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The ‘My Life’s Worse than Yours’ Competition

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 26-02-2013

Do you sometimes find yourself in an unhelpful competition with someone about whose life is worse?

I met a friend recently who I haven’t seen for quite some time, in fact, it’s been over a year, so we had quite a lot of catching up to do.  Now as you can probably imagine, I try to be quite careful in any conversations not to be negative and if something negative has happened to me (which it does as often as it does to everyone else) I always try to see it from a positive point of view. After all, we can’t always change the things that happen to us, but we can choose how we feel and react to them.

I was telling this person about some particularly trying things that had happened in the intervening time since we last met.  I had hoped that I had also included the positives including the lessons I'd learnt from those situations, however, this seemed to open the floodgates for my friend to tell me just how awful her life was in comparison to mine.

She actually seemed to get quite excited telling me how awful things had been. Her body language changed and became more animated; her voice changed pitch and tone and speeded up considerably as she regaled all the horrors that she had dealt with - all in an attempt to persuade me how much worse her life was than mine or that's how it seemed.

I found this really fascinating and actually quite disturbing.  Why would want to win a ‘my life is worse than yours’ competition? I certainly wouldn’t and yet it’s quite common place. Some people just can’t seem to resist being the one that’s most hard done to, or who has had the worst life.

After our meeting, as I thought more about what had taken place, I took to my Facebook page to canvas opinion as to what my FB friends thought about why people behave in this way. The general consensus was that it is just attention seeking. Some people just love attention no matter whether it’s positive or negative and in fact some people just love to be negative and actually define themselves by their negativity.

It‘s something that we usually learn in childhood. Some children get little reaction if they are good and positive when growing up, but quickly learn that if something awful (perceived or otherwise) happens to them, then they get lots of attention … the more awful or dramatic, the more attention they receive. That learned behaviour then sticks with them into adult life.

So the next time you find yourself getting into that, “Well my life’s worse than yours” discussion/competition, stop, smile to yourself and be happy to let the other person win.  Afterall, is that an argument that you really want to win?

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