The Pain Olympics

I don’t know if I can 100% agree that I would always keep my own problem, because if I threw my biggest problem into a bag and could trade it for a little slip of paper that said, “Now that I won the lottery, I don’t know how to keep family from always asking me for money,” I’d trade for that one in a heartbeat.

But I like the truth of what this photo is getting at. Even though our problems might be different, we’re all dealing with some type of struggle. Taking it one step further, it’s also good to remember that someone out there has it worse than we do, and the problem we have might be someone else’s version of worse. Therefore, judging each other’s problems and emotions is pointless and counterproductive, because we’re all a part of the same continuum.    In one of my online circles, there’s a concept we regularly refer to called the “Pain Olympics.” Essentially, this is the idea that pain is relative, and that there is nothing to gain from discrediting someone else’s pain just because you personally perceive that problem not to be as big of a deal. No one’s pain “wins.” It is better to respect how someone feels instead of deciding whether they “deserve” that emotion just because you wouldn’t be affected in the same way if faced with a similar problem. Who are we to judge each other’s emotions, anyway?

I know you’ve seen it and heard it. You’ve probably participated in a few rounds of Pain Olympics, yourself. Imagine this little vignette:

You: Just look at Jane. She’s always crying about how her boyfriend mistreats her, but she keeps running right back to him. Stupid.

Best Friend: I KNOW. She deserves it because she chooses to stay with him. Lame.

What you may not know is that Jane’s mother is a victim of domestic abuse and that the only concept Jane has of a “functional” relationship is the dysfunction she sees everyday between her own parents. Jane might not know that she deserves to be with someone who respects her.

And so it goes. You might have rolled your eyes at a classmate who cried over earning a B when you had to bust your butt just to squeak out a C. Or because someone looks at you and wishes she could make friends as easily as you do, she dismisses you when you lament your frizzy hair and bad complexion.

Of course you have problems–that’s just a part of life. But remember that everyone else has problems, too. Be understanding of others, and hopefully, they will be understanding of you, too.


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About JW Moxie

J-Dub Moxie has a BS in BS, but someone thought it was a good idea to make her responsible for educating adolescents. She does a good impression of an 8th Grade English teacher by day, but by night she's a gangsta nerd superhero. She wishes she could clone copies of her husband Frank to sell; he is that awesome. Despite Moxie's best efforts, their four children (ages 6-10) refuse to be corrupted into doing her evil bidding. Moxie is in love with carbohydrates and in hate with writing bios. She blogs at The Smartness and Tweets @JWMoxie. Word.


  1. I try so, so hard to keep this in mind all the time. Sometimes my inner Judgey McJudgeyPants gets the better of me, but I try. Because you can’t, no matter what you think, really know what’s going on in someone’s life.

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  1. [...] I try hard, very very hard, not to use my health as an excuse. I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to play the “I have it worse game.” [...]

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