Where’s The Instruction Manual?

How does this work? How do I work? Because I’m not sure I know who I am anymore!

That’s seemingly a daft statement because obviously I do know who I actually am. What I really mean is, in this new world where things are opening up, the ‘rules’ are murky, Covid cases are increasing and yet we are being given greater and greater freedom, I am feeling confused, agitated, at times anxious and I am not entirely certain I know how to behave. Is it OK to hug our family and friends? Is it OK to pass the salt at the dinner table? Do I pick up all our glasses from the waiter’s tray or let others take their own drink? Did I remember to sanitise my hands before I touched the steering wheel after I’ve been shopping?

I don’t know who I am anymore, probably for a few reasons. I have changed in this past 18 months — so much has happened to me (as it has for all of us). The impacts of Covid, whether we’ve had it or simply been impacted by the constant curbing of our freedoms seems to have affected so much of who we are. It has altered our sense of self.

I was going out for dinner the other evening, excited on one hand, concerned on the other, not knowing how to dress to go out…It’s like, somehow, I have become socially disabled.

And, honestly, it’s freaking me out.

I speak to friends who report, and I notice this in myself too, the inability to find the words we want to express what, 18 months ago would have been easy. My cognitive function has altered. The lack of face-to-face stimulus has literally rewired my neural pathways. I reflect, after the fact, that I am in conversation with someone — on a walk, or over a bite to eat — listening intently to what they are saying, and often don’t respond, I am so in my own head. It can be days later when I realise I hadn’t actually reacted in the moment to what they were telling me although I had been mulling over the content of their story since. It’s immensely peculiar (those that know me well, know I used to like a chat!).

Personally, I had been blaming this on my long Covid symptoms, however, I have heard this from so many people across the past few weeks it seems that eternal isolation has impacted our ability to intermingle as we once did. Apparently then, this is simply a wee cherry on top for me, and I suspect others, not long Covid. A double whammy!

Personal safety is also a huge limiter for our reintegration. Sure, the vaccination programme helps; being vaccinated doesn’t prevent us from contracting Covid though so, some thought needs to be given to how we can take one another’s safety into consideration as we begin to dip our toes into society properly once again. It’s not only physical safety either, I think this cognition piece deserves some careful thought too. How do we help one another feel easy in conversation? Feel comfortable in what feels like an alien terrain?

We are not getting much in the way of leadership example setting from those in the public eye — a lack of recognition of the impact of poor behaviour, the lack of responsibility being taken from their position of power, the lack of an ability to own mistakes, apologise and demonstrate a mindful course of action … it’s rife. So, how can we expect society more generally to help with the difficulties many of us are experiencing when our role modelling is skewwhiff?

Our journey towards something familiar to us, societally and personally, will be a long one. We will get somewhere I suspect, although I truly believe it will take us much longer than we suspect to make progress.

In the meantime, I am going to stop looking for the instruction manual of me, because I realise it doesn’t exist for my new state of being. Instead, I am going to write a new one as I attempt to become comfortable with my new look and feel. I’ll be gentle with myself from now on when I unearth parts of me that I do not understand, are unfamiliar or that seem, somehow, unworldly.

I am reassured that I am not alone.

Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at tania@twcreativecoaching.com.

Executive Coach | Organisational Development Consultant | Leadership Specialist | Champion of People and Their Potential. Follow me for #leadership tips.