The first time someone told me “You’ve got this” I was going through a divorce. I was scared about money. I was nervous for my kids, because they’d all recently had meltdowns over the fact their father was moving out. I didn’t know how to take care of anything around my house, and I hadn’t paid bills on my own since I lived alone when I was 23.
I’d heard people say “You’ve got this” to others before and never thought much of it. But when a family member said it to me as I was crying on our lunch date, explaining how I didn’t even know how to tackle this new life of mine, it spit me into a tunnel of rage. It didn’t encourage me at all. And it certainly didn’t make me feel more capable. It made me feel like they were saying: “I don’t know what to tell you but deal with it.” They were telling me to push through even though I was clearly saying I felt like I was drowning in the sea of the unknown, and I was scared out of my mind.
When I hear the phrase now, it sounds like the definition of toxic positivity. It takes away the voice of the person of the struggling person and feels like someone’s way of washing their hands of giving any support.
Yes, I was dealing with something hard that afternoon, and it did add to my feelings about the phrase. But when you think about it, that’s the case with most people when someone listening to them is prompted to say, “You’ve got this.”
Even people who you believe are strong and can handle anything might not have everything under control. If someone is venting to you they might be asking for help.
Cutting them off with such and dismissive statement might make them feel like they are wrong for focusing on something that’s bothering them. It seems to be a statement people throw around to make themselves feel better instead of listening or sitting with someone in their discomfort (which is probably all they need).
The truth is, life is a mix of all emotions and nobody’s life is perfect. We all deserve to be heard. Suppressing negative emotions by always being cheery and acting like everything’s under control can make the bad stuff worse because we aren’t dealing with it. It can also have an effect on our mental health if we feel like we have to paint a pretty picture all the time, not to mention set the wrong example for our kids.
Sometimes moms do need to vent and that’s okay. Just because someone else’s life seems “easier” than ours it doesn’t give us the right to invalidate them or make them feel like they are complaining. Being a mother comes with so many ups and downs and we all have moments when we feel like we’ve had enough and we don’t, in fact, “have this.”
I’m so sick of hearing this stupid phrase. I’m sick of seeing it on social media. I’m sick of people thinking it’s helpful. And I’m really freaking sick of people saying it to moms.
Instead of saying, ‘You’ve got this,” try, “How can I support you?” or “That sounds really difficult. Would you like help or do you just need to vent?”
And if you still don’t think there’s any harm in saying, “You’ve got this,” think about the last time you were in pain, not feeling well or needed help. What if someone said to you, ‘You’ll be fine,” without offering anything else? It’s the same thing.
Life isn’t all about the good stuff. It’s also about learning how to work through the hard stuff and that part is really really difficult. Maybe if we normalized the phrase “I don’t have this,” instead, we would all feel more validated.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.