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The suffer head syndrome: Stop glorifying suffering to justify success

  • We treat suffering as if it is a rite of passage, as if it must be something you must have experienced at least once in other to succeed, or in order to last long in a relationship or a marriage or get a good education. We carry suffering and we place it on a pedestal. We romanticise it; we write love poems and stories about it. We tell ourselves that before we make it, we will have to suffer first and that is the only way to make something out of our lives. And when people get all these things without suffering, we shame them for it.

    We need to unlearn that and stop glorifying suffering, whether it is in our everyday life, the road to success or relationships. Suffering is not the most critical ingredient in life and should not be treated as such. It is so sad that this mentality has been so deeply ingrained into our system that we cannot separate ourselves from it.

    That the image of the perfect woman is one with hands doing ten things at a time with firewood balanced on the head and a baby resting on her back, so sad that such images are even used on mother’s day to glorify motherhood when it shouldn’t even be the case in the first place. In a typical Nigerian setting, people cannot understand that woman does not need to suffer before she can win her husband’s affection. The assumption that leads to joking about slay queens and other women who don’t break their backs doing housework because they believe that you have to suffer to get anything meaningful out of life.

    Related: How to quit being so hard on yourself

    And in the road to success, suffering has been so glorified that we have people creating fake sob stories just to win the affections of people and get them to patronize them. People who have never suffered in their lives will tell you about their suffering days before they became successful because they know that people love stories like that.

    It is so bad that you can hear the older generations and parents complaining about the new generation and how they have everything easy and accessible. How they didn't have to trek for miles before they get to school, how they have food on the table every morning and enough for lunch. How life has become more comfortable, and they talk about the ‘good old days’ which is all the things they had to endure to become who they were. It is sad because instead of celebrating the fact that life is becoming easier and children are becoming better, they whine and whine about their suffering and wish for the children to experience that to build ‘ their character ‘.

    Life is becoming easier, and we need to learn how to move with it. We need to learn how to stop complaining because people do not know the value of suffering and hard work. Glorifying suffering is doing more harm than good. We are creating a world where people feel the need to lie about breaking their backs instead of just admitting that things happened to them. That they didn’t trek for miles to go to school, that they had access to good school uniforms, that they had access to clean water and a good school environment and they turned out fine.

    Related: Is primary school destroying your child's self-esteem?

    We need to create a world where people are seen as who they are, where you don’t need to turn people into tired humans to call them ideal. We have to create a world where instead of complaining about how this generation has everything easy, we celebrate the fact that we are moving forward and developing as a people and that is amazing.

    This glorification of suffering takes a lot of joy and pleasure in the development we see around us. It doesn’t matter if you as a parent used rags as diapers when you were a baby, let your child enjoy modern day diapers and cereal milk and TV without you breathing down their neck about how they have it easy. They are supposed to have it easy.

    The suffer head syndrome is not just prevalent in the older generation but also in the younger one as well. We need to stop creating fake sob stories so that people will regard us as successful. You don’t have to almost lose a life or a limb in order to have a story worth telling.

    We can’t end this suffer head syndrome until we acknowledge the deep-rooted problem in our everyday lives. We internalise this belief, and that is why it is extremely difficult to separate ourselves from it. The suffer head syndrome creates a bubble that does not allow us to work towards or achieve development, because anything that doesn’t involve suffering is not seen as worthy enough.

    Related article: Six strategies to develop a positive mental attitude

    We need to start with ourselves first and stop taking other people’s stories seriously only when there is suffering involved. And parents especially need to stop shaming their kids for having easier lives, and we need to stop the glorifying of suffering for women that we have in our culture to see which one is willing to endure the most suffering.

    We need to start asking ourselves honest questions about where we stand as a community of people and why we are always so eager to hear stories of people suffering. What do we gain from that? Why do we keep oppressing ourselves and limiting our development? It is okay to have things handed to you, and there is no evidence that suffering is the only thing in the world that can breed good character. Some people still suffer and lack good character, some people suffer their entire lives and don’t succeed until they die and some people do not suffer at all but live good lives.

    We should all learn to say no to this syndrome and try to unlearn everything we have been taught about suffering and success as well as suffering and character building. More often than not, they are not related. 

    Also, check out: Relationships: Do not let the society make you settle for less than you deserve

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