Why Kindness Matters
We're all going through things, but we often forget that other people are too
Maybe your plans fall through, or your relationship has finally run its course. Or you get into a fight with your best friend. Or perhaps you're just tired of receiving rejection after rejection email, fucking up at work, or fighting with your mother about having kids.
It feels like the world is slowly closing in on you, and you can't focus on anything other than your problems, let alone someone else's. But we all have issues—every one of us, which is why showing kindness is paramount.
Compassion for ourselves
If your best friend told you he's worried about his mom, you would show compassion. If your teammate shared that she's overwhelmed and stressed with all the projects she's working on, you'd be empathetic. Treat yourself with that same level of care.
I have always been one to take care of others over myself. It just feels more natural to care for others. But this often means neglecting myself. Luckily, my coworker recently shared how she's prioritizing herself and how I can do the same.
My coworker Julie is brilliant, diligent, and one of the funniest people on our team—she's very desirable to other organizations. So when she asked to share a quick presentation during our team meeting, I was worried she was leaving us.
And she was, but not for another team or organization. She was taking a leave of absence to take care of herself.
She explained that while she was always joking and seemingly happy, there was a lot we didn't know. She was coping with daily migraines, managing the anxiety from working from home with kids, dealing with everyday work stress, and more. When Julie related her struggles to the idea of an iceberg, everyone just got it.
Julie stressed the importance of self-care and showing kindness to ourselves and the team. She knew that, just like her, everyone on the team only let each other see the tips of our icebergs.
The problem with hiding what's below the surface
We wake up, get dressed, log on, and do our work. We collaborate with our teams, make jokes, and put on a cheerful face. After all, that's what we're supposed to do at work. That is what everyone sees—the tip of the iceberg.
But what we don't see is everything below the surface. The struggles to be overcome, the overwhelming stress, the need to appear like everything's fine when it's not. We hide these parts of our icebergs to our detriment.
We don't want to share our worries with our team, fearing our teammates or boss may perceive it as unprofessional or weak. But when we hide our issues, we let the world know that we're okay (even when we're not). And you can bet your ass our friends, family members, and colleagues are all doing the same thing.
We lift a load off our shoulders when we can release stress, anger, or worry. Listening to music and exercise are excellent ways to eliminate some of those built-up feelings, but sharing what you're going through works wonders, too. And it gives your boss and your team a heads up to be understanding and kind as you figure things out.
My personal iceberg
I am an open book with pretty much everyone. I have no problem sharing what's going on with me, and thanks to a few coworkers I am very close with, I can share my struggles at work. But that's only with a few trusted coworkers.
Outside my group of work besties, I used jokes to hide my worry about my partner's health. I worked faster than almost anyone on our team to mask my imposter syndrome. Sarcasm protected me from judgment, and self-deprecation hid my insecurities. These are all the things I hid at work (until Julie bravely shared her stressors). Instead of sharing my underwater iceberg, I carefully crafted the image of a sarcastic but kind bomb ass writer who never had much to stress over.
Empathy goes a long way
When Julie made herself vulnerable to our team, the response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. We all felt for her and breathed a collective sigh of relief that we weren't the only ones feeling the pressure.
We were all empathetic to her situation, and as a result, we all became more understanding with each other. It was suddenly acceptable to talk about how stressed out we were, how working at home with kids was a circus, and how exhausted we all were.
Empathy and kindness matter. Period.