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You’re tired but that doesn’t mean you can invalidate others’ exhaustion

You’re tired but that doesn’t mean you can invalidate others’ exhaustion

Recently, I complained about my exhaustion. I expressed how tired and stressed I felt. However, some people would try to top it up and invalidate what I just said. It made me feel as if I didn’t have the right to speak out. Sometimes, they would try to point out that I’m just a twenty-something-year-old young woman and they’re so much older than I am. They would say that they should be the ones complaining about their exhaustion.

But, the thing is – just because you’re also tired that doesn’t mean you can invalidate others’ exhaustion.

Don’t invalidate people’s struggles because you’ve been through worse. If I’m tired of working for five hours and you worked for seven, it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be tired. It doesn’t mean I can’t feel what I feel just because you’ve had it worse. But, please do remember that people feel things differently. We can’t just compare one crisis or experience to another. Instead, please offer support from the experience that you do know.

Sure, in theory, acknowledging feelings is easy. Validating feelings does not mean you accept or agree with another person’s position. It just means that you acknowledge what they said. Yet, effectively acknowledging the emotions and experiences of others can at times become a challenge.

When I tell you about my exhaustion and you shift the focus, it minimizes my feelings. Although the intent may be to connect over a common occurrence, it makes me feel ignored rather than understood. When people want to be helpful, they are compelled to look for a solution. They want to fix a problem or remove any discomfort. But, delivered in the absence of validation, the approach often backfires.

It feels incredibly frustrating and unhelpful to feel talked at versus understood in the heat of the moment.

Sharing my feelings (sometimes specific to my exhaustion) means opening up myself to being vulnerable. And, the thing is – when people feel vulnerable, they need validation, empathy, and understanding. Not tidbits of advice or storytelling. People are hardwired to need connection and feeling heard makes us feel connected, supported, and understood.

However, the mention of my age really hurt my feelings:
“You’re only twenty-four!”

I understand that you’re older, that you have had more experiences that made you tired. But, please do listen and do not invalidate what I just said. I know that many people are uncomfortable with feelings, especially negative ones. People don’t usually want to accept them, give them any power, or allow them to exist. People sometimes incorrectly believe that ignoring feelings with help them to diminish and ultimately disappear. Ignoring, minimizing, or denying feelings either causes them to amplify or results in other negative feelings. Namely, those being hurt, isolated, or rejected.

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Aside from minimizing and denying, please do not look for the reason behind the negative feelings or difficult experiences:
“You shouldn’t have stayed up late working!”

Sometimes, people assume pointing out the cause may lessen the negative situation. Attempting to teach a lesson has its place. However, doing so without acknowledging the present feelings typically closes off the person to hear the message. For instance, I tell you I’m tired and you blamed the fact that I shouldn’t have stayed up so late working. The scolding just made me feel as if I shouldn’t have said something in the first place. Because, first of all, I didn’t stay up late. I just couldn’t sleep. Despite having to close my eyes for hours, I just couldn’t. And, I don’t even know if it was my control or what. So, please stop the blaming and scolding.

You can lend a listening ear. You can be physically present with them. When people tell you about their negative emotions, do not barrage them with solutions. Remain a caring and supportive way to be there for someone going through something. Remember your role as a person who can connect them to help.

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