It is Ok to not feel OK

At the start of the Wellbeing Webinars for PGRs and ECRs here at the University of Leicester I sometimes find myself referring to the trend for emails to begin with, or contain, reference to ‘these difficult times’ or ‘these unprecedented times’, or something similar. Whilst these words may be well intentioned it is also unfortunately true that reminders such as these may actually be unhelpful.

Whilst I am not advocating denial or avoidance of an awareness of the times we are going through, I try to stop before putting words like this in an email. How many other people may have said something like this to the recipient today? All well intentioned, perhaps, but they may have a cumulative effect of dragging someone down. I know I personally find these reminders tend to drag me down.
Alongside the above phenomenon there is also a phenomenon for people to hope that their recipient is ‘safe and well’. Apart from Covid-19 there are many other sources of danger and threat in the world. So, if it is valid to wish each other to be ‘safe and well’ now, why were these wishes not so prevalent in the past. However, I am not going to be so churlish as to suggest people should not wish each other well.

What I am really trying to say here is that words are extremely powerful. The words we use may have a greater impact on the recipient than we imagine. Indeed they also have an impact on ourselves. If we are going to wish people well then we should also accept that the recipient may not be feeling that great. The true value may be in hearing the other person’s story. Whilst it is great if people are feeling ok, it is also valid that it is ok for people not to feel ok, and enabling people to have the time and space voice their pain may be a true kindness.

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Martin Coffey

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Career Management Skills Developer, Researcher Development Team.

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