First World Problems

I listened to an interesting podcast by Brooke Castillo. Near the end she talks about “first world problems”. I hear this so much, and have said it myself. We say things like, “I should just be grateful because at least I’m not starving.” or “Lots of people have it a lot worse than I do.” While these thoughts can be true and sometimes helpful, sometimes they are not helpful at all.

They’re not helpful when we then ignore our feelings, or push them down, when we then decide not to do anything about those feelings. Remember that feelings are just chemicals released by our brains into our bodies, that give us sensations that either feel good or uncomfortable. So they can be warning lights that something is off.
The other day, I went to court to get a parking ticket fine reduced. The parking ticket was for completely innocently parking in a school zone. When I got to the courthouse, I was unfamiliar with where I was, and I parked my car somewhere I wasn’t sure was allowed. I asked several people if it was okay to park there, but no one knew the answer. When I came out of court, I had another parking ticket. I felt so frustrated that I cried the whole way home. Later, I realized that all in all I only had to pay $65 for both parking tickets. Why was I having such a big reaction to this?
I could say, “This is not a big deal. I shouldn’t feel bad about this!” Instead, I got curious. Why was I having such a big reaction to $65? I realized that part of it was the feeling of disempowerment. I was trying to follow the rules, but I still broke them and was fined for it. When I talked to the officers, they both said there was nothing they could do. When I asked to speak to their supervisors, both were unavailable.
I realized, though, that I had been suppressing other emotions that I felt I shouldn’t be feeling because, “I should just be grateful, and see the bright side.”
However, when I faced both of these emotions, then I was able to feel them and let them go. Then I was able to really figure out what I wanted to do about the situations. I could either just pay the fine for the parking tickets, or I could look into the legal system and by-laws, and rally to get them changed, or more leniency for people who are unfamiliar with the by-laws, or I could just not pay the tickets and see what happens. It feels so much better to make a choice from an empowering place than a disempowered place. It could be the same decision, but it affects how you behave and act towards the people around you.
It is good to realize your blessings and to see the positive. It is also helpful to get curious about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, no matter the circumstance, so that you can show up in the world consciously, instead of just reacting to whatever comes your way.