Tag Archives: Kindness

Broken, But Fixable

So often when I look around I see so many signs that point to the fact that we are a broken society.  Life in general is hard these days and living our purpose and acknowledging our true self can be near impossible in this crazy, modern world in which we live.  And I recently sat through a presentation that thoroughly reinforced these thoughts and feelings.  The presentation included some alarming statistics about suicide, the number of people with mental health issues who are not seeking treatment, and the overall impact of such things on our work and personal lives.  Depression, drug & alcohol abuse, anxiety, etc.  The effects are wide spread.  I was struck by just how far reaching this mental health epidemic has become and by how broken we are overall as a people – not just because of the statistics themselves, but because part of what fuels the increase in those statistics is the societal messages we all receive about what it means, according to the society we live in today, to seek help.

We are all doing the best we can with what we have been given, learning from those around us who are doing the best they can as well…but still we find ourselves in this place.  So many people in our society are dealing with challenging things in their lives while at the same time lacking a knowledge of the tools that could help them better navigate those difficult times.  Instead, most people struggle to work things out on their own.  Sadly, this is something I see all too often in my work – so many people struggling to deal with any of a number of issues both personally and professionally, but unwilling to seek help, be it counseling or coaching, because they have been taught to believe that in seeking help they are indicating they are unable to handle things on their own…that they are weak or somehow flawed.

One in four people struggles with some type of mental health issue. What’s even more upsetting than that statistic is the stigma society places on seeking treatment. The societal messages are that you should just ‘learn to deal with it in your own’, “suck it up”, “get over it”, and “everyone else can handle it so why can’t you”.  Such shame and humiliation is cast upon those already struggling with so much.

The “shame of it all” is both in terms of the shame that the people struggling to decide if they should seek help or not feel as a result of those societal messages, but also that we as a society allow that stigma to perpetuate. Rather, we should acknowledge that life is hard for all of us, that we all could use a little help from time to time, and that seeking that help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

So what causes this societal stigma? Is it a lack of love and understanding of our fellow humans? Is it because we do not teach resiliency?  Is it just the chaotic, fast paced life we live in?  Is it the high expectations held for us, real or perceived?  Is it because we have not been taught how to ask questions and to make our own choices?  Is it because we have not been taught how to stand tall in the decisions we do make?  Or is it because of a loss of creativity and curiosity?  I am not sure we will ever truly know the exact cause(s), but one thing that is for certain is that the societal stigma attached to seeking help for even the mildest of stressors in our lives, such as every day stressors like finances, relationships, work, or caregiver stress, is slowly killing us.  We need to find a better way.

The reality is that everything is connected – we can’t leave our problems at home or at work. The mind/body connection is real. Pretending otherwise only makes things worse.  We need to begin recognizing how hard it is to admit the need and/or desire for help.  We need to see it as a strength and not a weakness.  If we are going to help each other through this life, we need to start by creating awareness of the problem and then developing a culture of caring.  We may be broken, but we are still fixable.  A good place to start is to become more mindful of our words and the messages we send with them.

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” – Yehuda Berg

A Little More Love

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” – William Arthur Ward

I am often struck at how disconnected we have become as a society…at how little we see of what is really happening in the world beyond our immediate selves…at how little we actually interact with one another in general. When you factor in the reality that life is so fast-paced these days, that we have so many things going on in our daily lives, and that we are, for the most part, interacting less and less in person with one another, it’s not hard to understand why we, as a society, have become so disconnected from one another. But my wonder surrounding this topic is not related to the reasons for these things (that is a whole other topic we could probably debate for a very long period of time…not my intention here today), but rather on what it has done to us as humans in this society and more importantly on how just a little love and kindness can turn things around.

For many of us, when we do see someone in need, we hesitate to help because we were taught to be afraid, to not get involved, or to look away. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that we are all human and have the same basic need for love and acceptance. Instead we have learned to be cautious or even suspicious of anyone that is not like us. Our ability to have compassion for others seems to have waned over the years. I know I catch myself in situations where I know the right thing to do is to offer help, whether it be coming across a homeless person asking for some money for food or a stranger needing assistance with something as simple as carrying something, but that voice in my head that has been so well trained over the years almost always convinces me not to help for any of a number of “good, logical sounding reasons”. It is something that weighs heavy on my heart as it continually proves to be a challenge to break away from that mindset. And I know I am not alone in this, as many of us face this same challenge.

Even when it comes to people we know (family, friends, and colleagues), we frequently ignore or don’t see when they are in need. We are often so accustomed to our family and friends being there for us that we can sometimes forget to ask if they need anything from us in return. Or we may be so wrapped up in our own daily lives that we have blinders on to what is happening around us for those with whom we are closest. Seldom do we have/take the time to sit down with our friends, family, or colleagues to talk about how each one of us is doing…how we are each feeling…what each of us might need. It’s just not something many of us do.

I don’t think any of this is something that is intentionally done on most people’s accounts though…I truly think we have become products of our environment, our society, and our upbringing. Regardless of the how or why though, the fact is we have lost touch with so much of the human side of interacting with one another. We have forgotten the power and importance of expressing love and kindness toward one another…both those we know and those we do not. Simple things like a smile, a hello, or a random act of kindness can turn someone around relatively quickly. Whether someone is mad at the world, frustrated, sad, hurting, in need, etc., it can all melt away, even if only for short while, when a smile or a general sense of kindness is directed toward them. And it isn’t unusual to even see them sit/stand a little taller as a result of your kind interaction with them. As humans, we want and need to feel loved, seen, and cared for.

Your kindness can have a profound impact on others, even a complete stranger. Challenge yourself to reconnect with the people you see each day, whether you know them or not. Break those old habits and mindsets. Do what your heart and soul are telling you is the right thing to do – care about and take care of others. This is a challenge I give myself each day and while it is not easy and it certainly takes time, I know it is a worthwhile endeavor. So smile and share a little kindness with the people you see today – you never know the incredible impact that may have on a person by adding just a little more love to the world.