Have you ever had a conversation that starts with something like this?:
Friend: “Hi! How are you?”
You: “I’m doing good. What about you?”
Friend: “I’m good too.”
…and the conversation continues from there.
Now, have you ever been having this same conversation with someone but secretly inside you’re thinking “I am NOT doing good”?
I definitely have.

Sometimes we pretend like life is perfect

I think there is something that has been ingrained into many of us that we always need to be doing “good” when people ask. It’s almost as if the phrase “How are you?” isn’t actually asking how you’re doing, but rather just a way to say hello. If we were to actually say how we’re doing (“I’m actually extremely stressed about school right now” or “I’ve been feeling kind of lonely lately” or “I got in a fight with my partner the other day”), who knows how the other person would respond!

I think there is often this huge expectation in our lives to hide our struggles and pretend like life is perfect. Especially with the significant impact of social media in society, we are constantly seeing all the successes happening in other’s lives, and usually not very many of their struggles. It becomes so easy to then compare our real lives - which have many ups and downs on a daily basis - to people’s “Instagram lives” which usually only include the biggest, most successful “ups”. Perhaps you have felt this too. You might start thinking that you are weak or a failure for having struggles and weaknesses, but this is simply not true!

Life is hard, and that’s ok!

Although it might sometimes feel like you are the only person who is struggling through something, you are not alone! Everyone goes through hard times. It’s normal and it’s ok to have hard days, weeks, or even months. No matter what your struggle is - whether it’s something as small as stubbing your toe one morning, to something as big as struggling with long-term depression, all of your struggles are valid! They are ok to recognize! You don’t need to hide and pretend like everything is fine.

Of course, it is good to look for the positive things in life as well because these good things are what help bring hope and get you through the hard times, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore or shove aside the hard times altogether. Life is sometimes hard, and that is ok! That is normal.

We can’t do it alone - People need people

Despite the social norm of telling people “I’m good,” it’s actually so important to have people to talk to when you’re going through a hard time. We need to feel listened to and heard, we need support and friendship, and we need others to help us find hope and keep going. No matter how big or small the struggle, it can be a lot easier to get through when you have someone to talk to about it. 

The problem with how society works is that there is a stigma around talking about your hardships. Maybe you are afraid of how others might judge you, or maybe you feel like it’s not a big enough deal and you don’t want to burden others, or maybe you just feel too overwhelmed to face your struggles and don’t have the energy to explain things to someone else. These are all ok feelings and thoughts to have, and of course, you don’t need to talk about your struggles with every single person you meet in a day (that could be very time consuming and emotionally draining!). However, I think it is important to have some people who you can turn to when you’re going through a hard time. People need people to help each other through the hard parts of life. People can help you feel less alone, they can be a shoulder to cry on, they can be someone to rant to if you need to get something off your chest, or they can help you work through your thoughts and feelings to find a plan for what to do next.

Of course, you are the expert on your own story, and in the end, only you can choose what is best for your own situation. But talking to other people about these things can be a huge support to give you the strength to take a step in the direction you want to take.

Who can I talk to?
Maybe you’re reading this thinking, “Hey, I know I need to talk to someone…but I just don’t know exactly who to talk to”. Well, that is SO valid! It can be scary opening up to someone, especially if you’re not sure how they are going to respond. Here are a few ideas I can think of for people you might feel comfortable talking to and asking for help:

-A counselor or therapist who is trained to listen and help you heal and move forward
-A friend or family member who you’re close with and you know loves you
-A teacher or advisor who you feel might have some wise words to share
-A Peer Support Centre volunteer at the U of A!! We are literally trained for exactly this purpose - to provide a free, confidential, non-judgmental space for you to talk about any tough thing you are going through (school stress, financial concerns, abuse, suicide, relationship issues, and so much more). We are here to be a listening ear and then (if you want) provide even more resources to help you find the help you’re looking for.
-Unitea is a campus service where students can chat with a trained peer or alumni at a one-to-one tea time about whatever is on their mind, including their classes, interests, concerns, or anything that matters to them.
-The Edmonton Distress Line is a 24 hour call line for those in distress. The number is 780-482-4357.

Whoever you talk to, know that you deserve to be heard! You matter, and your struggles and concerns matter. Life has many ups and downs, and talking about both with others can help recognize the ups, and address the downs to get the support needed to get through them.


Author Bio:
Clara Heninger is a 5th year undergraduate in Honors Psychology. She started volunteering at the Peer Support Center last year and is passionate about mental health. Other things she loves in life include playing the cello, eating chocolate, running, and spending time with her family and loved ones.