very red blood.


We all get angry, even furious from time to time. I really don’t believe it’s realistic to say that we can completely avoid it. However, what truly matters is what you do with that anger. After all, it’s a feeling just like all other feelings that we were blessed with right? And more importantly, once the storm has passed and the anger is gone; once the calm returns, will it have changed you or will you still be able to recognize yourself? For example, if you stab someone in a fit of domestic-instigated anger, your life will be forever changed. So while having the anger inside of you may have been perfectly natural, what you do with this anger now changes the course of your life permanently. Meaning that if we can just control what we do with our anger, or how we direct it, that ultimately makes all the difference in the eventual outcome.

The obvious flaw in this very brilliant logic (if I do say so myself) is that at the height of the anger and in the eye of the storm, we seem to lose all intelligent or rational thought and seemingly revert to our primal animal instincts. Simply put, all caution is thrown to the wind. Rational thought only seems to work when a person is calm, like I am now as opposed to this morning when I was baying for blood.


Sorry to disappoint those who thought that I have an instant magic solution to ensure that rational thought can be applied during those tense moments when you just want to kill someone. I am human after all, so in that regard, we are in the same boat. I have heard however, that counting slowly to 10, 20 or whatever appropriate number before you speak might help in delaying or even deferring your stormy response. Others claim that counting just serves to make them even angrier so, to each his own. Walking away works for others, though it may not be possible depending on the situation. Keep in mind that some suggested solutions are personality driven so if you are confrontational like me, walking away may not feel good to you.

All I can say is remember you are human and you have human feelings so don’t be too hard on yourself. Find a way that works to blow off your steam harmlessly like pummeling a punching bag and always ensure that you deal with whatever made you angry once you are calm. Otherwise you risk a repeat of the same or worse when it happens again. Apologize if you hurt someone during your storm. Most importantly however, try really hard not to kill anyone.