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The One Phrase We Really Need To Stop Saying

Why? Because it simply isn't the truth.

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Emanuela Carnevale
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A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend I have known since I was a teenager. She was having trouble with her back and finally got an appointment to see a doctor. Imaging confirmed a torn tendon, which the doctor estimated would take several months to heal. During that time, he advised her to limit her activities, specifically that she not run.

An avid runner, my friend was extremely upset. She couldn’t believe she wouldn’t be able to run all spring. She continued to express her frustration for several minutes and then took a big pause. “I know I should be grateful,” she said with a sigh. "It's not like it's a life-or-death problem....."

After we got off the phone, I started to think about that phrase.

I remember when we were teenagers, every slight was a matter of life or death. Whether it was getting grounded, having a giant zit for formal or failing a test, we felt totally justified lamenting our woes. Anything that happened felt important and our feelings were justified.

Then, as we got older, something shifted. Especially in our 50s, we started to feel like we shouldn’t complain. After all, people have big problems now. We both had our share of big problems. So, we used phrases such as, "Don't sweat the small stuff," "It's all good," "It could be worse," and “It’s not life or death" to prove that we’re wiser now and that trivial things no longer upset us.

But it's time to stop saying, "It's not life or death," and here is why:

It isn’t true.

Minor, inconsequential issues (parking tickets, pulling out your back, a demanding boss) may not be "death." But they are a big part of life. Caring about these little things is a big part of human nature. Yes, we should be grateful when an achy back will resolve itself with time and isn’t a symptom of something life-threatening. But that doesn't mean you aren’t experiencing physical pain or emotional frustration.

Just because you complain doesn't mean you aren't grateful.

People often say, "It's not life or death," to remind themselves to have perspective. But saying it isn't the same as meaning it. Dr. Shira Schuster of Williamsburg Therapy Group explains, “Sometimes, to minimize our problems, we minimize their impact on us. But trivializing our feelings doesn't make us feel better. Instead, we need to permit ourselves to be upset sometimes.”

Whether it’s a problem at work or an issue with your spouse, it’s okay to admit that life is not “all good” all the time. “Bosses can be tough. Marriage can be difficult to navigate. This is your life,” says Dr. Schuster. “You don’t need to minimize your pain or couch every grievance by adding ‘it could be worse’ to show you have perspective.”

Sharing can lighten our load.

When a friend shares a problem, saying, “It’s not the end of the world,” is intended to be well-meaning. But this phrase usually sounds dismissive. The person on the receiving end feels trivialized and probably regrets sharing their feelings.

A vent session with a close friend can be very therapeutic. My friend did not need me to tell her that she was lucky her back problem wasn’t something catastrophic. She already knew that — nothing I said or did was going to fix her physical pain. But I could offer an emotionally safe space where she felt heard.

Dr. Yolanda Pickett, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Hackensack Meridian Health School of Medicine, says, “We need friends that allow us to express ourselves without judgment, even if you know what you are complaining about isn’t a grave problem.”

Little things can eat away at us.

“Minor things can become major if we don’t find a way to process our feelings,” says Dr. Pickett. “Sometimes, you don't feel fine, and having a voice in your head that blocks you from working through those negative emotions can be detrimental.”

Rather than dismiss our feelings, a better approach is to confide in a trusted friend or speak to a therapist. “No one’s life is perfect,” she adds. “Trying to pretend that it is perfect can be isolating and add to feelings of loneliness that are so prevalent in society now. Showing your vulnerability and sharing your problems can lead others to do the same and lead to greater connection.”

Just saying it doesn’t give you perspective.

If you find yourself getting overly aggravated by little things, take a step back from the situation. Be comfortable asking, “Am I overreacting? Will this bother me in a week or a month a year?’" Instead of saying a pat phrase that you don’t really mean, look inside yourself for perspective.

“Having gratitude is important,” explains Dr. Schuster. “It is possible to evaluate the seriousness of a situation and its impact without dismissing your feelings. Just because you're irritated about something does not mean you are ingrate or unappreciative of the good in your life."

Do you agree with the writer? Should we not say this phrase anymore? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle