If you have gone on any social media in the past few years there is a good chance that you have run into the phrase “It Gets Better”. It’s a nice message, something that feels hopeful and heartwarming, but is that really the case? Do things magically get better? The short answer is, not usually. That does not mean, however, that things are hopeless and won’t get better. So what does it mean?
The problem with the phrase “It Gets Better” is that it seems to suggest that people’s attitudes and thoughts are magically going to change. That friends and family that you might not get on so well with will just one day wake up and be everything that you wanted them to be. The problem is, unfortunately, that is not guaranteed to happen and it does not always work out that way. Sometimes things don’t go the way we hope and wish.
With that being said, what does it mean then for things to get better if people aren’t just going to suddenly change the way they are around us? The answer lies in something that is very close to what we see when we start a new hobby or try and pick up a new skill. The first time you try to do something new, it is hard. You probably are going to mess up, you probably aren’t going to be super successful right off the bat and we accept that because we are learning. Over time we get better, we learn little tricks and things that improve our chances for success, and we grow in whatever skill that we are learning.
In thinking about “It gets better” this is the approach we should take, that we can get better at handling the situation. We start to learn how to surround ourselves by people who support us, we learn how to embrace and keep close the people who do accept us and care about us. Life doesn’t necessarily magically get better, but given enough time we can get better at how we handle situations.
How do we do this though? What are some skills and resources that we can utilize to get better at managing situations? The good news is that there are a lot of ways that we can shift our focus and practice positive social interactions and self-care to make “better” a reality.
- Focus on the people who are positives in your life – Chances are there are some people who you love and that are close to you that are positive people. Embrace those relationships! Too often we spend our time chasing after the wrong people in our lives, the ones who might not accept us while at the same time not realizing the people that we do have that are already giving us what we need.
- Recognize who defines you – It is easy to let another person’s thoughts or beliefs influence or change how we think about ourselves. But look at it like this, if a person thinks that you are a giraffe, does that make you a giraffe? Of course, it doesn’t, and it seems silly to think that it might. Ultimately you get to define who you are, as well as those who you are close to, not other people who may say mean or hurtful things.
- Consider the media you consume – In the digital age, it is extremely easy to find stories both positive and negative on just about any subject or topic imaginable. This can sometimes be a good thing, but all too often it backfires as people tend to dwell on negative news and reports from around the world. If you tend to mostly read negative news stories, it is easy to reject the idea that “It Gets Better” and sometimes it seems like things are just getting worse. Statistically most things, however, are moving in a positive direction. Be mindful of the media that you consume, and try to focus on the positive and inspirational stories over the negative.
None of this means that things will be easy, or that we will never experience hardship, hurt, and strife in our lives. It doesn’t mean that words can’t hurt and that we will never be faced with hate. There are going to be those times, and those are the times you lean on friends, family, and therapists to support you. It is okay that sometimes things get to you, or that sometimes a hurtful word or comment gets under your skin when you’ve done well at ignoring such things. Thinking back to the metaphor about acquiring skills, even Tom Brady throws a bad pass every now and then, or an Olympic gold medalist can have a bad go of things. Being better does not mean being perfect, it means just simply being better than you were previously.
And always remember it is okay to ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with acceptance feel free to contact Counseling Works and make an appointment. You are never as alone as it might seem sometimes.
Written By: Zachary Devore, LCPC