Good intentions don’t make good people

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of apologies posted on social media by celebrities and other influencers. Many of these people have made mistakes in the past, evidence of those mistakes resurfaced, and they felt pressured to apologize to clear their name and prove that they’ve become better people. And don’t get me wrong- I think it is incredibly important for people to take responsibility for themselves and apologize to those that they’ve hurt. But as I’ve read more and more of these apology posts, I’ve noticed something: although these people say they’re sorry for their actions, they tend to focus more on the fact that their intentions were pure. And this upset me, because the focus of an apology should not be if you “meant” to hurt people or not; it should be taking responsibility for the impact that your actions had and validating the feelings of the people you upset.

At the end of the day, even if you have great intentions, your actions can still end up hurting other people. You are responsible for the impact you have on others, regardless of whether that impact is what you intended it to be. And when you hurt someone, even if you actually meant to help them or do something nice, you need to take responsibility for the pain you have caused.

Think about it in terms of a car accident: if you’re driving and you accidentally rear end another car, you are still responsible for the accident regardless of whether you wanted to cause it. You likely had no malicious intentions and didn’t plan to hit that car or harm the people in it. However, although it was an accident, your actions still caused a crash and you are responsible for the damage. Even if you are a wonderful person who would never hurt anyone on purpose, you don’t get to flee the scene and not be held responsible for the accident just because you didn’t mean for it to happen.

In short, having good intentions doesn’t automatically make you a good person. Wanting to do good things is the first step, but actually doing them is what matters. Sending a text or posting a picture or saying something to someone with the intent of making them happy is great, but if they receive those actions the wrong way and become embarrassed or upset, you haven’t actually done something nice for them. This doesn’t mean you weren’t trying or aren’t a good friend; it just means your intentions and actions weren’t lined up. That’s not to say that your intentions aren’t important- but it’s necessary to look at the whole picture, and intentions are only a piece of it.

This concept is not something that only applies to celebrities who posted offensive tweets in 2015 and are just now apologizing. We all have intentions, we all commit actions, and those actions all have consequences. Whether those consequences impact 10,000 people or one individual doesn’t matter. We all behave in ways that affect the people around us, and it is up to us to not only want to treat people well, but to make sure that our actions are received as helpful and not damaging.

We can’t control how other people choose to act, but we are responsible for our own behavior. We have the power to make sure our good intentions lead to positive actions. So, if you’re ever in a position where you want to support someone but you don’t know how, just ask. Ask them what actions would be helpful to them. Take the power of your good intentions and combine this with an awareness of other people’s needs to make an impact that is beneficial. And if you are ever in a situation where despite good intentions, you have made someone upset (no one is perfect and we’ve all been there), take responsibility for your actions, apologize, and ask what you can do differently in the future. It’s okay to mention that you didn’t mean any harm, but don’t use this as an excuse to diffuse the blame.

It’s a important to want to do good, but wanting to do something good isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if your intentions were good if you end up hurting someone, because at the end of the day, they’ve still been hurt by your actions, and you still need to take responsibility for that.

Good people aren’t perfect; good people are mindful. They are mindful of the intentions behind their actions, and they are also mindful of the impact those actions have. Good people make mistakes, and they take responsibility for those mistakes and learn from them. Good people don’t just have good intentions- they make good impacts.

Immunocompromised & Ignored: How to be safe in a country that doesn’t care

There are an estimated 10 million people with weakened immune systems in the U.S. right now. That’s 1 in 33 people who are especially at risk of contracting COVID-19 and its associated complications. And I’m not talking about 10 million old ladies who live 5 states away that we’ll never cross paths with; these are people we know. They are students, coworkers, relatives, and close friends, and many of them are under 18. COVID-19 isn’t just something that affects “old people.” It isn’t fake. It isn’t “just the flu.”

Right now, we are living through a global pandemic in a country where individualism is the greatest value- where politics and personal convenience have somehow outranked science. And for the millions of people at risk of getting really sick, it doesn’t feel very safe.

Two months ago, I wouldn’t have written about this. Two months ago, people stayed more than 6 feet apart, washed their hands for the full 2 minutes, and didn’t take their masks off because it was “too hot.” But now, we’re tired. We’re tired of the constant cleaning, waiting, and isolation. We want our old lives back. So now, we’re cutting back on the rules and letting ourselves relax, and I completely understand why. But we must remember that not everyone has that luxury; just because we feel safe going to the grocery store and touching all of the apples before we pick one doesn’t mean everyone else does, too. As we continue to “loosen up” on the precautions we take, we need to think beyond our own comfort level. Maybe touching all the apples is perfectly safe for us. But what about the next person who comes into the store? Did we unknowingly put them in harms way by getting germs on all of those apples that we didn’t buy? Could we have prevented that situation?

American culture is built upon the “I” and not the “we,” so it’s hard to think beyond ourselves when we’ve been conditioned to for our entire lives. But in times like these, it’s not about thinking “I’m healthy, so I can do what I want. If I get the virus I’ll be fine.” It’s about thinking, “I’m healthy, but I know that not everyone is. I’m still going to take precautions, even if it’s uncomfortable or annoying, because I want to prevent those people from getting really sick.” It’s about sacrificing out own convenience for the safety of our communities.

As states begin to enter “Phase 4” of the pandemic response and life begins to feel “normal” again, it’s important to remind ourselves that it isn’t. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb, and the vaccine is still not ready. Nothing has changed besides people’s levels of comfort and fear. Of course, we can’t sustain a total quarantine for multiple months. However, there are steps we can take to support members of high-risk groups during this time.

If you are immunocompromised or high-risk for another reason, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about what they feel is safe for you. Nothing I write here is medical advice; I’m just a kid telling you what I think.

So, here is a list of actions you can take to protect yourself and others, especially those in high-risk groups.

  1. Clean! Keeping things clean is essential to preventing illness. If you let someone use something of yours, clean it well in between uses. Continue to wash your hands and any objects that you bring in public like a phone. Taking the 2 minutes to wipe something down can be annoying, but it is worth it!
  2. Wear a mask! When you are in a public place, wear a mask to protect yourself and the people you come in contact with. Even if other people nearby do not have masks, focus on your own actions and do the best you can to wear yours.
  3. Don’t touch! Practice social distancing and stay apart from others. Don’t touch anything that isn’t yours unless you have to. At the store, take what you need and leave. If you want to see something on your friend’s phone, let them show it to you or at least ask before taking it. Just because you are okay with people touching you or your things does not mean everyone else feels that way. There is no harm in asking if you can touch something or sit somewhere. And there is nothing rude about telling someone no, they can’t hold your phone.
  4. Don’t share! Right now, sharing is not caring. Avoid using the same pens or other items as someone else unless they are being cleaned in between uses. And don’t share food! If you order something to share, have it be divided in half before you get it to minimize touching someone else’s food.
  5. Be mindful! Think about the people you are interacting with and be mindful that they might have a different comfort level than you. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid people who are extra careful; just ask them what they are comfortable with and comply if they ask you to wash your hands or wear a mask. And if you know someone who can’t go grocery shopping, offer to shop for them and use precautions when you go to the store.

I’m not expecting everyone to follow each of these ideas to the t. Have I been closer than 6 feet away from a friend? Yes. Have I taken off my mask the second I step into a parking lot? Yes. But the purpose of this is not to call out all of the mistakes that have been made; it is simply a reminder that the Coronavirus is not gone and that we can all do a better job of keeping each other safe.

You aren’t what hurts you

We all experience pain. Physical, emotional, mild, severe, acute, chronic- regardless of the type, it hurts.

And when you spend most of the time in pain or thinking about it, it’s hard to remember that the hurt you feel does not take over the person you are.

Some people like to say that their pain is a part of them. But this only provides an illusion of control. Because if you let your illness, your trauma, or your suffering have one piece of your identity, it will find a way to take more, and this only makes it harder to deal with.

Pain is a feeling; not a personality trait. It changes the way we experience life, but it doesn’t define who we are.

Yes, pain can ruin your sleep and make it hard to get things done. It can zap your energy and your motivation. But feeling pain also teaches you empathy, patience, and strength. It can introduce you to new people and new things.

Being in pain is exhausting. It’s distracting. It’s uncomfortable and it’s unfair and it’s hard. But you can be in pain and still have a favorite tv show. You can still have talents and hobbies. You can still have friends, and make plans, and have fun. You can still have ambitions and set goals. You can still be you. Because while pain changes how you feel and how you think, it isn’t who you are.

You are strong, you are brave, and you are capable, even when all you feel is pain. Because you aren’t what hurts you.

What you can do

Right now, we’re hearing a lot of the word “can’t.” We can’t go to our friends’ houses. We can’t visit family. We can’t practice with our sports teams. We can’t attend events we’ve been planning for months. We can’t find what we need at the grocery store. Some of us can’t even go inside the grocery store.

In times like these- times when we feel trapped by all the things we can’t do, and times when the things we need to do aren’t the things we want to do- it’s easy to feel like we’ve lost control. And for a lot of people, that’s a really scary feeling.

Humans crave control. It makes us feel safe, and happy, and comfortable. So what can we do when it feels like everything is out of our hands?

#1. Distraction

A short term solution to feeling out-of-control and upset about the circumstances is to distract yourself. Watch a funny tv show, listen to music, take a shower, go for a walk, or find another activity to focus your attention on. Sometimes just giving yourself 20 minutes to do something fun or entertaining is enough to make you more relaxed and less upset about the situation.

#2. Call someone!

Just because we can’t see our friends and family doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And I know that texting and facetime aren’t the same as in-person interactions, but it’s the best we can do right now. Reach out to people you don’t normally talk to. People whom you’d only talk to at school or work. Try texting them a quick “hi” and ask how they are. Because maybe talking to you during class or at lunch was one of the highlights of their day, and now that they don’t see you, it’s gone. Even though we can’t be close to each other, our relationships are not out of our control. They may look different for the time being, but we can still support each other and spend time with friends and family from a distance.

#3. Learn something new

Right now, it’s easy to come up with a list of activities we can’t do. We can’t play team sports, or go to the gym, or have concerts and other events, or do a lot of our usual activities. It’s upsetting to put these things on “hold,” especially when we are used to devoting so much time to them. But we can still exercise, and listen to music, and create artwork in safe ways. Doing a home workout isn’t as fun as playing in a soccer game with your team, but it’s still exercise! If you are able to, find a new activity or skill to learn. Maybe try a new type of workout, or learn how to draw something, or make playlists for your friends. Think about all of those things that you’ve wanted to learn or do in the past, and pick one or two to fill the spot of an activity you can’t do right now. It might not be as fun as the activities you want to be doing, but trying something different is better than doing nothing at all. And you might surprise yourself with the new things you enjoy!

#4. Step back

It’s frustrating to live in a world of “can’t.” It’s upsetting to have events canceled and celebrations missed. It’s sad to miss out on experiences we expected to have. But it’s important to remember that these rules and precautions aren’t in place to make us suffer. They exist to protect us and the millions of people who are especially vulnerable right now. So when you feel upset and like you’ve lost control, take a step back. Acknowledge your feelings, because they’re valid. But then think about why the situation is the way it is. Think about all of the people you are protecting by following precautions. And realize that there are millions of people who, for various reasons, have always lived in a world of “can’t.” They’ve always had to wear masks, and avoid crowds, and miss out on events and experiences because of circumstances they can’t control. And when this pandemic is over, they still will. So take a minute or two to step back and think about these people. Think about how our actions affect them. It’s hard to have to live in a way so different than we’re used to. But it’s possible. And it’s worth it for the people we are keeping safe.

These circumstances are challenging. It’s ok to be frustrated by them. It’s ok to feel sad about things we won’t get to do, people we won’t get to see, and places we won’t get to go. But it’s also important to remember that right now, it’s not just about us. We aren’t just staying home to protect ourselves; we’re doing it to protect everyone. So right now, as we navigate this new world of “can’t,” let’s not think of it like that. Yes, there are numerous things we can’t do, or see, or experience. But there are still so many that we can. So the next time you’re angry, overwhelmed, or feeling lost and out of control, ask yourself, “what can I do?” We may have lost control of where we can go and what we can do, but we haven’t lost who we are. So try your best to focus on the “can’s,” even if they seem small. I promise you’ll feel a lot better.

Will we ever know what’s right?

“Will we ever know what’s right?”

I heard this question in a song the other day, and ever since I’ve been trying to answer it. Does analyzing song lyrics and posting it online make me crazy? Maybe. But I’m hoping my thoughts can give you the peace of mind you might be searching for during these unforeseen times.

Sometimes it’s easy to know what’s right. On a multiple choice test, you know one of the choices has to be right. When you make brownies, the recipe has a list of the right ingredients and the right amounts of them. But when we don’t have 4 options to choose from or we don’t know what the outcome will be, knowing what’s right can seem like an impossible task.

When I think about impossible tasks, I’m reminded of an experience I recently had. A few months ago, I asked my doctor if there was a way to reduce the side effects I felt from my medicine. She said I could stop taking my current medication and switch to a different one (with its own list of side effects), or I could keep everything the same. On paper, it seems like a simple decision. Switch, or don’t switch. But that basic question came with dozens of “what if’s” that made the choice seem impossible. Would the new medicine work? Would it work for a long time? Would I get the same side effects? Would I get even more side effects? Would I feel the same? Better? Worse? What if something bad happened? Would it be my fault? It felt unfair that I was expected to make this choice when I didn’t know the consequences of each side. And I felt like I needed to know those consequences so that I could pick the “right” option.

Of course, that experience itself is nothing like a global pandemic. But the feelings of confusion, the countless “what if’s”, the realization that we can’t always know what will happen, and the fear of not being in control-the things that I felt in that moment-are the same things afflicting us right now.

Currently, as we sit at home in quarantine, not knowing what the future looks like, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of figuring out what’s “right.” Is it more right to wear a mask to the grocery store or to give it to a healthcare worker? Is it more right to support a restaurant or stay at home and cook? Is it more right to cancel plans for next month or hope that they will work out? As I mentioned in my story above, it’s very easy to get caught up in these questions and fill yourself with worry and fear. So in times like these, we have to take a step back. We have to accept the fact that sometimes, we can’t control or even foresee what’s going to happen in the future. We have to realize that sometimes, we won’t know what’s right. But that doesn’t mean our only options are panic or shut down.

Right now, we don’t know the “right” way to handle what’s happening around us. And we can’t expect ourselves to! None of us have experienced something like this before, a none of us can predict the future. None of us can single-handedly fix the mess we’re in. But we can seek out reliable news sources, follow recommended protocols, and try our best keep ourselves and others safe. Are those protocols the “right” way to manage things? I don’t know. But for now, it’s the closest to “right” that we have.

So it’s time to stop panicking. It’s time to stop hoarding grocery items. It’s time to stop asking irrational “what if’s,” and it’s time to stop fueling the fire of anxiety and fear that society has lit. Because while I don’t know the right way to deal with this situation, I do know that that fire is not it.

We may not know what’s going to happen next month, or next week, or even tomorrow. We may not know the “right” way to handle a prolonged quarantine, especially from an emotional standpoint. And we may not know the “right” way to respond to the damage that has been caused by COVID-19. But next month, next week and tomorrow will still come and go. Eventually, we will adjust. And eventually, life will go back to what is used to be. Right now, we don’t know what’s “right.” But we don’t need to. We might not want to, but for now, we just have to be okay with feeling lost.

Treat people the way they want to be treated

“Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

From the time we’re in preschool all the way through adulthood, this is something we’ve been told over and over again. We’re taught that follwing this rule is how we show respect. That it’s how we become “good people.” That treating others the way we them to treat us is the “golden rule.”

But you know what? That’s not true.

Because when we treat people the way we want to be treated, we aren’t actually respecting them. We aren’t thinking about them. We’re thinking about ourselves and our needs, and only ourselves and our needs, and that’s a dangerous mindset to have.

When we treat others the way we want to be treated, we lose the ability to see past our own lives, to empathize with the people around us, and to recognize that everyone sees and feels things differently. We become so focused on our own idea of caring that we forget what it means to other people.

It’s great to want to support someone who’s having a hard time. But when you give them advice just because you like it when people give you advice, how much are you really helping? Even though your intentions are kind, intentions can only go so far, and the impact of your behavior goes much farther. Advice may be the last thing that that person wants to receive, and now you’ve unknowingly made things even harder for them.

Often times when people are upset, our default behavior is to treat them the way we would want to be treated if we were in their position. And sometimes, this works! But other times, it does nothing or even makes the situation worse. And then we wonder, “why is this person not appreciating my help? I’m trying so hard to make them feel better and it’s like they don’t even care!” But in these moments, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on your behavior. Are you helping this person in a way that is actually beneficial to them? Are you showing them that you care in a way that they will actually appreciate? Or are you just giving them a hug because you would want one, when in reality they need someone to talk to?

When we offer support to the people around us, it’s not about us. It’s not about how we want to be treated. It’s about them and what they need most in that moment. So it’s time we learn to treat people the way they want to be treated.

When we’ve been told to “treat people the way we want to be treated” for so long, it can be hard to change the way we think. To make it simpler, I like to compare it to shopping for a present. When you buy a birthday gift for a friend, you don’t pick out the thing that you want the most; you get something that that person would like. And yes, sometimes the shirt you thought they would love isn’t quite their style, or they actually prefer gummy bears when you were positive they liked chocolate more. But the important thing is that you tried your best to be thoughtful and choose a gift that your friend would want, even if it isn’t necessarily something you like yourself.

The way we treat people should be the same. Maybe your friend likes to be alone when they’re upset whereas you cheer up when people text you to check in. Well, the next time your friend is having a hard day, don’t send them 15 messages and get annoyed when they don’t reply. Recognize that your friend has a different way of coping than you do, and that’s perfectly fine! The best thing that you can do is support that friend in a way that they will appreciate. And if you don’t know what that is, just ask! Your concern is appreciated so much more if you ask someone “hey, what can I do to help you?” instead of just doing what you personally consider helpful.

We all have different needs and different ways in which we choose to meet those needs. And we may not understand each other’s needs all the time, but that’s okay! The important things is that we try our best to respect the needs of those around us, not only when we understand them but also when we don’t. So the next time you want to help a someone out or show them that you care, don’t look inward. Don’t tell them what you would want to hear. Because in that moment, it’s not about you; it’s about them and their needs.

So treat people the way they want to be treated.

To the people that can’t understand

The other day, I told a friend about my chronic pain for the first time. At first I felt weird, because I was telling someone who knew me so well about a part of me they had never known was there. But we kept talking and eventually the weird feeling was replaced with relief, because I assumed that if I explained it well enough, this person would be able to understand me and my life the way I wanted them to.

But then my friend asked me, “why do you never talk about it?” and I responded in the most honest way I could, saying, “Well, its not your fault, but you haven’t experienced anything similar to this, so I didn’t think it would make a lot of sense to you.” My friend replied with an enthusiastic, “Yeah, you’re right. That’s so true.” And my heart sank. I wasn’t upset because what they said was mean; I was sad because what my friend didn’t know was that when I answered their question, I didn’t want to be right.

What I had said to them was basically “I never told you this because you wouldn’t understand how I feel,” and all I got back was, “Yes, you’re correct. I can’t understand you.” And that was really hard to hear, because I had finally gathered the courage talk to my friends about my problems the same way they talked to me about theirs, only to be told that they didn’t get it.

For a while, I was mad that my friend wasn’t willing to understand or support me in the way that I wanted. But eventually, I realized that peoples’ ability to comprehend my challenges is not a choice they make based on how much they care about me; it comes from what they’ve experienced themselves, and that’s not something they can control. It wasn’t my friend’s fault that they had nothing more to say than “I’m sorry, but I can’t relate” when I told them about my struggles. Because we can’t expect other people to truly know what it’s like to experience something when they have nothing to compare it to.

However, it’s still fair to expect them to support us. And something else I learned from this situation is that most people have a hard time supporting someone who is dealing with a problem they haven’t have themselves. But unlike understanding, it’s not because they can’t do it. It’s simply because they don’t know how.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t force people to understand what my life is like. There are going to be people who can’t understand and it’s not their fault or mine. But something that I can control is the way people support me and people like me.

So, to the people than can’t understand, this is how you can still show that you care:

Continue reading “To the people that can’t understand”

It’s hard

This is something I wrote to myself a little while ago. It’s a little different from what I usually post because I didn’t write it with the intent of sharing it, but I hope it is something you can relate to or learn from!

Continue reading “It’s hard”

Bad days

Bad days. We all have them, and I’m pretty sure we all hate them. But what really makes a day bad?

A few days ago, I was about to go to bed when something upset me. I thought to myself, “Ugh! I hate when my day turns into a bad one right before it’s over. Everything was going so well!”

But then, a second thought passed into my head. Does one negative thing really make for a bad day?

The logical answer is no. So how does one tiny mishap make us feel like an entire 24 hours is ruined?

Well, even though the “thing” that turns a bad day from a good one may last no more than 10 minutes, the negative emotions that this “thing” sparks often last much longer. For example, let’s say you spill coffee on your shirt. Ok, great. You let out a sigh, clean up the coffee, change your shirt, and bam! The whole ordeal is over in a few minutes. Yet, if you’re anything like most people, you still feel like the day is ruined. Why?

Spilling coffee didn’t ruin your day; it just gave you a reason to feel upset. It’s like how getting a C on a math test doesn’t make you stupid; it just gives you a reason to doubt yourself. The situation itself is not responsible for the outcome. You are.

After you spill the coffee, if you go about the rest of your day with the mindset that you’re cursed and everything is going to go wrong, you’ll only notice the negative parts and the whole day will seem bad. The same thing happens in reverse. If you’re upset right before you go to bed, when you look back on your day all you will remember is the bad stuff, and you’ll conclude that the entire day was terrible.

When we let the negative emotions of one bad situation influence our perspective for every situation, we set ourselves up to believe that everything is bad-that our whole day is ruined.

To move forward, we have to get ourselves out of this cycle. We have to recognize that when a few bad things happen, we aren’t cursed, the world isn’t out to get us, and not everything will go wrong. That being said, we shouldn’t just ignore the negative parts of the day. Instead, we should recognize them, be annoyed for a few minutes, and then remind ourselves that what happened is in the past, and all we can do is leave it there and move on.

Try as we might to believe otherwise, bad days are not just caused by the accumulation of negative experiences. They are the result of letting one misfortune shape our perspective on everything else.

Spilled coffee only ruins our day if we let it. It’s a choice we get to make.

You Matter

Sometimes, it can be easy to feel like we don’t matter. That unless our name has a tiny check mark next to it, what we say is not important. That unless we have the follow count of a small country, we can’t influence others. That unless we are in a position of power, our voices won’t be heard.

Sometimes I debate whether or not I should post the things I write. Is anyone going to read them? And if yes, are those people actually going to be affected by what I say? Am I creating change, or just saving more data to the cloud that will be ignored?

It’s easy to fall into traps like these. It’s easy to look around at people who are smarter, prettier, more popular, or more talented than you and convince yourself that because that person is in some way “better,” you don’t matter.

But you do matter. The words you say matter. The actions you take matter. They matter a lot. And it’s important to know that.

We are all different. We have different gifts, different challenges, and different perspectives. And it is because of those differences that we all matter; without one of us, the world wouldn’t be the same.

There are parts of all of us that nobody sees, but those parts of us still matter. And there are things we say that nobody hears, but those words are still important. Something big that I’ve realized is that you can’t let other people determine your own self worth. You matter, and that’s a fact. And you don’t need other people to validate it for you. Because even when no one sees you or listens to what you have to say, you still matter.

So, why does it matter that you know that you matter? (Try saying that 10 times fast). Well, without self-worth, you won’t have a purpose. You won’t have a reason to fight through whatever obstacles are in your way. And when you don’t have a reason to fight, it’s easy to let yourself fall into a dark place, and it’s easy to get stuck there. But you have the ability to avoid that. All you have to do is tell yourself “I matter.” The thoughts you have are valuable. The words you say are important. The actions you take make an impact. You, and everything you do, and everything you are, matter.

It’s good to remind yourself that you matter to other people. But the best thing you can do is find at least one reason why you matter to yourself and remember it. And the next time you get caught in a dark place, you’ll have that reason to pull yourself out. And no one can take that reason away from you, because it’s the truth; you matter.