Have you ever reached out to someone for emotional support and heard one (or more) of the following?
- You’ll be fine
- Don’t worry about it
- I’m sure it will all work out
- You just need to get over it
- Don’t be so sensitive
- Focus on the positive
- … or maybe you get no response at all
It can be hard to turn to others for help, especially in a culture where we seem to highly value independence and the idea of being emotionally self-contained. So, when we take those chances and get that kind of feedback, it can feel really lonely. We might walk away feeling like nobody cares how much we’re hurting and believe that they don’t have our back.
We understand we need to keep moving forward through the hurt but, sometimes, it feels impossible. It can be easy in those moments to find ourselves stuck in our pain, telling ourselves that no one understands and that no one is there to help.
Even though it feels tough, it is possible to keep moving forward even when we feel no one has our back. It can be helpful to remember a couple of things:
People do the best they can with what they have
Many times, if you get shallow responses from others when you are in need, it is not because they don’t want to be there for you. People often don’t know how to help, especially when the help you need is in the form of emotional support rather than something task-oriented.
People can become really uncomfortable in other people’s pain and try to “rescue” us or escape the moment by offering lighthearted responses or reassuring statements that feel a bit empty. So, what you might be interpreting as someone being uncaring is likely that person feeling very unequipped to help in the way you need.
You are more capable that you think
I think there is significant value in reaching out to safe others in times of need and have learned the value of this more and more over the years. However, I also believe there are times when we forget how capable we are and find ourselves looking to others for things we already have.
It is worth allowing ourselves a moment to inventory what it is we’re looking for and what we have within us that will help us continue moving forward.
If you feel that no one has your back and you know you need to keep moving forward, what can you do? Here are just a few ideas to help you stay in the game:
Take inventory of your strengths
When we are struggling it can be so easy to forget (or ignore) that we have any strengths at all. Take a moment to reflect on what strengths you bring to the table. If you have a hard time coming up with something, because sometimes we do… start asking people. Ask family, coworkers and friends for feedback in this area.
If you prefer to do the research on your own, you may want to try an online tool like the Values in Action Inventory. This is an assessment available online that will help you identify and rank your top 25 strengths. A resource like this can offer you quite a bit of insight and put words to traits or characteristics that you might have a hard time labeling on your own.
Remember the last time you felt strong
We have all been through tough times! Remember the last time you went through a difficult time and were able to walk through it. Sure, it may have been messy or taken a while but you did it, you walked through something that was challenging and are able to talk about it today. Give that some value and allow it to help you look at the big picture.
When we are struggling it is easy to focus on our shortcomings or convince ourselves that we’re incapable and that is simply not true. Give yourself some credit and look at the life experiences you’ve already been through.
During times of emotional struggle we can feel so deeply lost in our pain that we lose our motivation to keep moving forward. Look around you, seek things to celebrate, find hope in change and remember that you are always growing. Pull together quotes, verses, saying, phrases, images… anything that speaks to you in a special way and has meaning to you and your growth.
Keeping these uplifting messages close by can help us challenge that negative self-talk that tells us we can’t keep going, or help us rediscover hope when we feel hopeless.
Moving forward in the midst of pain or challenge can feel like a lot of work. Keep the big picture in mind and consider how you may be encouraging, inspiring and positively impacting others as you keep moving and growing.