How are you, really?
Updated: Apr 12
Talk about a loaded question. In the year 2020 this question can lead to anything from, “I’m bored and I need a haircut” to “My grandfather died alone in the hospital from Covid-19 last week.” Yet, if you have lived in North America for most of your life, your brain has been conditioned for one response. “I’m fine.”
In fact, we are so conditioned to say “I’m fine” and listen for “I’m fine” that motivational author and speaker Mel Robbins built her famous Ted Talk around this concept. She even wrote a book called, “Stop saying you’re fine.” In her work she tackles the reality that we often don’t feel like doing the things we need to do to accomplish our goals. In short, you might feel anything BUT fine, but you can still move forward.
There’s a lot of social pressure to say you’re fine, or to only entertain positive thoughts. This negates the reality of the human experience. I saw this in action this week in one of my social media feeds. Someone posted a question asking people to describe their 2020 experience in one word. Immediately the comments filled up with positive, motivational, buzz words: determined, blessed, thrive, growth, fighter, refocused, appreciative…you get the picture. When someone posted a response that indicated they were not enjoying 2020 and felt something negative (it’s the meme included with this post) they were immediately admonished to guard their thoughts. After all “we bring into our lives what we think about,” or so the positive thought mantra goes.
Ten years ago, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote, Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America, about the aggressive and sometimes insensitive disciples of positive thinking. Her lessons about the harm in bludgeoning people like cancer patients with advice to be cheerful in the face of a crisis rings true again today. YOU might be using the chaos of 2020 to reinvent your business or reshape your life into something wonderful, but not everyone is having the same experience.
People have lost their jobs, businesses, and life’s savings during this pandemic. Thousands have lost friends and family to Covid-19 AND have been denied the normal mourning and grieving rituals that would help them accept and process these losses. If you’re struggling right now, you don’t need to feel bad for feeling bad. If things are going well for you:
Listen when people tell you how they REALLY feel
Resist the urge to shove positive platitudes on others
When asked for advice, offer actionable solutions and real support and assistance
I’ve written a free ebook about getting through the last months of 2020, and one of the things I address is not feeling bad if you didn’t accomplish all your lofty lockdown goals. Check it out here.