It’s What’s Inside That Counts


Let me ask you a simple question if I may. What’s holding you back?

Whether you’re not getting interviews, not getting job offers, getting passed over for promotions or not even looking seriously for work when you’ve no job at all, what’s holding you back?

Some of you know exactly what the answer is. You haven’t even paused as continue to read because you know yourself so well, the answer is constantly in your self-consciousness. For others, to really answer this question intelligently, you’d have to pause after reading the opening line and really think about it because honestly, you’re just not sure. Of course another possibility is the list is longer than you’d like.

So what are you thinking? Age? Outdated education? Expired certifications? A lack of experience? A growing gap on your resume? Uncertainty over what to pursue? Lack of drive and personal motivation? Weaker skills in some areas than those of your competitors? Having such a small circle of friends and contacts you don’t have anyone to provide you with leads, support, tips and advice? Low self-worth and/or self-perception? What’s holding you back?

Without sitting down together and having a personal conversation, let me nonetheless offer up a broad generalization; I’ll bet the true answer is more about what’s going on inside you than the world around you. How we see ourselves determines in large part how we interact with the world around us. How we are perceived by others is how we project ourselves when we interact with one another. When we see ourselves as qualified, assertive, prepared and competent, we move and talk with inner confidence that projects outward. Conversely, when doubt about our abilities and qualifications is on our minds, when we wonder if we could ever be prepared enough, worrying ourselves to the point of being nervous and full of anxiety, these inner feelings manifest themselves in our behaviour, come out in the language we use and the overall impression we leave on others is less appealing. In short, when we doubt ourselves, we give others reason to doubt us too.

So how is it that over years, some people developed inner self-confidence and others didn’t? Much more important is what can we do NOW to grow some confidence and belief in our core that we are competent; that we are qualified and more than just deserving of a shot at something? For if we could transform our self-perception deep down in our core, we’d move forward; we would no longer be held back, we’d reach our goals with increasingly regularity and feel entirely more confident. How does that sound to you?

No matter how long that process might seem before us, all progress – whether towards a short-term or long-term goal starts exactly the same way; taking a single step, then another, followed by more and before you know it, the distance grows from where you were to where you are now. So too does the distance shorten between where you were and where you’d like to be. A single step. Remember that…a single step. The journey might seem daunting or overwhelming if you look at the entire journey before you, but a single step is achievable.

Lest you wonder at where to start, what direction to take that single step in for fear of walking in the wrong direction etc., realize that even as you read this, you are mentally engaged in reading about the possibility of change. A seed is being planted that change is possible; that your future isn’t sealed based on your life choices up to now. Your past decisions and choices have led you to the present; but you must realize that your current choices and decisions can change, and changing these affects a change in where your headed in the future. Make the same choices as the past and yes, your future is similar. Make changes in your decisions and new choices and you shift your journey. You are therefore in more control of your destination than you might have realized.

I believe that acquiring skills and varying experiences is far more essential to a healthy future than fixating on a final destination and going all in to get that one job. You might envy the person who at 17 knows exactly what they want to be and by 24 has landed the job, but what’s the likelihood of that same job bringing the same degree of satisfaction when they are 50? Or even 29 for some? We evolve.

When you first begin to work on your inner view of yourself, you may not feel all that happy about how you see yourself. Expect this! When change is what you realize you want, assessing yourself now doesn’t mean this is you moving forward. This is just the starting inventory on the journey you are embarking on. Like any adventurer, you’ll acquire things moving forward, drop some excess baggage you no longer want or need. Your journey isn’t a quest taking you to far off lands necessarily; this quest is more for transforming your inner-self so that how you present yourself to others and therefore interact with others changes for the better.

If you’re hungry for this change; wanting to grow in confidence, to truly believe in yourself and feel better about who you are, you have already taken the first small step forward; expressing a private desire for change.

What’s holding you back?

 

 

Advertisements

Rebuilding The Damaged Psyche


My business card says my job title is Employment Counsellor, but in truth, I spend a vast amount of my work life providing emotional support, helping others to see the good in themselves and doing everything I can to help people rebuild their fragile self-confidence. Yes, there’s so much more going on in the course of my day than employment counselling alone.

I’m fortunate to be in such a position actually and it comes with tremendous responsibility. When I think of all the people I’ve come into contact with through the course of my work, it’s more humbling than anything to realize just how lucky I am to have met so many wonderful people. And what makes it all the more remarkable is that our lives always intersect when they are at a low point; unemployed and financially dependent on social services support.

I tell you though, some of the stories I’ve been fortunate enough to have shared with me give me tremendous hope for many of them. You would be amazed to see and hear the resiliency in their voices; the determination to improve themselves and make better lives for their children, their hopes for a better future. To see the impoverished and only assess them by their financial health would be a mistake. They are first and foremost people, and they are deserving of respect, care, support and service with integrity just as any other person.

But here’s what I find tragic and regrettable. The vast majority of the unemployed people I come into contact with all share a damaged psyche. How they view themselves in the present and their prospects for the future is skewed because of how they’ve been treated in the past. Now sometimes the treatment they’ve experienced is clearly abhorrent; mistreated physically, sexually, financially by an abusing partner for example. However, I’ve also come to believe that far more people are held back, put down and damaged by less overt sources.

Just yesterday I was assisting a young woman as she crafted a targeted resume for a job she’s interested in. I noted in the choice of words she used during our conversation that she was fixated on her lack of paid employment as a barrier to getting an interview. I pointed out how some of the phrases she was using communicated a lack of confidence and doubt about her suitability for the job, and that in an interview, she’d be better off changing her language. I said I’d like to work on changing how she marketed herself but that first she’d have to truly believe in herself. She replied that I had my work cut out for me then because in College, they were all told their biggest liability was their lack of paid work experience and until they were hired, there was nothing they could do about that.

!

Isn’t it interesting to hear how this comment resonated so deeply with this one student? She told me that her lack of paid work was her biggest worry now that she was done school. So just to be clear, what she has going for her is: 1) just graduated with a diploma 2) she’s early twenties and can make a long commitment of service to an employer 3) she has 4 non-paid, positive experiences on her resume in her field, 4) she’s got the right aptitude for the position she’s going for and 5) she’s determined to succeed. And yet, with these and other positives to celebrate, she’s held up and hung up on that message from a trusted and respected Teacher that her lack of paid employment is this huge barrier.

I only have her version to comment on of course, but I would hope that trusted Teacher would have focused not on the lack of paid employment itself, but on strategies to circumnavigate the problem of a lack of paid employment. For her resume, I suggested we ditch the words, “co-op placement” entirely. While true, what I know to be the case is that not every employer values volunteer, co-op, internships and seasonal positions as much as they value paid employment. So instead of a heading, “Work Experience” which implies paid work, I always use, “Relevant Experience”. Under this heading, an applicant can put all their non-paid work right alongside any paid jobs; it is collectively then,  a summary of the positions held that are relevant to the job being applied to.

When we were done, I pointed out how we were still faithful to the truth; there were no lies on her resume, but the lack of paid work was now entirely concealed. What I saw in her was a smile, her shoulders dropped and relaxed from the tense, stress feeling she presented with initially, and she said, “I like it!” What was really happening was a small shift in her self-perception. She could defend this resume, she felt better about how she represented herself, and this sparked a boost in self-perception.

I don’t always win and I sure don’t know everything. I do know there’s more I don’t know that what I do know and this has me keen to learn more and keep discovering new approaches, new strategies and new ways to improve. What I do know with certainty however is that there are a lot of people walking around, appearing to function, ‘normally’ who are suffering with a damaged psyche. Let’s be careful to help not hinder, mind our words, mind our actions.

Getting Past, “So What Do You Do?”


Within the first few minutes of meeting someone for the first time, you’re likely to be asked some version of the question about what it is you do. When you’ve got a job or career, it’s a comfortable question to answer, especially if you enjoy your job. However, when you’re out of work and can’t find a job, that question can be irritating because for many, it’s hard to answer and not feel some embarrassment or even shame. A solid answer and we feel good, a vague answer or stating we’re unemployed and we feel bad. Why? Because either way, we can feel that we’re setting ourselves up to be judged.

The work we do is of course only one aspect of who we are as a person, but it’s the one thing that keeps coming up early in those introductions when first impressions count so much. I suppose it’s asking about something that’s viewed as a social norm and not too invasive. However, if you’ve ever told someone you’re between jobs or out of work and had them quickly walk away and begin a conversation elsewhere, you know that feeling and isn’t a good one. You just know that you’ve been judged and deemed in some way not up to par.

Like I said though, our occupation is only one part of who we are as people. Some of our other pieces include the state of our finances, social life, housing, spiritual, emotional, physical or mental health. There’s our use of personal time, beliefs, personal philosophies, values, leadership styles, the way we interact with the natural world, places we’ve been, accomplishments, hobbies, intelligence IQ, However just imagine your reaction if someone introduced themselves and said, “Hi, I’m Dave. So generally speaking, how healthy is your investment portfolio?”

The curious thing is that people with what society might regard as a prestigious job – say a Family Law Lawyer, Chief Executive Officer, Coroner or even a Teacher, aren’t automatically better people than the rest of us. They have problem marriages, dysfunctional families, stresses, mental health issues and challenges just like you and me. But still we start those conversations with asking about what someone does for a living.

If you listen to people talk about themselves, you can clearly hear them share what they want you to know. If they keep bringing up their job and the work they do, they might be doing so because this is an area they feel comfortable and proud talking about. They believe that this aspect of their life is one you’ll judge them favourably by and walk away with a positive impression of them.

Now when you’re not working but would like to be, talking about your unemployment can have the reverse effect. This isn’t an area where you feel on solid ground in a conversation and your fear of being judged negatively and leaving a poor impression is heightened. We constantly hear how making good first impressions is important, and we know this ice-breaker topic is likely to come up, so consequently some people will avoid social situations completely to limit the number of bad first impressions they’ll make. This ‘feeling bad’ about not having an answer to share with confidence and pride just reinforces our feelings of not fitting in until we’ve found work once again.

There’s some irony however in that the percentage of adults who have at some time in their lives been out of work is quite high. Being laid off from your job is something typically beyond your own control. When a company moves or shrinks its workforce, it’s well beyond your ability to keep your job. Still, when at that social gathering, it would seem weird to say, “Hi, I’m Joan and I was let go 6 month’s ago for reasons beyond my control and I’m now unemployed.”

This is however, part of a great answer if you’re introducing yourself at a job fair for unemployed people looking for work. Imagine what a relief it would be to be in a room surrounded by others out of work, where everyone is in the same predicament. Asking, “What do you do for a living?” would be replaced with, “So what kind of work are you after?” The feeling is more positive – you’re after something – being proactive.

Wait a second…maybe we’re on to something here…

Just imagine you meet someone for the first time and they ask you, “So what do you do for a living?”, and you said, “At the moment I’m pursuing work as a _____. It’s a great fit for me personally and I’ve got the education and experience. If you have any connections or leads I’d appreciate being hearing about them.”

What do you think? Instead of feeling embarrassed or dreading the question because of a weak response, you’ve taken an assertive position. You’ve told them what you’re after and you’ve shifted their thoughts to whom they might know, how they might help you, and all it takes is one person to give you a name that could lead to that next interview that results in a job.

Why, you might even give them your contact information, or ask for theirs and follow-up in a couple of days with a call or an email. Try it once and it’s new and awkward. Twice and it’s easier; often and you’re an assertive networker.

 

Generally Speaking, Here’s THE Problem


It’s not failing to market yourself in a job interview, writing a poor cover letter that fails to grab their attention, fear of initiating a meeting with someone in the role you want or even agonizing over your career path that is the biggest problem for most people. Interestingly however, all these are tied to the fundamental one thing which holds back being successful. That one thing? Positive self-esteem.

Again and again I interact with people who question themselves, who see their abilities and skills as needing improvement. They often show their lack of self-esteem in the words they speak and write, often without even knowing that their choice of words reveals more about them then they realize. Their non-verbal communication also gives away their lack of belief in their abilities. Yes, “Believe In Yourself” is one of the best pieces of advice a person can be given. However, it’s one thing to know you should believe in yourself and quite another to actually do it.

Take the person who, upon sitting down in an interview, starts off by saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m really nervous, I’m going to try my best but…” Or the cover letter that says, “I believe I can do the job”, and not, “I know I can do the job”. Then the body language people use, often folding into themselves in trying to become invisible, or the doubt they reflect on their face as they speak, the weak handshakes, the lack of eye contact etc.

Poor or low self-esteem is robbing employer’s of great employees, and robbing people of wonderful opportunities in the workforce. It keeps people in entry-level jobs when they do get them, and can keep people from taking chances because their fear of failure outweighs their desire for success. It’s sad. It’s more than just sad actually and it’s got to change.

Now if you feel your self-esteem is low, it’s likely you’re not to blame. If you seldom got praised or supported as a child growing up – be it from parents, extended family and teachers etc., it naturally follows that these key authority figures in your early life did you a major disservice which now as an adult has you instinctively doubtful of yourself. Now as an adult, you might not believe others when they say you’re beautiful; being overly critical of minor flaws. You might not have the courage to stand up and tell your parents – even as an adult – that what you really want to do in life is ….

Here’s the good news. Just as years and years of never being complimented, encouraged and supported can do a great deal of damage to your self-esteem, the same can be said of the reverse. In other words, you can in fact improve your self-esteem. This is not something however that’s going to correct itself overnight. Just telling yourself that you’re going to believe in yourself isn’t going to undo decades of damage. Damage by the way might seem like a strong word to use, but honestly, if you’ve been put down or never even had words of encouragement from your parents and significant people in your life, they have in fact damaged you whether it was intentional or not.

Building your self-esteem and self-respect back up is something you can do however. When someone gives you a compliment, do yourself a favour and accept their assessment instead of automatically downplaying or disagreeing with their words. What someone has recognized in you as good and worthy of noting is a good thing. The choice is yours to say a simple thank you or deflect those words with your automatic, “What? This old thing?” or “I don’t see myself that way.”

The person you are now is a product of your past, and it’s equally true that the person you become in the future will be a product of both your present and your future. Yes, it takes time, but time alone won’t change things much. You really need a combination of time, surrounding yourself with positive people who recognize and voice the good in you, and a willingness on your part to be open to seeing yourself differently; a change in your attitude.

You deserve a positive future. You are worthy of the good things in life; the very things you want such as a good job, supportive and positive relationships, feeling good about who you are as a person and seeing yourself as a person of worth.

One thing you can consider is removing yourself from the constant influence of negative people; the one’s who tell you that you’ll never amount to much; that you should just settle in life and you’ll always be flawed. You’re so much better than how they see you! When these people happen to be in your family, you might consider telling them how hurtful their words are, and that they’ve got to get behind you or get out of your way. The person you’ve been is not the person you’re going to be.

Build on small successes. Sure it starts with being open to the, “Believe in Yourself” philosophy. When others say good things about you, accept that they see something in you that you yourself may not; and they just might be right, especially if you’ve heard this from others.

Self-esteem can be rebuilt and when it does, it’s a beautifully powerful thing.

Making Bad Choices, Then Feeling Bad


Out of control; moving from one chaotic event to the next, over thinking things and then having everything you do questioned, analyzed, evaluated, summarized and judged; these the things you do to yourself.

Sometimes the one who judges us the hardest isn’t a stranger, family or friend, but rather the one who greets us each morning when we look in the mirror; ourselves. After all, we know ourselves more intimately than anyone else. Only we know each thought we have, why we do the things we do. Check that last one… there are times we haven’t got any explanation for the things we’ve done. Could be we often ask ourselves, “Why on earth did I do that? What was I thinking?”

Living daily in chaos and under constant pressure and strain stretches our resources to the point where our thinking becomes skewed so the decisions we make are flawed. We end up making bad choices we then regret; lowering our opinion of ourselves and feeling worse than before. Rather than learning from our mistakes, they get repeated, and later repeated yet again, and how we perceive ourselves sinks each time. The pattern of feeling bad about ourselves a lot of the time can lead us to make even poorer choices.

The funny thing is (only it’s not funny at all), when we make all these bad decisions, they seem so right at the time. That’s the hardest part for us to understand later. Trying to explain this or justify this to someone else who questions us is just impossible. We can’t help feeling so small; like a child being scolded by an adult who catches us doing something dumb. But as a child, at least we could be forgiven for not knowing better. By now, we should have grown up, matured, learned to make better decisions and have our stuff together. Instead, we can’t even make simple decisions without a struggle; like what to pack the kids for lunch.

You’d think that asking for help would be easy; a logical step to make sense of all the chaos, but think about that – if it was easy, you’d think you’d do that – so is not asking for help just another thing you’re doing wrong? Figures!

If everything above sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. If you struggle to do things that others find simple, like find something on the internet, open a bank account, file your taxes or get your child tax credit, don’t feel you’re the only one so there has to be something wrong with you.

The thing about making decisions is that when you make a good one you feel better. Make a second and a third good decision and you develop a pattern. Repeat the pattern and you start to gain confidence and view yourself as having good decision-making skills. The same however is true when the decisions you make don’t turn out the way you’d hoped. One bad decision on its own is exactly that; just one bad decision. A second followed by a third etc. establishes a pattern and you can easily feel that based on results, you make poor choices.

Decisions we make are always based on the information we have at the time. So when trying to figure out what to pack the kids for a school lunch, we look in the fridge or the cupboards and what we pack is based on what’s available. We can’t send what we don’t have. While it’s clear to someone else we sent something inappropriate, it was at the time the best choice we had, avoiding sending something worse or nothing at all. Unfortunately, other people only see what we sent and judge our decision-making solely based on what they see, not what possible items we rejected. In other words, you may have actually made the best choice anyone could have made based on what you found as options.

The same is true for the big decisions that go wrong in the end. You might choose a job that doesn’t work out and then another; then start to question why you make such bad choices. It could be that you just lack the right information in the first place about how to go about finding a good fit. The thing is, at the time, the choices you made – and continue to make – seem right. You’re not dumb or stupid; you lack the knowledge to make a better informed choice. Without that necessary information, its like a game of hit and miss; with a lot more misses.

Getting help with making decisions from people you trust is not a sign of weakness, but rather wisdom. But I get it; people you’ve trusted in the past, abused your trust and things didn’t go well. That’s led you to only trust yourself, and as things aren’t working out any better, this has you feeling worse, with no one to turn to.

Decide for yourself of course … but you may want to find one person you can share small stuff with and see if they can help you. If they do help you make good decisions, they might help you with the bigger things later.

Good decisions are hard to make in times of chaos – for anybody. Learning how to make better decisions, like any other skill, can be learned and could be exactly what you need.

Problem Solving


In order to claim you’re good at solving problems, you must have not only had problems arise in the past, you must have successfully resolved them. If you claim you’re an expert at resolving major problems, it logically follows that you’ve not only had major problems in your life, but again, you’ve eliminated them.

What however, defines ‘major problems’? When an interviewer asks you to share examples of having resolved some major problems in your past, you have to hope that your definition of a major problem and theirs is a shared understanding. If you share something they perceive as a relatively easy problem to have faced, and you view it as a major challenge, you might not be up to the demands of the job being discussed.

You have to also be mindful of what you perceive as an acceptable compromise in resolving challenges and problems compared to the person you’re speaking with. When they don’t tip their hand or react in any way to how you describe the steps you took to resolve the problem you’re relating, it can be difficult to know if you’re on the right track with your answer. There may be no way to amend your answer, provide additional commentary or even move to a better example altogether.

One of the poorest things you can do is claim to have none whatsoever in your past that come to mind. This response either comes across as a flat-out lie or if you somehow come across as believable, it only serves to prove you’re inexperienced when it comes to resolving problems. Neither of the two responses to your claim will help you if they want a problem-solver.

Having had problems is a given in your personal or professional life. I’ve yet to meet the person who has sailed along without having had any problem come up. Owning up to having problems in your past is not a weakness. What is of significant interest is your reaction to the problem(s) you’ve elected to share. So faced with a problem, did you a) ignore it, b) face it, c) tell someone else to fix it, d) make it worse, e) make sure the circumstances that led up to the problem were changed so it didn’t recur or f) give up or give in and let it overwhelm you.

One key to dealing with big problems is learning how to tackle small ones; and I mean small ones. Finding yourself ready to go to work but being unable to find where you left the car keys for example. Hardly a life or death problem, but nonetheless at that moment, a problem that must be resolved. Retracing your steps, asking for help from other family members, checking the usual places, the pockets of whatever you wore the night before, all good. Finding them still in the outside door where you mistakenly left them overnight, maybe the lesson learned is hanging up the keys in the same spot from then on as your usual practice so the problem does not arise again.

Building on the idea of adjusting your behaviour and hanging up keys each time in the same place, you can apply this lesson to other situations. You learned to act in a way that anticipates a potential problem and head it off before it occurs. If nothing changes in your behaviour, you’ll repeat misplacing your keys. While that might be frustrating, the leap in reasoning is that you’ll repeat behaviours that bring on self-inflicted problems in other areas too, and that could be costly for an organization when your problems become theirs.

All problems have two things in common; a goal and one or more barriers. There’s something to be achieved and there’s one or more things which need to be addressed and resolved to remove the problem and reach the desired goal.

Successful people are often viewed as people who face their problems head-on, tackling problems before them and reaching their goals. When they do so, they not only reach the goals they desired, they reinforce their belief that they can solve problems. Their confidence rises, other people come to regard them as capable and recognize their problem-solving skills.

People who struggle often hope problems will go away if they ignore them, or they fail to resolve the problem even when they try because they lack the resources or skills to do so. Their past experiences with problems did not prepare them sufficiently to handle the current problem, so they make what others see as poor decisions which either allow the problem to continue or even become bigger.

If your confidence is low when it comes to solving problems, asking for help is a smart thing to do. There’s no shame in knowing your limitations and seeking help but do make an effort to learn from the person helping you. When someone does something for you, that may resolve the problem this time, but it may not prepare you for when the same problem or one of a similar nature comes up again. Having someone guide and support you while you solve the problem will improve your confidence in not only resolving the immediate problem, but similar ones as they arise.

You’ll likely experience failures and setbacks when facing problems; this is normal and okay. Problems will always come along in life. They really present opportunities to grow.

Depression And, “Hello. How Are You?”


“Hello. How are you?”

Could you ask a more innocent, well-intentioned question? It’s almost automatic; typical of how we greet each other. Oddly enough, those who ask don’t always want to actually know how you’re doing, and those who answer don’t answer truthfully much of the time. Yet, again and again, for lack of a better, well-thought out form of greeting its used time and time again.

It’s true you know. Just pay attention and listen when you’re greeted by someone for one or two days as an experiment. Today being Monday, most of your co-workers will today say, “Hi, so how was your weekend?” Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, they’ll say, “Hi, how are you?”

A couple of days ago I sat down with someone suffering – and suffering is the right word by the way – with depression and poor mental health. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his life-long depression is getting much worse. He told me that one of the things that bothers him more and more is the constant question of how he’s doing; especially from people he knows don’t want to really know.

Are you guilty of this? I know I am and I imagine you are too. I’m not naïve enough to actually believe that 95% of the people around me are fine or good; even though they say so. Sure many of us are good and doing well. However, it must be painful as this fellow says, to be living with depression and constantly asked how you are. He then told me how much his life was being affected. His favourite time of day is when he goes to bed – at 11:00p.m. usually. After lying awake for 2 hours, he sleeps until 11:00a.m., gets up and eats, then sits in front of the television almost the entire day, not going out unless he has to.

Now he’s cut back on family gatherings because so many of those extended family members are going to naturally ask him, “How are you?” and while he could tell them the truth, he knows they really don’t want to know, nor could they help him if they wanted to. Well, aside from stopping the asking of how he’s doing in the first place! So it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed of doing nothing day after day, seeing Life go by without improvement.

This depression has affected his memory too. He’s positive that he can’t be trusted to remember things he’s told, and so for now, work is out of the question. Not to mention the depression has left him little patience in some situations he might meet with the public. All this passive living is affecting his physical as well as mental health too. A lack of exercise has led to weight gain, lower self-esteem, poor stamina.

Yet, to meet with him you’d see a happy fellow, quick to laugh, friendly and knowledgeable about topics of the day. Kind of an Eleanor Rigby type, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Ah look at all the lonely people!”

Now how many people I wonder will you – and I – come into contact today who are similarly suffering from depression? Let’s make that Depression with a capital, “D”. When living with this mental illness, it can affect energy, focus, judgement, motivation, self-perception and it’s not just a quick visit to the doctor to get a quick fix. We’re talking long-term implications.

Sometimes there are medications to help change the chemical make-up of the brain and attempts to stimulate connections through electro-therapy. I’m certainly no expert in treatments although I’ve friends and co-workers as well as many clients and people who use my support and advice in the course of my job. While it’s helpful to listen without judgement, providing reassurance that talking about one’s mental health is okay with me and not a topic I find uncomfortable, it’s frustrating knowing that waiting lists for treatment are long, treatments aren’t always effective, and other than listening, what can I do?

While it’s not necessary to experience what another person is experiencing to be empathetic, sometimes I feel being an empathic listener just falls short really. I suppose though this one’s not about me – or you for that matter. This one is about the person with Depression. If listening with empathy helps them feel understood and helped, maybe that’s something.

Think how difficult it must be on a daily basis for someone living with Depression; post-traumatic or ongoing, anxiety, psychotic or personality disorders, etc. It must be and is for many, debilitating. So maybe when we see some person who appears to be lazy or worse yet able to do fun things but not work, maybe extending some compassion and erring on the side of considering they may have a mental health issue would be preferable to believing them to be sponging off others generosity or tax dollars when their perfectly capable of contributing.

I suppose we might choose to hold our tongue and check our thoughts; for truly, we have no idea to what degree someone might be suffering with and already feeling ashamed of themselves for not being more productive.

So today, instead of, “Hi. How are you doing?” maybe we might say, “Hi. What are you up to today?” or if you do ask how someone is doing, look them in the eye and pause long enough to hear and care what they answer.