Friday, February 5, 2010

Sob Stories

Sob stories are problematic. When I find myself on the receiving end of one there is often the sense the individual spinning the tale believes he or she is the only person to have experienced some sort of obstacle or set back in life. Solutions and suggestions of how to look at the experience in a more positive way are met with head shakes and comments about not understanding. I haven't walked in that person's shoes, you see. I don't get just how uniquely impossible the situation is.

At the risk of sounding insensitive, it seems necessary to say few things in life are rare. Those who believe they have an obstacle others couldn't possibly understand are likely wrong. Most people experience wrenches along the way. I don't have to specifically walk in another person's shoes to understand loss, fear, rejection, exhaustion, anger, inequality and insecurity. The human experience dictates most of us will struggle with all of these in our own way through life. The bad things in life that happen to us don't define who we are. How we address them and move forward plays a greater role. Those stuck in the belief their sob story tops all others and is responsible for goals remaining out of reach fail to consider those they complain to may have overcome that and more.

I used to work with a woman who was a magnet for obstacles. You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but just about every thing that could go wrong in her world did. She kept her chin up and her eyes on the future. Just like me, she sat across the desk from many people who dismissed her point of view as coming from a person who couldn't possibly understand. She was successful and happy, you see. Little did they know their problems would have been a nice vacation for her. She didn't wear it on her sleeve. When she gave people advice, advice that was dismissed, she really did understand.

My advice, when you're having a hard time with something don't write off those who seem to have had an easier path as not understanding. Don't dismiss their advice as coming from someone with a charmed existence. There really is no way to know the experiences of others. Anyone who has found a way to be healthy, successful and happy deserves consideration. It is highly unlikely, if they are indeed human, to have gotten as far as they have in life without some sort of sleep robbing, ulcer generating, ego slicing problem popping up along the way. The person you are sure couldn't possibly understand may turn out to be the person with the best ideas for how to overcome your problems.


  1. Being depressed or negative when going through a rough patch simply adds more difficulty to the experience. On the other hand, if we keep a positive outlook (it is at least partly voluntary) we fight through it better and keep it from afflicting those around us.

  2. Thanks for the comment, James.