It’s OK to be OK – resisting thriver’s guilt

A guest post from a colleague, A, who is thriving in lockdown.

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last couple of weeks that begin with something like “how are you doing?”. They continue with people sharing all the ways that a third lockdown, in the depths of winter, is stretching the limits of their energy. We all know that many, many, people are experiencing myriad challenges at the moment. Lifting my focus beyond the personal circumstances of the individuals I also see a disturbing list of problems in the wider world from appalling inequalities to impending environmental disaster. 

In this context I’ve started to feel uncomfortable answering the “how are you doing?” question with “fine, actually really great”. It seems insensitive, both personally and as a responsible citizen of planet earth, to be feeling so good right now. Contentment in the face of such distress has been triggering a kind of guilt in me. I started to think of it as a curious form of survivor’s guilt. Then, as I closed my eyes to sleep last night, I coined a new term for what I am experiencing – thriver’s guilt. The guilt you get when you are happy, positively thriving, in circumstances that logic and group example indicate should be dreadful. That nagging suspicion that you must be a bad person, or at least a bit broken, as evidenced by your manifestly unbroken state.

There really is no end to the creativity with which the human mind can misfire!

Turns out I can’t claim coining rights on ‘thriver’s guilt’. A quick internet search returns a bunch of hits for the concept. Isn’t it annoying when you put the graft in to have a good idea and then find posterity will grant you nothing because someone else had the same idea and published more effectively. Times like these I feel for Joseph Swann. At least I know I’m not the only one who is just dandy right now. If I am slightly evil, or broken, it is not freakishly so. Which I find reassuring. It’s OK to be OK. So I think it is time to stop angsting and capitalise on my current position out on the happy tail of the bell-curve.

To that end I thought I would advertise to any other ‘OKers’ out there that you are not alone either. If, like me, you are circumstanced, and suited, to the current world conditions there is no cause for alarm. We got lucky. I think we can use that luck to support our friends and colleagues who are having tougher times. Who do we know that may need a friendly voice to talk to? Who needs extra cover because they are home schooling? Who needs a pint of milk? Who just needs to know that there is optimism left in the world? That it is still possible for people to take delight in small things like flower buds and perfect soap?

To the majority who are in tough times – know that there are people near you who have the emotional energy to support you. And if we are too dumb to notice what support you need then, for goodness sake, ask.

To the lucky minority, those currently thriving, let’s stop being guilty and pour all the energy and care we can spare into the places it’s needed. When this is all over the world will be different. We may not be the thrivers anymore and it will be our turn to ask for help.


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