To avoid any misunderstandings: I am fully aware of the impact the pandemic is having – or as well as I can be, given that in many ways its full impact will only show over time. I am also aware that I am writing from a position of privilege: I cannot begin to imagine what life is like for those infected, for those saving and caring for the ill, for those keeping our lives going at the moment, all the while putting their own lives at risk.
With that said: as much as the pandemic is changing our lives, I also feel it’s not changing it in other ways. All over social media, I am seeing posts about self-compassion and self-care. Advice to be gentle with ourselves as opposed to worrying about our productivity. To find our own authentic way to deal with it all – whether or not that may include baking banana bread, exercising or not getting out of our PJs all day. Here’s my question to you: How is any of this different to “normal” life?
A while ago, I wrote an article about nobody having the right to validate your feelings. In my experience it’s something we – consciously or sub-consciously – look for a lot: are we allowed to feel what we are feeling? Are we suffering enough to feel pain? Do we have it bad enough to be upset? Are we busy enough to feel stressed? And so on. And in that respect the pandemic is giving us a respite from our self-flagellation. The whole world is confirming that it’s ok not to feel ok. But of course, all of this applies under “normal” circumstances, too. Not only do personal tragedies occur outside the parameters of a pandemic, there are also no objective measures for our experiences. You don't have to be unemployed to have financial worries. You don't have to work a 60 hour week to have a burnout. You don't have to leave school with qualifications to feel bleak about your professional future. You don't have to be single to feel unloved. You don't have to move to a new country to feel lonely.
Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel. You don’t need to justify yourself to yourself or anyone else. Don’t seek understanding but acceptance.
It’s part of being human that we are constantly comparing ourselves. And rest assured that you will always find somebody living under worse conditions than you, doesn’t mean that your own anguish, despair and fear isn’t valid. While there is so much communality in our human experience, we are still leading our own lives with distinct personal experiences. Two people (seemingly) going through the same experience, will not experience in the same way. The collective doesn’t dictate how you feel and think.
None of this means to wallow in self-pity. No matter what we feel, we then always have a choice on what our next step is going to be and how we want to handle ourselves and the situation. But starting off by condemning ourselves for our feelings, is not getting us of to a good start.
I would like to invite you to honour your feelings – now and always. To show yourself compassion and treat yourself kindly. And also apply this to how you treat others. We might not understand why people are reacting the way they do. We might not always understand their pain. But we can honour their feelings without judging them or trying to explain them away.
Sending lots of love – now and always.