I‘ve started writing this blog so many times I’ve lost count. But seeing as I’m not really a numbers gal…
What’s in a name?
I’m not a fan of the term “psychological safety.” It’s very clinical, but that has been the agreed-upon term that does literally define the space, freedoms, and rights we should all be afforded to give our brain the downtime it deserves to share what’s going on inside it.
Our brain and mind are really no different from other parts of our bodies and aspects of our lives that need the space to grow, nurture and be nurtured, understand, dump excess “stuff” weighing it down, and countless other things.
The beautiful thing is that although there is a category and name for this, we don’t have to use it. By showing up; by being there for friends, family, coworkers, community members; by listening — truly listening — to how someone is or what they are thinking, feeling, observing and knowing how they express things and not passing judgment — you are providing psychological safety. You’re showing compassion, you’re being empathetic.
Asking for help isn’t easy
I lost someone very close to me to suicide many, many years ago. I still think about that person, who made such an impact on my life at a time when I had no friends near me, knew no one, and was starting college in a new city. At that time, while my parents were (and still are) amazing, and we had such fun moving into my dorm room, buying fun bedding and comforting necessities, they lived most of the year on the other side of the world because of an ex-pat job transfer. I couldn’t go home on long weekends and some short holidays, but I spent a lot of time with my friend, his family, and his adorable golden retriever.
I still have the old, worn and tattered pillowcase from my mom with a cow jumping over the moon but not quite making it, “Nothing is simple,” it says. I took that phrase to heart and was determined to do my best to make things just a smidge easier — for myself or for someone else. That continues in the work I do and the life I lead today.
While you don’t ever know what is going on in the background of someone — their head, their lives, their families… Most of us have gone through situations that help us relate to people. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic. And then there are other world events with local impacts we are all feeling. These are just two of the most immediate large-scale events to which I can point with myriad other examples that vary in impact level and occur day-to-day.
I’m no different:
I’ve felt frequently overwhelmed
My brain is a chatterbox nearly 24/7
I’ve been bullied, made fun of, laughed at, not taken seriously and dismissed (well past childhood years)
I’ve been told I can’t or shouldn’t do things
I’m an over-thinker, which is a whole other blog topic
But I’m also:
A problem solver
A believer in partnerships
Both lists can likely go on.
I recently had a 1:1 virtual “coffee” (it’s what they call a meet & greet, get-to-know-you conversation in one of my roles) with someone I haven’t met, had never spoken with, and didn’t know well at the time. Halfway through the conversation, she said, “I can tell you’re an empath. That is a wonderful skill to have,” and difficult to teach. But not impossible.
Listen to your brain. Listen to your body. Listen to others. If something doesn’t seem right or feel right, it’s worth talking about and exploring more.