“You always look like you’ve got it all together.”
It’s so easy for people to think you’ve got it all together. You come to work every day, not a hair out of place, not one wrinkle in your blouse, with a perfect lunch packed every day. But people don’t know what’s really going on inside your head. They don’t know how hard it was for you to get out of bed and put yourself together like you didn’t cry yourself to sleep the night before. They don’t know how many times you had to redo your makeup because you forgot your favorite playlist still had songs on it that remind you of your ex. They don’t how how tired you are because you were up half the night crying. They don’t know why you were crying or what you have to be sad about and chances are, they never will. When people say “Hey, how are you?” in the halls at work, you just respond with the generic “good, how are you?” because you don’t want to bore them with the details of the sorrows of your life.
Maybe you always seem like you’ve got it all together because you try to keep your personal life and work life separate. Maybe you keep your personal life and my work life separate because anything that you could ever say about your personal life would just be a “woe is me” tale. People at work know the work you, not the real you. But the person they think they know has done so much to earn their respect. You want people to look at you with the respect you’ve worked so hard to earn, not with those “I feel so bad for you” sad puppy dog eyes.
But would it really be so bad if someone actually answered the question “how are you” honestly? So when people see you all put together after they hear that you and your boyfriend just broke up and you’ve only been able to sleep at night because you cry yourself into exhaustion, that they’ll realize how strong you are? That they’ll know how badly you are bogged down with emotion because you have no real friends to talk to about it? So if you look like you need to get something off your chest, someone will recognize that and try to talk to you?
They say “check in with your strong friends” and that couldn’t be any more true. In the workplace, check in with the people who seem like they’ve got it all together. Some people are really good about stuffing things down and portraying themselves on the surface the way they want to be seen, but deep down, they’re not okay. People should want to open up to other people, regardless of their relationship with them. You spend more time with the people you work with than you spend time with your friends, family, and significant others. You should be able to talk about your personal life at work without feeling judged for it. You should be able to take a mental health day when you just literally can’t. You should feel comfortable talking to executives at your job about your personal life. If you value anyone you work with, as a co-worker or just a person, there is no reason why you can’t connect with them on a personal level. And that should fall under the category of answering “how are you” honestly, no matter how good or bad you actually are.
People have no problem sharing all the details of their lives when they are happy and proud. There’s no reason why people can’t do the same when things aren’t so great. Life is real, people are real, emotions are real. Don’t be afraid to share them. When your personal life overpowers you emotionally and dives into your work life, chances are your work will eventually suffer. If you have the opportunity to be open about your personal life in your workspace, there is a greater chance that you won’t make mistakes at work if your employer gives you time to prioritize your mental health and your personal life.
It’s time to normalize mental health in the workplace.