Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?


Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.

 

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Bulletin Board Of Inspired Quotes


Last week I had a moment of inspiration while spending some time in our Resource Centre. Just like you; just like anyone I suppose, that moment came where I thought, “I wonder if other people will think as much of this idea as I do; it has a lot of potential.”

Now ours is a place to go exclusively for those in receipt of Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program social assistance programs. So essentially those who make use of it may be there for a number of reasons. Some look for jobs, housing, attend workshops and seminars or get help finding community services. Others use it as a place to network, socialize, have someone they can trust hear them out, make a phone call or use the fax/copy services. We attract a variety of purposes, even though our centre is at present limited to these two groups.

At the rear of our drop-in Resource Centre are 5 boards we’ve typically used in the past to put up the latest job postings. Observation of these boards has suggested that while some people continue to scan them for employment possibilities, more and more users tend to sit down at one of the 20 computers we have and look for jobs themselves; finding them as they are posted throughout a day.

This has led our team to re-examine the effectiveness of having all 5 of these boards filled with jobs and duplicating what people find themselves. I stood looking at an empty board the other day and thought about what I or we could do with that board other than job opportunities. Then it came to me. I’d search online for motivational quotes and stick them up on the board with the invitation to take whatever a person wanted or needed. But would it work?

I began by turning to the internet and went to Bing. Sorry Google, but I’m a Bing man. I searched, “Quotes with pictures” and clicked on Images which gave me the result of photographs and illustrations with various motivational or insightful quotes overlaid on them. These I scanned, choosing the ones I thought might particularly appeal to the audience they would attract.

Characteristically, the people who would stand before this board might be unemployed, anxious, perhaps lacking career direction, feeling despair, loneliness, isolation, depression, dwindling hope, low self-esteem, medically and mentally fragile and frustrated. On the other hand they may also be resilient, determined to succeed, need support, adaptable, hopeful, open to change and thankful.

When I found a quote I liked and hoped might speak personally to someone in a public space, I saved the photo to the computer I was on and then copied and pasted the photo/quote to a Word document I called, “Quotes with pictures”. Yes, painfully obvious; but that’s what file names are supposed to be right?

Then it was left to me to print several pages of these gather quotes with pictures and make sure they were of various sizes, so they’d appeal more to the eye as a collage and not looking too institutionalized. With 7 or 8 pages of these quotes, I cut them all to size and pinned them to the board, taking care to ensure they were randomly placed by theme, size and image. In the center of the board I placed, “Please Take What You Need”; an invitation to help yourself to anyone looking.

That was just Friday last and yesterday combined. With anything new, you’ve got two choices; direct people who don’t notice to what you’ve done or allow people to discover what’s new on their own. In a place like ours, people can get robotic; come in, do their thing, leave, return, repeat. I opted to let people go the self-discovery way. After all, I didn’t want people to feel they had to compliment me on the board, nor did I want people to feel they should take something just to please me.

I was delighted to later have a fellow come up to me with 7 or 8 of the quotes in his hand and double-check to see if he really could take them with him or if he was expected to photocopy what he took and replace them. When I told him to help himself; that they were there for the taking, he smiled and appeared quite happy. I could have asked why those 7 or 8. I could have looked at them to know which ones to replace. I could have started data collecting to see what speaks to people and then use that information to start conversations with people on whatever they wanted to talk about. I didn’t do any of these things. I replaced the quotes with more.

If you like this idea or some resemblance of it, feel free to duplicate it all or in part and adapt it to your space and your audience. You can also search by topic: leadership, hope, goal setting, courage, team work, strength, wisdom – the list is only as long as your own imagination. There’s other ways of arriving at the same finished products too; you could make your own quotes and insert them as text over your own photos. You could also use a colour printer. Or what about one colour photo in a sea of black and white ones – just to see the impact?

Conversation starter or source of inspiration; my share with you to start August 2017.

Re-Inventing Yourself?


Whether by choice or necessity, have you ever, or are you now in a place where you’re re-inventing yourself? You know, moving in a completely new direction from what you’ve typically done work-wise in the past. Depending on your circumstances, this can be an exhilarating time of hope, possibilities and uncharted exploration, or it can be fraught with stress, desperation, anxiety and worry.

So, is it starting to sound like I’m speaking to you directly? There’s actually a good chance that this resonates with you to some degree because all of us have times in our lives where we assume new roles. This is important to both hear and comprehend; all of us go through this.

It’s true you know… becoming a teenager then an adult, being a parent or grandparent, the first job where we joined the ranks of the employed, leaving one job for another. There are all kinds of moments in our lives when we transitioned from one role to another. But somehow, changing your career at this particular time in your life seems markedly different from all those other transitions. This is magnified when you feel forced to make the change instead of initiating change out of a personal desire.

For a lot of folks, the anxiety is stirred up wondering what to actually do. It’s like that year in high school where you had to make a decision on what you wanted to be when you grew up. As awkward as that period might have felt way back then, it pales in comparison to the present where you’re no longer 17 or 18 years old with your entire work life in front of you. No, now you’re looking at yourself and wondering, “what am I going to do at my age?”

For the men and women who have been in positions of labour their whole lives, this idea of needing a new vocation could be brought about because their bodies are no longer able to take the physical demands of their trade. While the body is refusing to do what it’s always done, the brain is fully capable and stress is caused because the work they’ve done is only what they know. It’s like laying bricks for 37 years and then the back and knees give out, so the Bricklayer struggles trying to figure out what else they could do.

Sometimes the body isn’t the problem though. Sometimes the prevailing problem is of a mental rather than physical issue; the need to change careers is however just as valid. For many, there is still the notion – completely wrong in my opinion – that a mental health issue needs to be concealed, while a physical issue can be more easily shared and understood. So the person with two bad knees and a back issue gets empathy and understanding while the person with anxiety and depression draws more skepticism and doubt. As a result, some people hide their mental health challenges as long as they can, thereby making it difficult if not impossible to get the very support and help they need to move forward.

A good place to start when you have to re-invent yourself is taking stock of what you have on hand. Imagine yourself on a ship with your destination fully known and suddenly waking up one day to find yourself shipwrecked on an island. You need to survive so you take stock of what resources you have. You don’t go off exploring your surroundings without first taking your bearings and assessing your needs and your resources.

Using that analogy, you’ve gone through – or are going through – the shock of an abrupt change in your work life. The future is going to be very different from your past and while you understand this on an intellectual level, you’re at that crossroads trying to figure out in what direction to move. You’re worried perhaps that with the limited time and resources you have available, you can’t afford to just move in any old direction in case you choose wrong. If only you could look ahead and see the rewards and pitfalls in all directions and then decide. Life doesn’t always work this way though; as you more than anyone has just found out because you didn’t foresee where you are now in your future just a few years ago.

So take stock of your skills, experiences both paid and volunteer. What did you like and dislike about the work you’ve done in the past. What are you physically capable of and mentally able to take on? It may be that the very best thing you can do is give yourself the gift of a short break. Yes money might be tight but if you can free up funds for a short trip to somewhere you feel good in, you may do wonders for your mental health.

Getting a booklet on courses from a community college or university might enlighten you  to jobs you haven’t considered; and you might discover funding assistance at the same time to go back to school if you wish.

This crossroads you’re in could be a blessing too. You’ve got time now to really think about what to do with your life; something some people who dislike their current jobs would envy you for. When you’re ready, and definitely not before, reach out and share your thoughts with someone you who’ll listen with an open mind.

All the very best as always!

What’s Your Status?


Not all those who are out of work are seeking it, nor are those who seek it similarly motivated to find it. It could be that you or someone you know are among the growing number who are either dissatisfied with their current job but content to keep it or unemployed and increasingly frustrated to the point you are no longer actively looking. In both cases, the growing numbers are unsettling.

There is a tragic irony at the moment when what employers’ look for most in those they hire are enthusiasm for the work to be performed, bringing a positive attitude to the workplace and self-investment. Where’s the irony? It exists in the growing numbers of workers who have for some time now grown increasingly bitter, discouraged and frustrated with the prevailing behaviours of employer’s generally, who treat their employees as expendable and interchangeable.

Ironic as that might be, there is a real cost to our society that is hard to measure quantitatively but is real just the same. Treat an employee with respect, give reason for them to believe that they can aspire to positions of greater responsibility and corresponding income and workforce engagement increases. With a more engaged workforce, individual workers commit more to what they produce, increasing their overall efficiency, resulting in turn in better products and services.

However, the opposite is also true. Treat an employee with a lack of respect, give them little reason or hope to think they will ever aspire to positions of greater responsibility and limit their financial empowerment, and they disengage from the workforce. Individual workers are less committed to their work, productivity drops as does the quality of the goods and services produced. Rare indeed is the employee who will continually invest fully of themselves and continue to invest at a high level when they don’t feel valued by their employer.

As for the unemployed, it is no surprise to find that when a person has little to no reason to feel encouraged and hopeful that they will find a job, they lose enthusiasm for the process. We might meet a person who is out of work and depending on the moment we find them see them heavily invested or entirely detached from seeking employment.

Whether a person is looking for a survival job or a job with meaning that they attach to it, how they experience the job search has a great deal with how fast or prolonged that job search will be. So the job seeker who finds themselves getting no replies at all to their applications – not even an acknowledgement that they’ve applied – this person will grow increasingly despondent. The person who gets acknowledged, and even better the odd interview and some meaningful feedback has reason to hope.

It is common for an unemployed person to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”, “What am I not doing?”. Without feedback, some go on making the same mistakes out of ignorance, then lose enthusiasm to even look or eventually stop looking altogether. The cost to the person then rises; gaps in resumes appear, smiles morph into faces of consternation, the optimistic turn doubtful, the experienced lose their relevance.

No wonder than that a number of employers openly question the quality of applicants that approach them for employment. Where did all the highly motivated, skilled workers with current work histories and best practices go? It is far too easy to lay all the blame at the door of all employers. Some in fact are exceptionally good at cultivating investment in the people they employ.

This problem of disengagement isn’t confined to the out-of-work only. There are many current workers who are holding on to jobs they once found challenging and satisfying who are now just putting in time. They are performing at levels just good enough to keep their jobs, but they mentally invest less and less and produce items and offer services with less investment. The result is that the employer becomes interested only as it affects their bottom line and addresses not the core of the problem but oft-times the symptoms.

So why do workers stay in jobs they no longer feel engaged performing? Primarily it comes back to the economy. It’s precarious to leave the known for the unknown; security of employment only to start new and fresh in the hopes of not just getting a job elsewhere but regaining things like seniority, similar benefits like the number of vacation weeks one’s earned. With so much competition out on the streets already, maybe it’s fear that keeps many from moving on. And of course, putting a résumé together, writing letters, going to interviews, being rejected, trying again and networking etc. just seems like so much more effort than what one’s doing at the present.

This isn’t a good recipe for finding the brightest and best. This is a recipe that could eventually with the right agitation lead to major changes by way of disruptive instigation brought about by necessity for change. More people growing anxious about finding employment; more finding it harder to feel acknowledged for their efforts as well as their results.

While respect for the job seeker isn’t the only answer, respect for people no matter their employment status and ensuring that work performed is meaningful and appreciated is a good start.

What’s your take on some of the thoughts I’ve raised here?

About This Gap On Your Resume


Have a gap on your résumé? If so, you might be feeling some anxiety heading into the job interview, dreading the moment when the interview peers across the table, looks you squarely in the eye and pleasantly says, “I’m interested to hear what you were doing that explains this gap in time on your résumé.”

So there it is, out in the open; that slap in the face moment when you feel trapped between wanting to tell the truth and knowing if you do your chances of getting this job are gone. There just doesn’t seem to be a good answer to your personal situation. Well, let’s see if we might come up with some helpful suggestions.

Before we get to the content or what you’ll actually say, I urge you to deliver this particular question with confidence. Interviewers you’re no doubt aware, are well-trained to observe people’s body language and facial expressions. Whenever you are telling an outright lie or exaggerating the truth greatly, a person’s body language gives them away.

It’s highly likely that because this question is one you are uncomfortable answering, you might naturally mimic the same body language as those that lie or greatly stretch the truth, and this you want to avoid at all costs. So do your very best to speak with confidence, look the interviewer in the face as you answer the question and squash any sheepishness in your delivery.

The second thing I’d like you to remember is that times have changed. In the past, anyone with a gap in their résumé stood out more. Individuals often worked at companies for decades and there was greater pressure on people to keep working while dealing with personal problems. Things have changed though; it is more common these days to have a gap as more people are experiencing lay-offs, plant restructurings, downsizing and people themselves are just more mobile than ever. Changing jobs is much more common. So it  isn’t necessarily the huge disaster you might think it is to have a gap on a résumé.

Okay so you need a good answer. The key here is to be truthful and at the same time feel good about the answer you deliver. Coming up with a good honest answer can dramatically change the entire interview largely in part because you won’t be waiting in a heightened nervous state for this question. This is going to have a positive impact on the rest of the interview as a result.

Now honestly, to best coach you through this question, I’d need to know – (and so would anyone you are consulting with for help) the real reason for the gap. Knowing the truth helps tremendously to tailor a response that is personal, believable and deliverable. So no matter who you are working with, open up, lay it out and then with the worst on the table, you can together build an answer that you can confidently deliver in the real world.

So, not knowing your specific reason for the gap, here are some common situations: time off to raise a child, previously fired and unable to mentally cope with the experience, marriage breakdown, significant death in the family, uncertainty over career direction. Now you might have one of the above or you might have something else like jail time, caring for an ill family member, recovering from surgery or a health scare or possibly you just stopped looking altogether due to some depression or frustration.

For a number of the answers above, something could have been simultaneously going on in your life; trying to figure out what your next career move would be. There is and always has been a number of people in most people’s lives who unknowingly cause us anxiety asking us constantly what it is we are going to be; what we are going to do with our lives. While we’re busy just trying to stay afloat and cope with things in our Life, we’re just not ready to plan out the road map of our next 30 years when everyone else seems to have their own master plans perfected.

Herein could be part of our answer to the gap period; time spent figuring out what steps to take re. career direction. Could we honestly say something like, “The period in question is time I took to check what it was I really wanted to do moving forward. Rather than take a short-term job which would have robbed me of the time to thoroughly research my next move, I pulled back and put my energy into assessing myself, including my interests, skills and experience. I found that what I really want to do is __________ and after further investigation this organization emerged as a good fit for me personally. This is the reason I sit before you today.”

If this works for you, I’m glad and feel free to extract what you can. You see, an answer like the one above might actually be some of what was really going on even though it’s not the only thing that was going on. You might well have had a personal issue to walk through, but there’s nothing that says you have to share 100% of all the reasons you have a gap on your résumé. Not unless you had to swear on a bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth at any rate!

 

 

What Are YOU Waiting For?


Whether it’s deliberating on returning to school, putting off seeing a Mental Health Counsellor, having a mammogram or colonoscopy, getting in shape, taking that trip, saying I love you or any number of things you could be stalling over, I simply ask you, “what are you waiting for?”

Is it the right moment? When do you see that happening? What are you waiting to fall into place so the time is right?

Do. It. Now.

We know that time doesn’t wait; every powered clock ticks by and the second that just elapsed will never come again. Yes there is an urgency and you’ve been lucky so far in delaying taking action. So far, things haven’t significantly changed robbing you of the opportunity to do what it is your mulling or fretting over. However, with every passing second there is an increasing possibility that something can and will change, stealing your opportunity and that possibility will be replaced with regret. Is that what you want?

Consider: you might know someone who waited too long to tell another how much they were in love. Then what happened? In waiting for just the right moment, a third person entered in and with just a little more urgency said what they did not. Opportunity gone.

Maybe you know someone who said, “I should have gone back to school but I was waiting until I earned more money first…now I’m too old. There’s people who planned on traveling abroad and seeing the world but never actually went anywhere because instead they bended to family pressures and stayed home. Perhaps you know someone who always wanted to be a (fill in the blank) but put off really going for it because it just seemed too hard – and that disappointment still haunts them.

Too much can happen while you deliberate. People move or die, jobs get filled, prices rise, doors once open close, responsibilities surface, needs change… you get the point. Do it now.

I have to tell you that one of the biggest mental blocks I hear over and over in my job is, “but I’m too old now”. Who says so? is my reply. Most of the time the one person holding them back isn’t some Hiring Manager at a company they want to work for, nor is it someone in Human Resources refusing to advance their application. No, more often than not the person who thinks they are too old is the person themselves. Here it is in a nutshell: if you think you’re too old…you are. And until you change this crippling mindset you will continue to be.

How sad it is to be locked in some prison cell of our own making with the key in our hands and lamenting to anyone passing by that you just want to be released. The key (literally in this scenario) is in your hands! Open the door!

You always have choices: 1) Do it now. 2) Do it later (maybe) 3) Don’t do it.

If it’s important enough that you lie awake consumed with wanting badly; if it’s your every waking moment’s thought; if in your most personal and intimate moments of reflection it just keeps surfacing, don’t you owe it to yourself to make it your reality? At least to try?

How long is your lifespan? You have no idea of course. You imagine yourself living a set number of years, and you hope those will be in decent if not good health. Your time is finite. From the moment you were conceived and later breathed that first gasp of air your clock starting ticking and will at an unknown point suddenly stop without warning. Yours might stop at 34 years, 16 days and 23 minutes. Maybe it’s 51 years, 11 months and 6 minutes, 18 seconds. Of this you have no absolute knowledge or control.

What you can control is what you choose to do with the time you have now. What is important to you? Who are the people important to you? What are the causes you care about, where are the places you want to see in-person, what are the changes in the world you want to bring about that are important to you to make it a better place? What is the education or job you always wanted?

For if you knew you only had 2 years left, would you spend your remaining days going about life the way you are now? Would your answer change if you had 6 months? What if you knew you had 60 years left? Would having all that time left cause you to put off what you really want today?

Now you may be someone who wants to get going but can’t figure out what it is you really want. Maybe that’s at the core of your stress; the indecisiveness and associated inaction. DO SOMETHING. Nothing happens until you take action. So take a chance and learn from the outcome. Register for school, tell somebody how much you mean to them, go to the gym, buy the house, get on the plane, mend the feud that’s kept you apart, take the course, say yes instead of maybe.

With every passing second, you’re rolling the dice and gambling that they’ll always be time in the future to do what you want to do but lack the courage to do now.

Will your life be punctuated with a period or an exclamation mark? Hopefully not a dreaded question mark.

 

 

Experiencing Mental Health Issues?


Be positive. Look on the bright side. Turn that frown upside down. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. See the glass as half full. Don’t be a sour puss.  Things can only get better. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. Nobody wants to be around a grumpy Gus.

Sayings from the past and present that all send the same message; look at things with a positive point of view and present yourself to others with a cheerful disposition. Easier said than done for some folks; at least for some folks some of the time.

It’s likely true that most people do enjoy being around other people who are upbeat and positive. When you surround yourself with optimistic people who are positive, you feel some of that positivity rub off on you. When you walk away you feel better, encouraged, hopeful and in a better mood. Whether that feeling lasts but a moment or you carry it forward for a while depends entirely on you.

On the other hand it’s also the case that if you spend some time with someone who is moody, brooding, negative and talks about doom and gloom, you’re likely to walk away feeling down yourself. Given the choice of the two, most would certainly choose to surround themselves with positive people.

The challenge for some people however is that they are not accustomed to smiling or looking positive. When they are at ease, their faces take on what the rest of us might consider a serious countenance. They look intense, maybe even uninviting; radiating a, “I’d rather be left alone thank you” impression. Unfortunately this may not be how they are really feeling at all, but they come across this way and they know it. They know it because people have told them over and over for ages to smile and look happy.

This issue becomes compounded of course when they experience stress and pressure, especially if it lingers as in the case of a prolonged period of unemployment or financial hardship. As job searching can be fraught with highs and lows, built-up expectations and dashed hopes, it becomes even harder to stay upbeat and hopeful. That advice to put on a smile and fake it until you make it just sounds near impossible.

Empathizing with people who are anxious, depressed, edgy, stressed and immobilized means in part to accept them where they are; appreciating the circumstances in which they find themselves and having a measure of respect. Unless you’ve experienced what they have experienced – (and if you recognize that each person experiences things in their own unique way) it’s difficult to understand sometimes why they can’t change.

Telling someone to just snap out of it and expecting they’ll immediately slap a lasting smile on their face is unreasonable. If it were that easy, they’d have figured that out on their own. They’re likely to think or say, “Don’t you think I would if I could?” What if perhaps this condition you later discovered wasn’t so much a conscious choice the person is making to come across as sad and morose but rather an ongoing mental health issue?

What continues to be difficult for many to truly appreciate is that sometimes this mental health condition isn’t one of choice. No more than say, telling someone with a broken wrist to, “just write or type with it anyhow”, or “suck it up buttercup and deal with it.” That would be insensitive, and at the first sight of the cast on their wrist and forearm we’d be much more likely to acknowledge their injury and perhaps offer our help, extending some empathy or at the very least some sympathy.

But a mental health issue is so much less obvious isn’t it? We don’t know if a person is behaving the way they are by choice or not. Unlike seeing someone with a cast on their wrist and making small talk about how it happened, it’s highly unlikely we’d go up to someone who looks depressed and say, “Are you just sad or are you coping with a mental health disorder?” The other person might be so shocked at this that they wouldn’t know how to respond. They might respond with a, “Mind your own business”, “Is it that obvious?”, or possibly a, “Thanks for asking, actually I am…”

Imagine how much energy it would take to mask and attempt to cover up a condition like social anxiety or full-blown depression. Picture yourself having to force an insincere smile and generate some artificial laughter with those you meet, feeling that to fit in you have to be someone you’re not at your authentic core. That would be exhausting. How long could you keep that up? Could you pull it off? Don’t we all want others to accept us for who we are; aren’t we being told again and again to just be ourselves?

Many people who experience mental health issues are getting some form of help. They are doing the best they can to fit in but their not always successful. They experience the world around them from their unique perspective which may be different from others. Treatments vary as does the outcomes of these interventions.

If you don’t understand it or get it, can’t really empathize with them but wish you could, don’t compound things. Tolerance; acknowledging and accepting them as they are is a start.