So the story is that I've been through stuff in my life, good and bad, a lot of bad. Sometimes I'm bitter and jealous of people who in my opinion have an easier life.
During a discussion earlier today a friend told me that no one has a perfect life and that everyone is messed up. To this, I responded that maybe it's so, but that 90% of the people I've met who claimed to be messed up were complaining about insignificant things (which I'd gladly trade my problems for theirs).
I gave an example of a person who's mourning a broken fingernail for days, so yes, I agree that since that person has never suffered worse that person will suffer as much as anyone in a harsher event.
But the question wasn't who would suffer more, I agree both would suffer equally. I would lose respect for this person, for just knowing that there could be harsher problems should put you in place to not suffer from such a minor event. She claimed that I'm wrong to dismiss that person's anguish.
Since I'm used to dealing with my own problems, instead of seeking attention/acknowledgment for other people, my usual reaction when somebody comes to me with his/her problem is to give advice on how to improve the situation, not be a shoulder to cry on. I'm afraid this might make me a bad friend when the other person might have wanted to cry it out and not actually improve their situation.
I know this is a fault of my own, not looking to other people enough for help, but if I do tackle a problem myself and can't reach a solution, I will consult for advice. Emphasis on consult, I'm not looking for someone to make me feel better, I'm looking for a way to improve the situation.
In short, this discussion raised a lot of inner turmoil in me. I'm worried that I'm wrong in wanting people to put their own issues in comparison with other's and not complain about minor issues (even though they may seem big to them). I'm worried that I'm wrong for feeling jealous of people that have had an easier life. I'm worried that I'm wrong in assuming the lives of these people are easier because they only complain about things that seem 'minor' to me.
I feel I don't have to be a shoulder to cry on for silly things such as a broken nail (exaggerated example) because this in no way compares to all the troubles I've had in life. But on the other hand, I would really like to be as much of a good friend to these people as possible. Somehow, I feel like I would be a happier person if I wasn't like this, but I am also sure I'd lose a critical part of myself. This part I believe helps me live my life to the fullest and not herd along my existence.
A non-exaggerated example would be a friend coming to me for relationship advice, telling me that he got into an argument with his significant other about where they would spend the holiday. This may seem to him like a big issue worth fighting over, but despite having many relationships, I've never had a serious multi-yeared one, and to me fighting over this (in a way that makes you stressed and needing the support) seems illogical. So sure, I can give good advice and help him resolve this conflict, but to me this issue seems trivial when you're already lucky to be in a long committed relationship and you're confident that the other person won't leave you that you can give yourself the luxury to be stressed over this.
Real life example
Another aspect of inability to feel sympathy would be the following: A friend of mine who is complaining about financial difficulty, who is saying that he has a hard life because he has to work two jobs on top of his school work. This friend chose to study a field which is known to not be promising in terms of employment, but he chose to study it because it's what excites him.
I respect that decision, and I wish I was liberated enough to pursue a career which I enjoy more than my current one. But I'm too rigid in the sense that I prefer a career which I enjoy a little less but has work in it, then to have those doubts and stress about whether or not I will be able to sustain myself. When this friend comes to me for advice, I want to say to him: "but you chose this path, you knew you wouldn't have work and would be forced to slave away at minimum pay work". But instead, I give advice and a shoulder and think to myself that he's an idiot. He's not an idiot for making this choice, that was his choice and I respect it, he's an idiot for crying about it. For not standing up to his choices and either admitting that he made mistakes and attempt to change them or accepting them and the hardship that follows.
I'll point out that I always offer good support and my handling of these situations is fine, I don't get called out for giving bad support, but I feel that I'm being fake, and I begin resenting the person who requested the support.
If you can, please take into account all the inner turmoil and background described above. Working from the premise that I want to change if needed and be the best person possible by showing support to these friends with 'insignificant' problems:
How can I change my handling of these interactions to become a better person and be a better support towards others?