I feel guilty for feeling so happy when other people are happier than me.
Said no one ever.
A couple of weeks ago, Mr Wanderlust and I went to the spa for my birthday. We had a glorious day. It started off in a spin class at my favourite gym with one of my favourite instructors (what can I say – she yells at me lol). Then we grabbed a delicious lunch at and headed to the spa.
As we drove towards 2.5 hours of serious pampering, I felt antsy.
I wasn’t sure exactly what the feeling was but it wasn’t comfortable. The more I leant into it the more I heard the contradictions in my inner monologue. I felt like I didn’t have time to take a break even though I knew I really did. I felt overwhelmed by how many thoughtful gifts and lovely messages I got for my birthday even though I knew I deserved it. I thought about how indulgent felt to go to a swanky spa even though it was a gift from him and my family in the UK.
Most of the time I feel so unbelievably lucky I have to pinch myself. I’m lucky to have a fantastic husband and our crazy little Things and I’m lucky we’re all healthy. I’m lucky to have amazing extended family and friends who spoil me not only on my birthday but on many, many other days of the year when I’m having good days or bad days or just because.
I’m lucky to live in Singapore which, despite the extreme measures they are taking to curb the latest outbreak (thanks Karaoke Television Bars), is a really cool place to live. I’m lucky that we can afford a nice place to stay and that we get to live together and haven’t had to split the family up. I’m lucky to have had the luxury of time and money behind me to figure out what I really wanted to do with my time.
And I’m lucky to have found that thing.
But with that lucky feeling comes guilt
I feel bad that we have so much when others have so little. That we are healthy when others aren’t and have the means to get excellent quality medical attention if we aren’t when others don’t. I wonder now what other people used to think when we posted pictures of ourselves on another holiday. I wonder what they think now when we post pictures of ourselves doing cool things here in Singapore. I wonder if they resent us or think I’m a bit of a spoilt princess who has no clue how hard other people have it.
Logically, I know it’s silly to feel guilty for feeling so lucky. What I’m starting to realise is that I need to allow myself to really BE lucky. I need to appreciate it for what it is. Feeling guilty won’t help any of the people who are less fortunate than me but it will hold me back.
On the other side of that coin, a couple of friends had a sort of similar conversation yesterday. One had had her family road trip to France postponed when their school bubble burst and was devastated. And she felt guilty for feeling that too!
You guessed it.
Because there are so many people in the world who have it worse than her.
Don’t get me wrong, perspective is a very necessary and healthy angle to any feeling and can help sometimes. But, as our other friend, who happens to be a life coach, reminded her, those feelings were still perfectly valid. She added that the friend was doing no one any favours for denying her feelings (that stuff always comes back out in the end).
It reminded me of a conversation I listened to on the Two Fat Expats podcast not long ago.
Kirsty was interviewing the incredible Dr Sean Truman from The Truman Group, a remote psychotherapy and mental health consultation for expats. (I also did an amazing interview with him for Doha Family Magazine but that’s another story).
He introduced the concept of the worst day in the world.
He said that if you take the “others have it so much worse than me” feeling to its ultimate conclusion then only one person can have a bad day on any given day. Only one person can be having the worst day in the world.
It blew me away
When he put it like that is seemed so obvious. I realised just how ridiculous it is to use other people as a reason for feeling guilty.
I told everyone I knew about this idea and I saw lightbulbs going off all over the world as it sank in to my friends and family.
My mum came back a week later having herself talked to her friend about it.
The friend had taken it a step further and said something like this:
Say you were having a great day. Say everything was going well, whatever you were doing, and you were overwhelmed with a feeling of complete joy and elation. Until you realised you weren’t the happiest person in the world. Suddenly you felt guilty for feeling so happy.
Crazy, right? Completely illogical.
We don’t limit ourselves when it comes to feelings of happiness so why do it with feelings of sadness or loss?
The happiest day in the world
Yesterday, the kids were at summer camp and Mr Wanderlust took the day off. He invited me to go for a walk with him after I had finished some work I was doing. Instead of finishing the work right then, I shut my laptop and we left right away. I wanted to make the most of his day off for him and for me. So we went.
It was a gorgeous day yesterday. After a week of rain, the sun was out and the Botanic Gardens looked amazing as always. It dawned on me that we had never been there on our just the two of us, always with the kids. As I guided him round some of my favourite parts of the gardens, we chatted about everything from new jobs to holidays to Christmas plans.
The whole way I rode high knowing I made the right choice going with him early and that I was exactly where I needed to be in that moment.
I didn’t feel guilty for thinking someone else was having the happiest day in the world.
Or maybe I was the person having the happiest day in the world yesterday.
And that’s ok too.