MacDonald: Students shouldn’t compete in whining Olympics

Alexandra MacDonald

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In 2019, we have a culture of being overwhelmed. It’s not something we can call out or cancel, and it’s not something we as students do because we want to be constantly stressed or exhausted.


Sometimes we exaggerate it though, and we use our pain to try and empathize with our peers. We try and show off how our day was worse than the next person’s, but we know it all comes down to perspective. 

There isn’t much to be gained from the comparative suffering — a term used in Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong” — of somebody else’s bad day.

Comparative suffering only serves to make someone bitter and reserved. As impressionable young adults, we should be trying to urge ourselves and each other to be better and make better choices.

Obviously, it isn’t fun to have the least energy or motivation out of the group, so we certainly shouldn’t be advertising that it makes us better than someone else. Arguing that you are having it worse doesn’t make people want to hang out with you. 

We refuse to recognize that everybody has problems. If you have the privilege of owning a car when another person must take the bus to get to the same place, there are issues with either option.

Without the car, you need extra time to make it to the bus, and there isn’t as much freedom to go wherever you want, which is a problem for somebody who has a job or goes to school. With a car, the owner has to make the payments that owning the car requires — like insurance, maintenance and obtaining a driver’s license. 

There isn’t much to be gained from the comparative suffering — a term used in Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong” — of somebody else’s bad day.

While these problems aren’t perfectly equal — because some problems truly are worse than others — they are still problems that everybody has. Many people complain without giving a second thought about whether the person they are talking to might be going through something worse. That’s not how anything gets solved. 

To play the devil’s advocate, how would it play out if your day was actually worse? Both you and the friend who came to you to complain are now in sour moods, and at best, you can just sulk about it. From a larger perspective, negativity isn’t usually helpful. 

With such busy and stressful lives, college students do this all the time. Showing off how little you slept or how much coffee you’re running on isn’t a sign of healthy behavior and shouldn’t be promoted. We shouldn’t be celebrating that kind of thing because it won’t help anyone in the long run. 

Encouraging ourselves and our friends to make better choices and supporting them instead of competing will make them feel more relieved. Maybe you did have a bad day, but you should wait for your turn to talk. We should be practicing the art of listening instead of waiting for the next chance to speak. Better listeners are better friends.


Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at or on Twitter @alexandramacc.