If this week has taught us anything, it's that we have to meddle and interfere MORE
In a world of Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook, it can be so very easy to assume from someone's happy snaps of avocado-laden brunches and bronzed legs on a beach that they are literally peak happy.
That all is well in their lives, and, in fact, that our own lives almost seem boring in comparison.
This is not always the case at all. Sometimes those who try hardest to portray a carefree, successful and envy-inducing image are the ones who struggle the most behind the glossy filters and happy snaps.
But if we just take their social media at face value and don't check in properly, then we'll never know.
Other times it's not the glossy pictures that have us fooled, but we think we know people and they are so strong, so powerful, so successful – of course they are fine, or will be fine, whatever they are going through. But sometimes they are not.
But if we don't ask, we actually don't know how they are coping. Assuming someone is fine isn't – and shouldn't be – good enough. Assuming that someone's strenght and success protects them from feeling lost and hopeless is not good enough either.
I have a teacher friend who once told me how hard it is to say something or ask questions, even if she has an inkling something is a bit off with a child in her class, be it that something or someone harming them either physically or emotionally or that something serious has happened. It's so hard asking those questions, initiating that conversation, she says, mostly out of fear that her gut feeling is wrong. But she has to ask – just in the very miniscule chance it is not.
We might not all be teachers or work with children, but we are all humans and we all have people in our lives and around us. And we need to check on them and check in with them. Frequently
Often, I think, our gut feeling might alert us to something not feeling quite right. Be it a friend who isn't quite herself, or a relative that suddenly has become a no-show for family gatherings, or a neighbour who has lost weight and seems down or a child whose behaviour suddenly changes. But far too often, I think, maybe out of fear of being wrong, or fear of sticking our noses into something that isn't our business, we shy away from meddling. From asking uncomfortable questions. From checking up on someone.
But the thing is: We need to meddle more. All of us. In fact, we should all aim to be – in a good way – that nosy, meddling, CARING neighbour or friend or co-worker who always asks and interferes. Because once your meddling comes from a place of offering instead of righteousness or insistence, then the world needs more of that.
You can never kill someone from caring too much or checking up on them too much. But the opposite can happen.
This week designer Kate Spade and TV chef Anthony Bourdain both lost their lives to suicide. And many, many others too, it's just that we don't know their names or who they were. But the statistics are telling us the truth.
And while we don't know for sure that meddling or asking or interfering could have stopped what happened this week, it sure could not have done any harm either. And we need to do more of it. Check on each other. Check on your strong friend and your quiet friend and your life-and-soul-of-the-party friend and your best friend. Check on your elderly neighbour and your struggling co-worker and your kids' friends – and their parents.
And if they brush you off, but you still can't shake the feeling something isn't quite right – check again. Checking once too much is far better than not checking enough.
We need to free ourselves from the idea that staying out of people’s business is the socially good thing to do. In psychology terms we speak of sideline and bystander behavior, always thinking someone else will check on these people for us, or intervene in something. As in; "surely someone even closer to them will take care of this" and in reality removing ourselves from the responsibility of asking someone if they are OK, or interfering in someone elses life and business.
We know we live in a world where more and more people are suffering with their mental health. Where loneliness is an epidemic and as dangerous to our health as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.
James Hillman, one of the world’s most accomplished philosophers and depth psychologists, once said that he was tired of hearing how pathological “co-dependency” was. Because he believed the world was not co-dependent enough, and believed that by making others’ well-being our imperative, it could help us solve a lot of big problems.
So dare to care, mamas. We all need to do more of that. Send a text, pick up the phone, speak to a stranger, reach out to someone. Often, those who need our help the most won't ask for it or even speak up about it. So let's help them out by meddling – and showing them we care.
We all owe it to each other.