I’m intending to write a series of posts exploring some of the classic cliches and phrases that I have come across since my diagnosis with cancer. My last post Why I won’t be getting run over by a bus any time soon was the first of these and is about the chances of getting run over by a bus and the reality of living with a life shortening diagnosis. This post is about the phrase “keep your chin up” which has been said to me on more than a few occasions. Now if it is said to me on the basis that keeping my chin up will help to mask the double chin I currently have (I blame that on the steroids!) then fine, it may be a little blunt but yes it is good advice for minimising a double chin! Hey I might even get one of these!
However I think it is generally said to encourage me to stay strong and positive in the face of adversity, not to cry with my chin down. More on positivity in a future post as part of this series but the phrase grates on me and I have been trying to figure out why. I think it is because it takes away from my right to feel down or upset and places the onus on me to alter my mood rather than perhaps empathising with me, for example, by saying yes you’re in a pretty shitty situation and I’m here for you. I know people mean well when they say it but there are times when I don’t want to or can’t keep my chin up. I may just want to express my grief, depression or fears or whatever and be a blubbering wreck without being told to keep my chin up, stay positive etc etc. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is more for the benefit of other people than me. Its my party and I’ll cry if I want to comes to mind.
I really like this RSA short animation below on the power of empathy and it helped me understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.
And I’m not saying that I am the perfect empathiser, far from it, I’m just saying!! You will be relieved to hear that I am mostly “keeping my chin up” these days, being on a much reduced dose of steroids has helped with my low mood and paranoia when withdrawing from them in my week off treatment. I am maintaining remission but still on treatment ( a medical update will follow shortly). Life is pretty good in spite of the endless visits to hospital for treatment and review, I’ve just come back from a few days break abroad in this place. See if y0u can guess where? All will be revealed in my next post!