Thursday, 12 July 2012

First World Problems And Some Solutions

government, depression
Are "first world problems" unworthy?
by Clemency Flitter

I’m sure that I can’t be the only one whose heart sinks whenever they hear the now over-used phrase, “first world problems”. It seems that in these times of globalisation, when everyone knows how people in other countries live, it’s almost impossible to have a problem worthy of being thought of as anything more than a “first world problem”. 

I don't deny that conditions in third world countries are more than appalling and, of course, worthy of people’s consideration and help. But just because there are reams of people who could be considered to be having a much worse life than our own, has the bar somehow been raised whereby our problems are only worth true sympathy if they involve starvation and death?

At first I thought that this surely couldn't be the case. After all, there are often times when I can’t help but sigh when I hear someone start up a long rant about a favourite top having been lost in the wash. It seems to me that "first world" people in general seem to give themselves a bit of a tough ride with their true problems and true worries. 

People who live in societies like those of the UK and America are living in the highest pressure societies in the world. Though problems such as unemployment and social rejection may seem insignificant to someone living in a third world country where the next meal will be a great struggle, it is actually also extremely difficult for us “privileged” people of the rich first world. Though food will never be a desperate issue for many in this country we are expected to act a certain way, talk in a particular way, always hold things together, have the right body shape and hold the right opinions in the right social circles. It’s exhausting, not to mention stressful! It’s all right for people to say “be yourself” but when you’re out in public wearing the wrong thing or expressing the wrong idea it can be a lot harder.

In fact, this is becoming quite clear as the number of people getting depressed has sky-rocketed in the last couple of decades. It could be said that this was down to awareness, but the number of people developing diseases created from social pressures and insecurities has also significantly increased. These pressures seem to be affecting younger and younger people. Whereas previously money wasn’t an issue until you left home, now money can be a limiting factor in having the ability to leave home. Even in schools the pressures can be extremely demanding on young teenagers. It is no longer enough that you get decent enough grades in your exams to move on. God forbid you forget a homework task or don’t dress properly when meeting up with friends or, horror of horrors, boys!
Presumably you are wondering what the purpose of my ranting is. What I am trying to communicate is that a lot of people try to ignore their own issues as they think them as unworthy of others' attention. After all, even in the fictional world it seems that books, which used to be considered good even if all the characters managed to survive, now have to contain dramatic deaths and near-impossible escapes.
Perhaps your problems are just worries about work (be it school or otherwise) and often people brush these off as the least important as they believe that everyone has the same problems as them. However, because the first world pressures are difficult to manage, even if you are not at death’s door, they are still worth talking about. I know I'm saying this at the risk of sounding like a school visitor who has come to talk to everyone about how to share their feelings once in a while, but this is seriously important stuff!

I think the main thing, for me and often for a lot of people, is to find something to do that is completely relaxed. This 'something' could be a little weird and totally unrelated to any kind of work environment or social obligation. To give you a real-life example, this week I started learning the Elvish alphabet. I did this for no reason other than that I wanted some time off my work - and it has been great fun. Often the “silly” things people do in their spare time can be the best for them. Sudoku, for example, is said to help delay the onset of dementia.

However, to me at least, this was never the point. The point was that I was taking the time I have and, instead of spending it plugging away a little more at another piece of preparation work, I spent it having a small smile on my face. To me, that’s what life’s about. So I say try to live a little more - no work load is so large you can never take time off, and if it is there is probably something you need to change. We may live in a world of food and “privilege” but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take a step back and try to move away from the sometimes crippling pressures.

I don’t have “first world problems”. I have problems that will stay for a while and when they go, they will quickly be replaced. I think that happiness and being problem-free isn’t something to strive for; it is something that must be taken as it comes, treasured and then left again until it can return. I'll leave you with a quote which I heard a few years ago and have never forgotten since. (I have to confess, though, that there is much debate over who originally came up with the quote and I couldn't trust myself to say accurately who it was. If you know, please leave a comment!) I have written it in the Elvish alphabet because, at the moment, that is what makes me smile.  
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time


  1. nice article, clemancy(:

  2. really like this one :) so true about money being an increasing issue among even young people and all the pressures they have to face :|
    not that the third world problems are any less important but sometimes we forget how the first world problems are impacting young people, too.
    (and then there's the whole issue about depression and other diseases that also effect our economy...) so i completely agree with the advice you gave (because truthfully we aren't any happier than we used to be around 50 years ago, and therefore we should spend doing things that we enjoy) and that quote is one on my favourites. even john lennon has said it in the past!
    i love this part of this article "I think that happiness and being problem-free isn’t something to strive for; it is something that must be taken as it comes, treasured and then left again until it can return."

    1. Thanks so much Salma! I'm so glad you liked the article I just think that we often focus on the more "serious" problems elsewhere that do need focus but sometimes we miss some of the other problems closer to home!
      I think I did hear that John Lenon said the quote but apparently a lot of people have in the past and I didn't want to only credit a few and I'm not sure who the original is! But it's an amazing quote!

      Thank-you again for your lovely comment!

  3. I agree with what you've said, Salma R. - it's so true! Personally, I love how Clemency has made such a tabooed topic so accessible :)

    1. Thanks Viva! I dislike the way sometimes topics like these are treated as no-go areas I think it should be something people can talk more about! :)


Hi there!

We'd love it if you'd share your thoughts and ideas. Don't forget to check back after commenting because we try to reply to all of your comments.

Just remember to be nice, please!