Counseling Center

May 21, 2020

What If Everyone is Doing Their Best?

Posted by Anne Swenson, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, UWCC

One of the ways the pandemic is impacting my emotional health is that every time I feel that I have a decent set of coping tools in place, things change and I have a new struggle. Lately, my struggle has been about judgment.

As the country starts to open back up, I’m seeing more and more reminders about how people are reacting differently to the pandemic. I see social media posts of people who are getting together with friends and others who aren’t leaving their homes at all. I talk with people who think that the pandemic response is overblown and people who think we’re not taking it seriously enough.  I see people who wear masks when walking alone outside and others not wearing them in crowded grocery stores. One of my main reactions has been judgment. I find myself flooded with thoughts about how people are wrong. I think, “They’re not taking this seriously. I can’t believe they aren’t wearing a mask. They don’t care about others.”

The thoughts may vary, but the way I feel in the end is the same. I feel angry and frustrated. I end up stewing about it and ranting to friends. But none of that changes anything. I can’t control other people, and I’ve had a zero percent success rate in my ranting or the thoughts I think at the screen when looking at social media changing other people’s behavior. I just feel worse emotionally and worse about humanity.

So, I’m trying a new approach. I’m choosing to assume that everyone is doing their best. That whether they are wearing masks or not, seeing other people or not, going to beaches or not, that this is the best that they can do in these circumstances. To be clear, I don’t actually know if they’re doing their best. Maybe they’re not. But that’s really not the point. I’m making an active choice (again and again) to believe that they’re doing their best because it helps me.

When I choose this belief, I don’t get stuck in judgment and anger. I feel more peaceful, and I’m better at being able to experience the small parts of my day that I enjoy that are helping me get through. I feel like most days are a battle to fill up my emotional energy with little things like eating blueberry muffins and watching videos of unlikely animal friends. I can’t afford to drain my energy with judgment. Choosing to believe that others are doing their best is helping me out, and maybe it could help you too.