On Being Amazing

At my dad’s funeral in 2004, one detail has always stuck out for me; how many people came up to me afterward to tell me what a nice service it was. In the absence of familiarity, strangers found themselves obligated to fill the silence with generic words of solace. Better than saying nothing, some would say.

As the broken daughter on the receiving end of those words, I can only remember how frustrating I found them. Funerals are the worst time ever anyway; and having to keep it together while crowds of unrecognizable faces told me that my father’s service was lovely was like having the most attractive person in the world punch me with cupcakes, on repeat. The sentiment was nice and well intentioned (and appreciated on some level), but the underlying misery was still the same, regardless.

Perhaps that’s a morbid way to bring you to my point, but it’s the only thing I could think of that seemed slightly related to what I want to discuss, which is this:

It’s fucking hard sometimes to be amazing.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Well, I don’t exactly but I’ll gladly take a stab at it. You’re possibly thinking that I’m being self-absorbed and full of myself, calling myself amazing haphazardly on my blog because it’s “my damn page and I’ll do with it what I want.” Not the case. While that could easily be my prerogative, what brought me to this conclusion was recent weeks of well, misery. I’ve been on the edge of a break-up with someone near and dear to me and, if you know me on the Twitters, you’ll know that it’s hard for me to keep my emotional state hidden from public view. By “hard for me”, I mean “virtually impossible”. I might not share all the gory details, but it’s obvious when something is happening in this little heart of mine.

What does this have to do with being amazing? And how am I connecting it to my father’s funeral? Well, I’ll tell ya’.

I’ve noticed that in times of despair people will often reach out to me, offering their words of comfort. These internet hugs are lovely and certainly appreciated – at least for the intentions behind them, but they can also fall flat when presented like this:

“Don’t feel sad. You’re amaaaaazing!”

I have learned how to take a compliment over the years. If you think that I have done something to warrant being told I’m amazing or awesome or insert compliment here, I will certainly take it. I will blush and I will be genuinely grateful. However when it’s used as a blanket response to “I’m sad or angry”, it’s a lot harder to digest.

To tell you the truth, it feels dismissive, though I know that’s not the intent. When I am genuinely suffering with an issue that’s upsetting or angering me, a personal crisis that’s causing me sadness or despair; telling me not to worry about it because I’m amazing, leaves me conflicted. I’m left with feelings of guilt for allowing sadness or anger in when I’m apparently so amazing that I should be able to rise above all of that, right?

Am I not allowed to feel sadness because I’m amazing? Have I ruined your view of me as an amazing woman because I am momentarily feeling weak? Am I obligated to do something awesome instead of being able to just … be?

Of course not. And I know that if I asked them directly, people would never answer those questions with any ill intent, they only wish me to feel better. For whatever reason though, we tend to default back to generic language that we’re taught will make everything ok. We think we have to fill the silence, to say anything to recognize the sadness. “It was a lovely service, but ok yes, your dad’s still dead.”

Instead of telling someone who’s feeling down that they’re great, give them a tangible offering. Let them know that you’re there for them if they need to talk or reach out. And if that’s too much of a commitment for you, letting them know that you empathize and/or hope they feel better is a nice sentiment without being dismissive. Every now and then simply knowing that there’s a person or people out there that wish you good vibes is enough to get you through the day.

I know I don’t speak here for everyone. I’m sure there are those that feel that being told they’re amazing or awesome in times of despair is enough to get them through the day with their head held high. For me, however, I want to earn that compliment as recognition for being great not for comfort when I’m being sad.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m doing something that you think is awesome? Please tell me! I won’t ever deny that validation feels GREAT and it’s also important for me to know that what I’m doing is making a difference. I simply want you, the world, to think that I’m amazing because I want to do and am doing amazing things FOR you.

For anyone that’s reached out in the past couple of months, I promise, I am grateful.

  • Matthew

    You’re not wrong. In fact you’re completely and utterly right. It seems when people are sad, or angry whether it be over a heartache ( which I’m completely familiar with ) a death ( which sadly I’m all too familiar with in the past year or so ) the consensus is the drop of the familiar cliche lines. *You’re amazing* is what you get, or *You’re a great guy, you’ll find someone* or *She doesn’t know what she’s missing* I could go on and on ( those are only from the heartache section, I didn’t feel like delving into the death part ) but in the end you’re right Sam. While those lines aren’t mean with any ill will, they just never seem to sit right. They come off as cliche from whatever rom com might be playing at the time. I love my friends, I really do, but sometimes just telling me *that sucks, let’s grab a drink* or just a pat on the back or even a hug works more wonders than words can ever do.

    It’s tough to live up to that billing of *amazing* or whatever word that people want to bestow on you. It makes for heavy shoulders and sometimes too much thinking during times when more than likely your brain is already on overdrive. There’s so many more ways to comfort than to praise. Your blog here is spot on and very nicely put

  • Rob

    It’s a vacuous comment because most people have no idea how to respond to another’s’ pain. We all feel pain that we can barely express to ourselves let alone get inside some one else’s. Usually people don’t mean to be hurtful they just don’t know how to be helpful.

    I just say ‘I’m in pain and it sucks. I know you’re trying to encourage me but platitudes only make me feel guilty.’

  • Andre

    That’s such a great point. As Rob and Matthew have already said below (and of course you said in your post) these people obviously have good intentions but probably don’t know what else to say, but still want to offer comfort.

    I completely understand why you likened it to your father’s funeral. When my grandfather passed away 2 years ago, people kept asking “how are you doing” or “how are you holding up” (I especially dislike that one). While I knew they meant well, all I wanted to do was yell “Poppy just died, how in the hell do you THINK I’m doing?!?!”. But of course I can’t do that, lest I hurt their feelings for trying to help.

    Of course you are allowed to feel sadness and anger and anything else that your body/mind/soul needs to feel. I would simply offer my comfort in the only way I can from hundreds of Km’s away (I’m in Ottawa), and that’s just to tell you that I hope you are able to find the (local) support you need to help you through this really tough time. And to keep in mind that you have many caring readers out here and we’re thinking of you 🙂

  • Jen

    I just finished reading your blog from the start and I suppose this is a great post to catch up on for me. I wanted to tell you that your posts, stories, and advice has really helped me a lot in figuring out what I want in my relationships. I spent the last year and a half in a poly relationship with a married man and it was my first poly experience. I’m now at a point where I will be starting to actually date with the purpose of finding a primary partner of my own and i was questioning if pursuing poly further was really something worth doing even if I really wanted it. Your stories and reactions to things helped make it clear to me that I do. I find my way of thinking and reacting is very similar to yours, so thank you. I’m really glad you did that article in Toronto Life which is how I found the blog 🙂

    So, in short, what you have done here with the blog is fantastic. You are inspiring to me. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abha.kumara.9 Abha Kumara

    Loved reading your Post…
    It’s really heart touching!