Every Battle is Valid

            Everyone is fighting their own battle, including you.

            That’s a sentiment you’ve probably heard repeatedly. Everyone is on a journey of growth that you can’t see, so don’t judge what you don’t understand. It’s true. But how often do we afford that same kindness to ourselves? How often do you compare yourself to others, thinking, “Wow, I’m nowhere close to accomplishing what they have. I’m such a failure.”

            I admit, I’ve done this more times than I can count. We beat ourselves down over our friends and families’ victories as though their successes speak ill of us. But sometimes, we make these comparisons without even realizing it.

            Let me tell you the story of how I realized I have insomnia.

            You might laugh if I tell you it never occurred to me that staying up until 3 am because my body simply wasn’t tired might be a sleeping disorder. I thought I was just a night owl. But that’s because my brother has insomnia.

            My mother has endless stories of sleepless nights from when my brother was a baby. But by comparison, I was a sound sleeper. Even into adolescence and adulthood, my brother has learned to live on less sleep than the average person. He’s taken medications and tried meditation, counting sheep, you name it. It’s always been a problem.

            So, I looked at him and thought, if that’s what insomnia looks like, I must just be staying up late by choice. He also has trouble staying asleep, while I have trouble waking up. When comparing our sleep cycles, I concluded that my sleep problems were my fault. I thought I was lazy.

            Somehow, it never occurred to me that something was physically wrong with me, something outside of my control. I was consistently the last person to fall asleep in my house (I could hear everyone else snoring), and I blamed myself for being lazy and distracted.

            I was comparing myself unequally to someone else, getting a skewed result, and finding my answer in incorrect data. It was years of self-resentment over a misunderstanding I didn’t even realize I had.

            Have you ever done this? Have you measured yourself on a scale built for someone else and wondered why the results made you feel awful?

            There’s a reason we’re not supposed to compare our journeys through life to each other, and it isn’t always for the other person’s benefit. Yes, we should give others grace because we don’t know what’s happening in their lives. But it’s essential to give yourself grace as well. You might not know what’s going on with you either.

            Funny as that sentiment may sound, it’s extremely common for us not to recognize our own experiences. People go years without a diagnosis for physical and mental ailments. We don’t identify the source of a problem because we’re too focused on the side effects.

            I used an example of my sleep disorder, but it may not be an illness. Maybe it’s a habit causing you problems, but other people do the same thing with seemingly no problem, so you dismiss it. It could be a toxic person who gets along with your mutual friends just fine but brings out the worst in you.

            There isn’t always a clear reason why aspects of life affect each of us differently. We’re unique humans, and that comes with a lot of variation in perspective and experience. No two people see the world the same way. It’s a cliché for a reason.

            However, just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t be understanding.

            Do you want to know a fun fact? I can’t stand cotton balls. The way the fibers rub against each other when you squeeze it makes me want to vomit. I don’t know why I have this reaction, and no one else I know feels the same way. But I’ve learned to live my life avoiding cotton balls. It’s not something I feel the need to apologize for, and I don’t beat myself up for being different. If I could adopt that ideology into every part of me that is unusual, I would probably be more content with who I am.

            But, like all things in life, it’s a process.

            So, I hope you give yourself some grace with the struggles you may not recognize or are just learning about now. Not all of them will be something that needs fixing. Fight your fight and embrace your unique you.

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