I very clearly remember a defining moment in my life. It occurred after having several tough years of trying to find friends in a new state. I found it challenging to find new friendships as an adult when all I seemed to do was go to and from work. Yet this particular evening, I was out to dinner with a couple of friends I had managed to make. I felt loved and accepted among these new friends and my walls were fully down. It felt so good to just be ME, laughing and fully engaging in the great conversation.

And then it happened.

I was relating to an experience one of them was talking about and suddenly she stopped and stared at me. She said something to the effect of, “You? How can you possibly understand? You have such a charmed and easy life.” She then rolled her eyes and continued talking to the other friend.

I felt so small in that moment and completely ashamed.

How could I feel what I was feeling? Apparently, I was not allowed to feel any negative feelings about a situation like that because my experience had been seemingly easier than theirs. I left that night in tears and the friendship was never the same.

I started dimming my light in the years that followed. I made apologies for what I had achieved and who I had grown into being. I dismissed my own feelings for the sake of others and discounted anything that was abundant in my life. Thankfully, through a lot of personal development and self-reflection, I started shining again – unapologetically.

As a society, we have a tendency to dismiss the experiences and feelings of others that we perceive haven’t had it “hard enough” or haven’t “earned it.” The trouble is, not one of us knows what another person has walked through to get to where they are. We might be walking into someone’s middle when we are at our beginning. We can never truly know.

At our core, we are simply human beings who feel the same feelings. It is not an earned right to feel sadness or frustration, nor do we lose that right when we achieve a certain level of success. We are all walking through the journey of the human experience.

In case you needed a reminder or permission, here it is. You have a right to feel EVERY part of your experiences. And in the words of my friend, Hannah Rae, your experience is not up for negotiation. And if you happen to have more ease and success in your life than others around you – never dim it for fear of making someone else feel inferior. You do not help anyone by doing that. With gratitude and humility, be a light to guide others and model what is possible.

I will never, ever dim my light for anyone again. I am supremely grateful for all that I have and am AND I will feel and acknowledge every experience I have along the journey. I hope you do the same.