After going through so much in life and still sailing in a rocky boat, I have now realized that each one of us has their own story to tell and what appears before the eye may not be the truth. Someone may seem all happy and calm to you, but there may be a storm of volatile emotions and frustration erupting behind that serene smile. Someone may be showing you support and advising you to take care of yourself, but may be wanting the same from others because he/ she is going through hell on his/ her end. There is a lot that people go through every single day, every single moment in their lives that not all of us can know and when you think about all the pain people go through, it does make you want to do something for them right. However, since we cannot be there for everyone and often because we feel that physical presence or physically or financially helping out people is the right way to offer help, we feel helpless when we aren't able to do that.
With time and experience, there is one more thing that I have realized- you can help people out in a lot many ways and to a bigger extent even if you are short of funds or cannot be physically there for someone. There is a lot that all of us can do to support, encourage and guide people and to make their life easier. Physically doing work is not always the way to help people out. Sometimes all someone needs to hear is 'I am here for you' and that's just about it. Here are some things I feel we should do more often for people to show them care, love and support without making it too obvious.
Don't Ask Too Many Questions
Asking questions to people is a good way to show your interest in them and the conversation, but doing too much of it can be pestering for people too. If you see someone feeling an even a bit of irritated or uncomfortable with your question, don't poke them further. I know of people who would keep asking others question even if they tell them not to and aggravate the misery they are going on from within. Please pay attention to your listener's facial expressions and if you see him/ her feeling agitated, don't question him/ her more. Let it be and he/ she will be really obliged to you for this favor.
Stop Body Shaming
Body shaming is quite a common practice, especially in Pakistan. It is perfectly alright for people to remind others of how they stink or are fat or don't look presentable. Please understand that like you, the other person is a being as well. He/ she has feelings. He/ she thinks/. He/ she gets hurt. He/ she feels pain. So be nice and don't bring up things that may feel like body shaming to someone. I know bad body odor is a big problem and it can be hard to be around someone with a bad body odor.
However, I still feel bringing that up even if you know that person and are on good terms with him/ her isn't nice. What if you tell them how they stink and that makes them sink even lower inside and adds to the troubles they are already going through. If you want to be of help, indirectly encourage them to use a body spray. How about you put some spray on your body and tell them it makes you smell nice and how about they smell it too or something. There are lots of ways to indirectly bring up an issue to someone without body shaming them. Please do that or do nothing instead but don't resort to body shaming of any sort.
Don't Remind People of their Little Imperfections
All of us have many imperfections, don't we. Do we like people to discuss them? Of course, no. Do we want people to remind us of them time and again? Hell, no! Then why do we do the same to others. Whether it is a dirty vase on your friend's table or a meal your partner didn't cook well, please try to avoid bringing up their imperfections to them. You can talk about them indirectly at another time or do something about the issue yourself but that too has to be done in a subtle way.
Comparison is the worst thing people can do to each other and sadly, people do compare others a lot and even to themselves. If you tell someone about your pain, he/ she is likely to say 'Oh, you have been through nothing. I have been through worse.' Yes, there is a lot that people are going through and someone's trouble may be far bigger and harsher than yours, but it does not give him/ her the right to compare his struggle with yours. Pain is never huge or tiny, it is just pain so please stop comparing that. Don't remind others of how insignificant their pain is because it isn't. It is their pain; their story; their life and they have every right to feel hurt when they are. Don't compare them or their struggle with yours or that of anybody else because that would only hurt them more.
That said, it is another thing to encourage people to acknowledge their blessings and be grateful of them to feel better about their situation. You can do that without comparing their pain to that of anybody else's.
Don't Keep Going on About Yourself
All of us want to be heard- that is our innate human need. Just like you want to pour out your story, someone else may want to do the same. If you feel someone is in distress or seems upset, just ask them once or twice about how they feel and let them pour their heart out to you if they do. If not, give them time to open up without bringing up the topic again.
Tell Them You're Here
Let your loved ones know you are there for them and don't keep asking about their problems. Someone may say they are perfectly fine and don't need any help, but they may want exactly that from within. It is just that they aren't ready to share their problem with you for a million reasons, one of them being they don't want to upset you and the other being they don't want to give away the story of the people connected to their pain. So just let them know you are around and then be there when the need arises.
Don't Make Assumptions
If someone does not reply to a message on time or doesn't meet you, do not please make assumptions that he/ she is avoiding you or hates you or doesn't want to be in touch with you or that you have brought them any pain. That person may be stuck in a struggle of his own; may be going through hell; maybe really busy with making ends meet; or doing anything else that isn't related to you at all. Don't think like that about them because it will only make you more anxious and upset; and don't bring 'why don't you respond?' up to them time and again either. Give the time- it is the best gift you can give anyone and soon they'll tell you why they have been so absent.
Honestly, it is these little things which if we work on that can bring a huge difference in someone's life and can make them feel supported in a huge way. Try that out and let me know how it works for you and for others.
Love and light,
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