What Not to Say to Someone Who is Struggling

1. “There are people in the world who have it worse off than you.”

The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to help is invalidate someone’s pain. Sure, there are people in the world who are suffering to an unbelievable extent. But that doesn’t make my pain unimportant or imaginary.

2. “Cheer up already.”

A person who is struggling emotionally is not going through a phase. Being depressed or upset is not something you can just snap out of. By telling someone that they should just “get over it” or “cheer up already,” what you’re really saying to them is that you don’t believe that their pain has any real significance and that they’re emotionally incompetent if they can’t manage to make themselves un-upset.

3. “Are you just doing this for attention?”

Treating mental or emotional trauma like it’s an act or a game is not only offensive, but also harmful and damaging. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop playing around, so why would you say that to someone with an emotional injury? There’s nothing about this that’s positive or constructive. It only hurts.

4. “You have no right to be upset.”

Feelings are not things that only certain people are privileged enough to have. I don’t need to prove to you that my feelings, concerns, and struggles are real and valid. If they’re real to me, they’re real. Plain and simple.

5. “You have your whole life ahead of you.”

For many people struggling with severe emotional trauma, envisioning a future is not an easy task. The future is scary and for plenty of people, it’s not something they look forward to. Saying this can stir up a plethora of fears for a person. It’s also another way of indirectly saying that their problems are small and insignificant “in the grand scheme of things.” Just because a problem will look small in the future, that doesn’t mean it feels small now.

6. “How can I expect you to love me if you can’t even love yourself?”

For some reason, people view love as this singular, finite pool of stuff that you give away to people in parts until there’s nothing left. And for people whose loved ones are dealing with self-esteem issues, they feel that their loved one’s “love pool” is already empty and thus cannot be used to sustain a love for anyone else. That’s simply not the case. I don’t have to love myself in order to love you. My love for you is completely separate from love for myself. Saying something like this will just make people like me feel like we’re doing a terrible job showing our affection, which will only increase the self-loathing.

7. “Want some advice? ……”

Giving advice is a double-edged sword. We all know that you try to give advice because you want to help. But to me, you’re advice-giving can sometimes sound like gloating and condescension. What it says to me is that you’re clearly much more capable of handling problems and you’re obviously superior to me and my problems are so insignificant and petty that they’re a cinch to fix. When giving advice, try to keep in mind that what you’re saying and what is being heard are sometimes two very different things.

8. “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

No, I won’t. That’s the general subconscious reply. Emotional pain is real. The cause and the triggers – for lack of better words – don’t matter. What matters is that whatever it is causes me pain that I can’t get away from. This pain is in my mind and the mind is not something you can escape from. Sure, you can ignore it for a little while. But that doesn’t make it go away. Don’t assume that sleeping it off or becoming preoccupied with something else is going to make me feel better in the long haul. That’s a very poor assumption to make.

9. “You’re being selfish.”

This has to be one of the most infuriating things anyone could possibly say to me. Trying to guilt me into feeling happy seems like a really backwards plan, don’t you think? When you say this, you’re telling me that I have to just suck it up and deal with the overwhelming emotional trauma that I experience on an almost continuous basis because I’m making the people around me uncomfortable. Do you see the irony in this?


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