She was having a bad health day with debilitating ulcerative colitis symptoms when a coworker commented, “I hope you feel as good as you look.”
My client shared this with me because she was surprised by how good it felt to hear this. At least, she said, someone wasn’t making assumptions based on how she looks — ‘like judging a book by it’s cover’ .
If you’re living with a chronic illness, do you know that disconnect between how you look and what you’re experiencing? When people assume how you’re feeling based on how you look, it can be so isolating and uncomfortable because you typically don’t feel as good as you look. It’s even more difficult when someone asks how you are, you say that you’re not feeling so well and the response is, “But you look so good.”
Once, when I shared that how hard this with a ‘healthy’ friend, her response was, “But wouldn’t it be worse if you look as dreadful as you feel?”
Neither is good. But when you’re told you look fine, how can you say, “But I feel like crap!” without others thinking you’re being a drama queen. The truth is we don’t have a window into anyone’s internal experience, emotional or physical. The only way we know is if they share it. But unlike an acute problem, such as a back strain or a dissolved relationship, a chronic health problem will not heal. This disconnect between your internal experience and what shows externally doesn’t change.
Which is why my clients talk about this as much as they do. We, who live with chronic health issues, spend an inordinate amount of time on this issue. There are times when you can explain that you don’t feel the way you look. But when the relationships are relatively impersonal, such as work, that’s often too much detail. It’s easy to create misunderstanding and even more psychic distress for yourself.
So, the next time you greet someone, try out, “I hope you feel as good as you look”. You’d be modeling it for others. And you must know someone who could benefit from hearing this, too? Forward this post on.