Is Your Suffering Material Enough To Matter?

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

In accounting, we have this concept of materiality where we assess the impact of different amounts on a company’s financial statements based on the size of the company involved and the dollar value of the amount in question. The higher the impact, the more material the amount is likely to be.

For example, a misstatement of $3,000 discovered during an audit is more likely to be immaterial compared to a misstatement of $300,000 since its impact is less significant on the company’s financial statements.

Similarly, an amount of $300,000 could be immaterial to a large global corporation but it will definitely be material to a smaller, more recently established startup.

Materiality is basically a test to evaluate the significance of an amount. And if that amount is small enough, misstatements can be deemed inconsequential, and the amount can be ignored in ensuing audit procedures.

I was just thinking about this concept the other day, and I realized that it could also be applicable within the context of mental health.

Just hear me out.

All of us are suffering in some way, to varying degrees, and we often choose not to seek help because we feel as though our suffering is not significant enough to matter.

Needless to say, if we went to a hospital every time we had a headache or a paper cut, medical professionals will probably not have the capacity to treat patients with more critical illnesses.

But when it comes to mental health, it’s hard to measure exactly how we’re doing, because there isn’t a fixed threshold to compare it to. And as a result, we don’t frequently see a counsellor or go for therapy because, at what point exactly do we seek help?

Most of us are languishing between okay and not okay. And every one of us has built up a different level of emotional tolerance. We think that our suffering is immaterial, and hence inconsequential, so we ignore it.

We might be sad, but are we sad enough?

We’re tired, but are we tired enough?

And because we don’t feel as though our suffering is serious enough to warrant any attention, we go about our day bearing the brunt of our negative emotions.

This becomes a problem when our negative emotions start to accumulate and we’re not able to release them in a healthy way. Overworking leads to burnouts and lower productivity, while bottled up emotions often lead to emotional outbursts on a bad day.

In light of this, I’d like to suggest that we try to reframe our thoughts in a different way. When we think about our suffering, we often compare it to the suffering of someone else before we deem it insignificant. But just because someone else has it worse off, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re suffering too.

If you’re sad, go talk to someone.

I know it sounds simple enough, but not many of us actually do it. We’re afraid of bothering our friends, even though we know talking about it will make us feel better. And it doesn’t take a serious problem for you to seek a counsellor as well. If one is available to you for free, for example in school, have a visit just to check in with a professional.

If you’re tired, rest up whenever you can.

Remind yourself that you’re not a machine, and you deserve to take a break every now and then, even if you don’t feel like you deserve it. Also, keep in mind that recovering from a burnout is often much more difficult than taking daily steps to ensure you are resting enough.

So logically speaking, in the grand scheme of things, it’s actually more productive for you to take breaks every now and then, instead of overworking and risking a burnout.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter if your suffering is significant enough for someone else, because it should matter to you regardless. Any deviation from a balanced state of wellbeing is material, because your mental health matters.

And you matter too. Please remember that.

your damage doesn’t make you broken