The post-pandemic fear: We need to accept that Covid-19 has changed us
Covid-19 and this extended period of solitary living have changed us, probably irrevocably. Perhaps we should embrace this change instead of trying to find "normality".
What do you think would happen if you choose to believe that you didn’t need to belong? What might occur if you released your grip on the universally held belief that we’re all in search of acceptance from each other? What if you decided to stop looking for those feelings from everyone else and focused on getting them from yourself?
This might sound a little like an introduction to a self-help lecture but I’m merely inviting you to revisit an everyday belief and turn it on its head and to see what happens as a result.
Why are we so quick to assume that if we belong or fit in that we will be happy? Our need to belong and fit in can directly impact how we express our thoughts, feelings, actions and all of our behaviours.
So what would happen if you reframed the question; and asked “how would I show up if I didn’t need to fit in or belong?” The pandemic has been an emotional and economic hellscape for many, but it has also granted us some time to answer this question.
Preparing for post-pandemic fear
I’m in no doubt that this topic is about to become even more pertinent as we prepare to ease ourselves back out into the world. I don’t know about you but there are elements of returning to the ‘new normal’ that terrify me.
In a recent interview with Helen Rosner, from the New Yorker magazine, writer and TV star, Nigella Lawson, spoke to my very heart, when asked coming out of the pandemic if she would have suspected that she would enjoy being alone for so long?
“No, I never used to like solitude much. I went a bit too inward. It must be an age thing – over the past three years, I have found I have grown not just to enjoy solitude but to need it. Like many things, once you get used to it, it becomes very necessary. It doesn’t follow that I would have enjoyed it when it was quite so unremitting, but I did. I do.
I find it easier, having days that are not broken up. I’ve never been one who likes going out for lunch, unless I’m on vacation, I can’t change modes. If I know I’ve got to go out in the daytime, I get very little work done in the morning because I’m thinking I have to go out and when I get back I feel like I can’t do anything now”.
When I read this I honestly never felt more seen. It articulates a feeling I’ve held for years but one I regularly questioned and challenged as just me being anti-social or odd. I had found myself worrying about why did I suddenly feel so out of step, why was I feeling so different?
The answer was staring me in the face. I was so scared if I didn’t, that I would not fit in and so I hid it. It lay buried inside me. Why did my own company feel like the safest? Why did others seem to thrive when they had multiple appointments in a day when for me it felt like my worst nightmare? Why did I favour smaller intimate gatherings and dreaded that time when I would have to be in large groups again? Why had I changed and more importantly how was I going to cover this up?
The truth was that I had changed in recent years. Life-changing events and losses had changed me, and I was struggling now with the long-term impacts of some of those changes.
Just because I understood them didn’t mean I accepted them.
Letting go of “normal”
Yet based on the reaction I’ve seen to Nigella’s interview, it turns quite a lot of us share this sentiment. If it speaks to you in the same way I’m guessing that you too might share some trepidation about what returning to “normal” might feel like.
So my advice to you is this:
1 Instead of thinking about what you need to do to fit in or belong, I invite you to consider just how would you show up if you chose to believe that you did not need to fit in?
2 How would you behave differently if you acknowledged that you don’t need to belong or fit in, for others to love you, you don’t have to relinquish your own desires or needs, just so that you will be accepted by others?
Start by finding that space of acceptance within you by tuning in and listening to exactly what is it that makes you happy, who is it that makes you feel good about yourself.
Do more of what you love, because it makes you happy and less from a fear of not being accepted. Know that by pleasing yourself you will in effect be teaching others how to please you too, which can only be a good thing!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need.