Don’t you hate it when you want to exercise but your hair looks good and you don’t want to mess it up? Do you hate it when “your eyes are too big for your stomach” at a restaurant and you get full before you finish what’s on your plate? Do you ever complain because your phone charger isn’t long enough to reach your bed, or because the internet is too slow to stream Netflix?
We have a tendency to take ourselves and our experiences too seriously, no matter how trivial. The internet calls these “first world problems”.
Sometimes we’re able to catch ourselves: I once had a bit of an emotional breakdown because there was nothing good to eat in the fridge! I knew I was being ridiculous, but I was tired and hungry, and it seemed like the end of the world. I remember lying on the floor, alternating between crying and laughing at myself, because the triviality didn’t diminish the emotional crisis that I was experiencing.
Recognizing a #firstworldproblem
Our issues aren’t always easy to see as first world problems. Even if they are, we don’t have to dismiss our every problem completely (unless maybe it has to do with spilled milk). Sometimes issues are legitimate, and just because our problems are not the same as those of people in another country doesn’t mean they’re not real.
Part of acknowledging our first world problems is also knowing that our concerns have value, because we each have value. Give voice to your concerns. Saying them out loud will help you determine their level of importance.
Once a #firstworldproblem has been identified…
Maybe you’ve had an exhausting week and were really looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday—but then a bird’s chirp woke you up early. It’s tough to weigh your desire for sleep against the fact that you woke up in a warm bed with a roof over your head. How can the awareness that this is a first world problem change the way we live?
Father Moon offers his words of wisdom on this particular first world problem. He tells us, “We should be people who can love, and be loved by, even the smallest forms of life, not to mention human beings, as well as everything visible and invisible in heaven.” So when a bird chirps in the morning, he says we should thank the bird for waking us up for this important day (CSG, 113).
To Father Moon, perspective is what matters most. If we see our lives through a lens of love and gratitude, we can embrace any experience.
Gratitude is Key
Like Louis CK says, we are living in a time where everything is awesome. Technology has never been better. We are able to communicate with friends and family members around the world, instantaneously. We are able to “sit in a chair, in the sky,” and fly from New York to California in five hours.
How do we take our problems less seriously? Our little daily annoyances become less important when we focus on other people. When we are grateful and when we are thinking about others’ emotional health, we expand our mindset and become more worldly people. When we start living outwardly, we realize that our own lives are so full of blessings, and the #firstworldproblems stop overshadowing the good things in our lives.
So today, do something to make someone else’s life happier. Go out and pick flowers for someone special to you, or pick up trash on the street. Tell someone what you admire about them, in a letter or in person. Buy a meal for a homeless person, hold the door for somebody, make eye contact with and smile at people on the street. When greeting people, ask people how they’re doing with genuine interest in their answer. Look for real, simple ways to intentionally love others.