We All Need a Pep Talk Sometimes

This hotline is an antidote for an ailing world.

I was having a really bad day. (Actually, it lasted for more than a week, but who’s counting?) Surely I’m not the only person who goes through periods where they feel like they can’t do anything right and that no one is on their side. It’s a lonely feeling.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon this really amazing thing called the Peptoc Hotline. When you call it, you hear the following: “If you’re feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3.”

That’s right. Kindergartners. Specifically, kindergartners from West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, along with other students aged 5-12. They are genuinely surprised that this hotline has gone viral, but I’m not. The whole world needs this right now. Perhaps more than ever.

Between the pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine causing us to teeter on the brink of WWIII, and climate change serving up a winter that never wants to end, we all seem to be at the end of our ropes. This hotline is an antidote to all of that. Kids tell you like it is. They’re genuine. They aren’t jaded by life yet.

So, yeah, I called it. And it made me cry. But happy tears for a change. I highly recommend that you call 707-998-8410 and have your day brightened, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seriously, though, call while you still can. Because all good things seem to come to an end. According to their Gofundme page, the hotline is getting 800 calls an hour, and therefore they have to fundraise $800 a DAY to keep it going. That, in spite of the hotline company giving them a million free minutes and a discounted rate. I don’t see how they can sustain that level of fundraising. Millionaires, do the right thing for once! (Please do go to the Gofundme page and donate if you can.)

I may just have to call the hotline again and record what they say for future mood-raising. But I have to say that it is a heck of a note when kindergartners have to step up to keep us all from losing our collective marbles.

What a world we live in.

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Toxic Positivity

“This dude is about 45 seconds away from forming a cult.”

Recently I overheard a friend listening to some sort of motivational speaker on Zoom. It gave me the creeps. The man actually said that Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was his personal hero. Ugh.

This speaker was a living, breathing business pep talk. Hearing his over-the-top enthusiasm and encouragement and his assurance that if you think positively, you’ll definitely get what you’re after, made me think, “This dude is about 45 seconds away from forming a cult.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think Covey’s 7 habits have their place, but he is no hero. I think enthusiasm and motivation are wonderful, as long as they don’t turn into a form of criticism or a way to not listen to what others have to say. I’ve even been known to say “An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along” on this blog, and my first book is about gratitude. But these things should be part of the overall balance.

If you’re an unrelenting Pollyanna who sees sunshine and lollipops wherever you go, then you are, frankly, delusional. There are negative aspects of life. These negative things have a need to be acknowledged, too. They, too, shouldn’t be the only things you focus on, but there’s nothing wrong with having mixed emotions, or feeling sad or angry sometimes. It’s perfectly natural.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I was really happy to see this article in Bloomberg entitled, “Trying to Stay Optimistic Is Doing More Harm Than Good.” It makes several interesting points.

If you know someone who is living on the financial razor’s edge due to this pandemic and is telling you his or her story, for example, then perhaps you shouldn’t respond with a sentence that starts with, “Well, at least…” That sentence shows you are not hearing that person, and you’re not willing to hear them. You’re not letting them vent their anxiety. You’re not acknowledging something that is hugely impacting their lives. (And frankly, you’re being rude.)

If you are a toxically optimistic boss, you pretty much make it impossible for your team to speak up and point out issues that need fixing. If you insist that all your zoom meetings start off with some positive bit of news in the midst of a pandemic with a heaping side order of political and financial unrest, you are not acknowledging entirely legitimate sides of your staff. You’re making them cut themselves in half to feel like they’re team players.

Sometimes things suck. Sometimes people are discouraged and depressed. That’s okay as long as it isn’t the only thing they ever are. Well rounded, mature individuals know that the emotional pendulum tends to swing back and forth. Personally, I take comfort in that. If I don’t like how I’m feeling at the moment, I know from repeated experience that it will eventually change. This, too, shall pass.

Further, if you make people feel as though there’s something wrong with them if they’re not positive 100 percent of the time, then they will seek relief in all the wrong places. They may fall into depression or abuse substances. They may become victims of Ponzi schemes in an effort to gain instant success. They may fall victim to Prosperity Theology, thinking that if their attempts to think positively won’t help, then maybe if they just donate more to religion, the money will come back to them tenfold. That’s magical thinking at its worst. At a minimum, they’ll think they’re not good enough.

People who insist you always have to have a gung-ho, can-do spirit are setting you up for failure. You really are allowed to have a whole host of emotions. Most of those emotions will be relatively fleeting. If not, it’s time to seek help.

According to the article mentioned above, people feel more sad, not less, when they’re expected to hide those emotions. Yes, do your best to look at things in a positive light. Be grateful for the good in your life. Count those blessings as often as you like. But know that it’s okay to get frustrated or annoyed or stressed out or upset sometimes. It wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t have those feelings every once in a while.

Give your cloudy side a great big hug, knowing it has a place within you, too. The full spectrum of your emotions should be allowed to come out and play as needed. If not, they’ll manifest themselves one way or another. They don’t go away. They insist on being heard.

Namaste.

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A Generic Pep Talk

Dang, but you’re good!

If you’re feeling anxious or insecure or overwhelmed or defeated or even afraid, that’s entirely understandable. Life can be hard, and everyone, every single person on this planet, has experienced those feelings at one time or another. I guarantee that there are thousands of people out there who are in the exact same boat right this very minute. You are not alone.

But you know what? You got this. You know how I know? Because here you are. You’ve made it this far, despite all the odds.

You have survived every single thing that has been thrown at you your entire life. Just surviving your own birth is a major hurdle. Not only did you do that, but you have made it through illness and heartbreak and failure and cruelty and bad decisions. You’ve eaten things that weren’t particularly good for you, and no doubt you’ve drunk things that were even worse. You’ve hurt yourself and been hurt. You were picked on in school, and you’ve been treated unfairly at work. And yet, here you are. Still standing.

You are freakin’ awesome. You know how to take care of yourself. Your brains and your ingenuity have gotten you this far. You haven’t given up. You have absolutely every reason to have faith in yourself, because you can stand in front of a mirror, and… look! There you are! You got yourself here. You.

That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think? Dang, but you’re good! So keep up the good work! You can do it!

you got this

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Pep Talking

A friend of mine was having a really bad day at work. She called me up to vent and to get a pep talk. “You got this,” I said. “Breathe,” I said. “You are one of the most capable and intelligent people I know, and you love your job. If anyone can fix this situation, it’s you.”

I’ve always been a good pep talker. It’s second nature to me. But someone recently pointed out to me that that is not the case for everyone.

I should know that. It’s why I honed the craft in the first place.

I grew up in an emotionally barren landscape. My mother was so depressed and overwhelmed that I was often the very last thing on her mind. She was never abusive. I always had a roof (such as it was) over my head, and food in my belly. She emphasized the importance of education. But I was so starved for love and affection that I’m amazed my heart didn’t atrophy. More than anything, I just wanted to be seen.

Because of that, I spent a great deal of time inside my head in a world of my own making, where people said things to me that I desperately wanted to hear. “You’re going to be just fine.” “I’m proud of you.” “You are a loveable person.” “I have faith in you.” “You can do it!”

So now, when I see that someone is at a low point, I simply tell them what I’d most like to hear if I were to find myself in a similar situation. It’s easy.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? The world would be a much nicer place if they did. But there are a few preliminary steps that you have to take to get to that point, I suppose:

  • Being empathetic enough to realize when someone is going through a rough patch.

  • Having the confidence to know that an encouraging word from you would be helpful and appreciated.

  • Having the generosity of spirit to feel that this is an effort worth making.

  • Being capable of picking up on social cues.

  • Sincerely caring about others.

  • Having a genuine belief that people are capable of more than they give themselves credit for, and the ability to creatively articulate that at a moment’s notice.

  • Pulling your head out of your own butt long enough to see what’s going on around you.

Help raise someone up today! Can you do it? Yes! I have faith in you!

pep talk