I don’t like when people use comparison to “put problems in context”. When someone is upset about (for example) their boyfriend being mean, I can’t stand when someone turns to them with a knowing look, tells a story about a couple they know where the boyfriend did {insert more terrible thing here}. To me, it seems like instead of helping to alleviate a problem, doing this creates another problem in that the person now also feels bad for being “selfish”.

Because I’ve long been aware of the “comparison trap”, when I first heard someone mention “first world problems”, it got a big old eye roll. Seriously? But I have come to recognize that where the “comparison trap” is typically used for interpersonal problems, “first world problems” is used for material things. first-world-problems-10

I’m glad I recognized this difference because there’s a huge day to day difference between the feelings that are evoked by interpersonal problems and material problems. The negative emotions that accompany material problems (ie. when the hot water stops working which I realize is actually not a first world problem, or when the wifi is down then) are usually short-lived and using comparison to put these problems in context (via identifying them as “first world problems”) is actually effective and not as off putting as when it comes to interpersonal problems.

In short, I want to propose two helpful tips:

DON’T compare someones relationship (romantic or otherwise) problem with an even worse relationship in hopes of making them feel better.

DO chime in with a witty “first world problem” the next time your BFF is seriously stressing over matching the color of her curtains to her couch.

By the way, I started thinking about this primarily because my apartment complex installed a brand new shower rod that is semi circular and now my shower curtain touches me when I use the toilet!


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