Much like time, the difficulty level of everything we do is relative. Relative to us, to the time in our lives, to the opportunities we have access to, to how many vulnerabilities we have going on, etc. Sometimes, things are easy because we have done them countless times. Sometimes, we are doing them for the first time, and while we thought it might be hard prior to doing it, it turned out to be easier than we thought.
Easy is subjective. There can be standardized levels of easy like the first level of most video games. Or maybe something is easy because it is designed for someone who is younger than you, like 10-piece floor puzzles. What is considered easy or hard is entirely dependent on the people involved. If you thought it was easy, and your friends agreed, that doesn’t mean that it is easy for everyone. That’s a rather small sample size to the entire worldly population, don’t you think? And for some, it is easy to simply live.
Now, I’m not saying this to make you feel bad for being able to go through your day-to-day without wanting to not live. Nor am I saying that you’ll never find it hard to live, because it will happen to you. What I am saying, is that some of us battle with living, whether it be short- or long-term. No matter the reasoning behind it, we don’t find it easy to live.
The pure difficulty of it is often overlooked by those who may have never felt that way, or have felt that way as a result of a similar situation. There can be countless reasons why someone might find living difficult: mental illness, grief, financial stress, abuse, trauma, chronic illness, negative self-image, etc. There’s no one reason that makes it difficult, and with that, there is no one way to cope. We use unhealthy coping mechanisms to try to make it easier on ourselves. But, this can perpetuate the difficulty. Drug addiction, self-harming behaviors, alcoholism, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms are just some of the ways people try to handle life. None of these unhealthy coping mechanisms would exist if people found living easy.
So, we’ve established that the mere act of living isn’t easy for some. I’m willing to bet that you know a few of those people, and that you love and care for them. Your next questions could be: how can we encourage those people? How can we help them get through this difficult time? For this blog post, we will be focusing on the encouragement aspect.
I’ve seen a lot of people talk about “just doing it”, “If you want something, just go get it”, “Just fake it till you make it”, or “You can be bitter or you can be better”. These aren’t effective forms of encouragement. They can make the recipient feel even worse about not being or feeling able. It can run the risk of the person hearing: “Oh, look how easy it is for everyone! Why can’t you just do it?”, which is demoralizing to hear. That’s because they’re all phrases of change and none of acceptance.
Instead of trying to motivate them to do a task or feel better, try validating them. Validation is so incredibly useful. I cannot stress to you enough how great it feels to both be validated and to validate others (In this post, I validate myself, and it felt really awesome!). Now, in Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we are taught that there are up to 6 levels of validation. I will save that in-depth content for another post.
So, what is validation? Validation is the recognition and affirmation that a person’s experience is valid. You can validate others in several ways, including: active listening, relating to their experience, expressing empathy, etc. And if you think that your friend needs to change the unhealthy coping mechanisms, start and end with validation.
Examples of validation:
“It sounds like you are in a really tough spot. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I remember feeling that way to when this happened to me. Going to therapy really helps me, have you thought about giving that a try? If you’d like any help or recommendations, just let me know!”
It isn’t obvious that, at its core, validation is encouragement. It is a level of acceptance that you can add to words of change to make the perfect combination of encouragement. That combination can make the person feel heard, valid, and like they aren’t alone in it. It’s also pretty key to communication and relationships in general.
In addition to encouragement, offer up services that you find are easy for you. A prime example is that I have friends who will call people for me. I have a lot of phone anxiety, and it is difficult for me. When something needs to be done over the phone, I tend to procrastinate or try to avoid it at all costs. Calling to make an appointment will be put off for an indefinite amount of time. Lucky for me, I have people who can do this easily and who will offer to call people on my behalf. It’s a godsend, and I’m super grateful for it!
- What is easy is subjective and relative.
- Some people find the act of living difficult.
- Encouragement is best served in a combination of acceptance and change.
- Offer up tasks that are easy for you in order to help others.
- Be good to yourself out there, and know that you aren’t alone.
See you on your next mission!