Why do we need to hear the words ‘everything is going to be okay’ or ‘you’ll be fine’ from someone else?
What difference can those fairly innocuous words really make? Several clients this week have voiced that they need reassurance. Clients who are making changes in their life and are standing at the point of commitment. In fact one had already taken the step they needed, but were feeling doubtful now they were standing in the new position about the unfolding challenges more tangibly ahead, whilst another needed reassurance to start taking the steps.
The question behind the need for reassurance is “Can I do this?”.
Sometimes we need to hear that someone else thinks we can. That they believe in us.
Concern about what others think can sometimes be unhelpful, when what matters is what we think and feel. No one else can tell us that. Yet we seek the opinions of others because we hope it will confirm and therefore reassure us about we think already; agreement from others often assuages us of our doubts and enables us to feel more confident. When we hear what we need to hear that is.
Deep down we usually know we can, and that we are doing the right thing, but thoughts crowd in and distract us from our sense, causing us to doubt ourselves. Doubts raise questions and questions raise doubts.
We have usually started a thought process and made subtle changes or even quite big steps towards something, and then at a certain point we suddenly hesitate, waver, with our foot in mid-air and start to question our self and what we are doing. Can I really do this? Is this really the right thing to be doing? Self doubt has crept in alongside a myriad of ‘What ifs’. What if I can’t? What it if doesn’t work out? Our brain is working frantically to create all sorts of reasons to get us back in our comfort zone and stop taking risks.
With so much uncertainty, it’s unsurprising we start to question the risks we are taking, and to feel like turning back to the safety of the known. But we also know we are turning away from a challenge we have set ourself because it felt right and necessary to start on that path. And so we are uncomfortably tentative, mid-step between the known and the unknown. But to not complete that step is to to take a backwards step, however hard it is to place the full commitment of our body weight and two feet in that new place.
And so we seek encouragement, reassurance, reinforcement and resource to help us on continue on our way. A hand to help us cross the gulf, to commit, to see through. And that soothing sentence from someone who cares: ‘Everything is going to be Ok’.
Sometimes those words are the most futile, patronising and unwelcome you can say to someone; usually when it’s in response to an event or situation where we don’t feel we have any control. And yet sometimes they are the most powerful. They can make a real difference when it’s what someone needs to hear, when they are said with an insight into the journey that individual is on.
When we know someone is working hard towards something and on a challenging path, we know there will be a time when they lose resolve through questioning themselves. There is no uncertainty without doubt. It is at this time we can offer the small amount of support needed to retain courage; to brace and comfort someone who momentarily wavers in their self belief. It enables them to re-focus.
To reassure is to restore confidence. It’s to give something back that was already there in that person.
My sense is that it’s not the words we need to hear, but the voice. To hear a voice tell us what we need to hear, to say the thing we struggle to tell ourself. To feel and hear that from another gives us an increased sense of resilience and motivation, something we are trying to find inside our self.
We all need reassurance and we can all give it to one another.
So in some respects, the sentence ‘You can do it’’ can be enough for someone to feel they can.