First World Problems

I have a love/hate relationship with the term, ‘first world problem’.

On the one hand, it is a very effective way to describe problems unique to having too much or worrying about superficial things. When my ego is wounded by utterly inconsequential things like not getting enough ‘likes’ on a posting or feeling self conscious because I’m having a bad hair day, I call them first world problems.

I like doing this to myself because it puts me and my petty problems in their proper place. By belittling my own problems in this way, I remove the magnifying glass and see that what I thought was an unconquerable mountain was actually just another molehill.

On the other hand, I feel like this attitude is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, many of the concerns we experience are matters of the ego. But not all negative feelings are petty emotions we can disregard – in ourselves or others.

Loneliness, hopelessness and apathy are, in my opinions, all examples of first world problems because they aren’t matters of survival or pure necessity. But these are genuine problems that requires society’s compassion and empathy to resolve.

I see this problems captured in the 8 of Swords:

8 of Swords

One common interpretation of this card is that one suffers from self-imposed fears and doubts.

But, according to some philosophies, all suffering  is ultimately caused by thought and consciousness. Whether our problem is feeling abandoned because our friends went to a movie without us or being afraid to become a parent due to a history of child abuse, if we can manage to change the way we feel about a situation, we can free ourselves from it.

Understanding this concept is the easy part. Actually applying its lesson is infinitely more complicated and difficult. It’s easy to tell someone who received poor customer service at a coffee shop to ‘get over it’, but the same advice would be cruel to someone who just lost a loved one in a tragic accident.

Big or small, real or imaginary, self-imposed or not, if we believe we are experiencing pain and hardship, then we are. While it’s good to know that we have control over these problems by the way we think, truly changing the way we think is one of the most difficult things to do. In the process, we need to know when to be tougher on ourselves and stop indulging in feelings of victim-hood and when to show ourselves and other sympathy.


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