Coping Doesn't Always Look Pretty

When you think about how you look when you’re coping, what sort of image is drummed up in your mind?

Do you look polished and ready for anything? You can handle any life event without breaking a stride and can do it all single handed?

Does it conjure up images of the Mother whose children are turned out smartly and well behaved as she drops them off at School on time and is groomed and polished as she glides off to her yoga class?

The Woman who stands up in a meeting a delivers a pitch perfect speech that has everybody in awe of her and she can handle any tough question.  

Have you ever told yourself that you are not coping because you don’t adhere to the high standards you perceive coping to look like?

The truth is that coping often doesn’t look pretty, and that those images where everything is and looks fabulous can occasionally happen, but they generally belong in the movies. Coping is the Mother that gets her children to School, no matter if they have already managed to muddy their trousers on the way (how does that even happen?!). It is the office worker that gets themselves in to work and manages to deliver a pitch even when they experience anxiety and felt like they shook throughout the whole thing. The stressed man who is caring for his sickly Mother and gets to work so he can just about manage the bills at home. These people may not be having it easy and may consider themselves as going through a tough time, but they are coping.

Think about how it makes you feel when you utter the words ‘I’m not coping’. Does it make you feel low? Anxious? What does it do to your self-confidence and esteem? Are you more or less likely to try and take on the task at hand that made you feel like this? Would you be more likely to withdraw from others due to shame or embarrassment for not coping?

By telling yourself such statements you can in turn create a self-fulfilling prophecy as you gradually chip away at your confidence.

The next time you feel that you’re about to tell yourself that you aren’t coping, consider if you are idealising what coping actually looks like, and if it is necessary and even harmful to you to continue talking to yourself this way.

Flip it on its head. Tell yourself, ‘considering I’m going through x, y and z, I am coping well. I have managed to do x, y and z this week’. Name your achievements. You may need to search and look out for them. ‘I managed to get the kids to School on time today’. ‘I was able to look that person in the eye and talk to them’. ‘I went to that place that I hadn’t been before’.  

How can you be you?

Do you ever feel like you are living someone else’s life? Or that what you’re doing doesn’t fit right with you?

How do you know that you are being, or not being, authentically you?

One way we start to explore this is by considering your values. What do you value in life? It’s a big question, but our values tend to be a big part of forming our identity.