“You got this,” a rant

All too often when I or someone else in the Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) community post about a struggle or a challenging experience, the response is “You got this.” That comment is often accompanied by an emoji of a flexed bicep, likely meant to communicate strength or that the basis for the words comment is that you are “strong.” I’ve seen this comment from others in the MBC Community at times as well as from healthy people and it just gets to me.

Why?!??!!?!?!?!?!?

What the heck does this comment mean??

If I’m being generous and have the ability to take a breath and two steps back, I think the intent behind the comment is expressing that whatever the issues or item that was posted about can be dealt with and that the person expressing concern about the struggle can handle it. In a generous mood, I suppose this sort of comment can be construed as communicating a positive or confidence in you, cheering or rooting you on.

If I’m not so generous (and I usually end up in this camp), the comment seriously devalues and minimizes the experience of the person posting.

How would anyone know if the other person is able to handle the thing they are posting about?

How would anyone really know what is going on and all that the experiences affects/entails?

Why in the world would someone feel as though they can randomly say this!?

Rather than acknowledging the struggle, listening to the things that are hard, and offering to be with the person struggling in the mess, a quick comment to make the commenter feel better doesn’t help the person in the midst of the struggle. It’s dismissive and it doesn’t help.

Further, since MBC is terminal, that is the very definition of something that is out of our control and something we can’t “handle.” None of us can. No matter how strong or courageous or capable or organized or young or old or whatever, eventually the malignant cells with no brakes will overwhelm our bodies and kill us.

The next time someone in the MBC community or otherwise talks/posts/writes/tweets/whatever talks about a struggle and how hard their life or a situation really is, don’t respond with “You’ve got this” or with any emoji demonstrating physical strength. Just don’t.

Here are some other things you could respond with:

  • I’m so sorry.
  • Can I rub your feet?
  • Can I send you a gift card for a pedicare/manicure/massage/food?
  • I hear you. How can I help?
  • Do you need to talk/vent/cry?
  • Sending a hug.
  • Holding space for you — this is a safe space to vent!
  • I love you.
  • I see you and I see how hard you are struggling.

Or any variation on these themes. When we in the MBC Community post publicly about our struggles, demonstrate how hard we have to try to live “normally” or otherwise give you a glimpse in our world, understand how hard it is to be vulnerable; understand that you have no idea what really goes on behind the scenes, and don’t dismiss that offering. Sit with it, look at it carefully, and then provide support.

Isn’t that what all need?

43 thoughts on ““You got this,” a rant

  1. So true. I think that while comments such as “you got this” come from a well-intentioned place they have a duality of purpose: let the speaker think they are doing something for you and let them feel better about themselves for saying something they (wrongly) perceive as helpful.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you!! Each day I hear “you are so strong”. No…no I’m not. I just don’t have a choice. I was talking to a co worker this week and his son (19) is battling cancer. He was stating that even he, as a father, understands what Cale is going through. So he simply stands by in quiet support without expressing the standard responses of “you got this” or “you are so strong”.
    I appreciate your candor and honesty in this post. Thank you. My favorite response you penned….Can I rub your feet?
    Sending you love and prayers. ♥️

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Many people do not know what to say. The “You’re strong” and “You got this” might be with good intentions, or their way of denying the truth so they don’t get close to you — that fear of grieving AND that fear that one day they are going to die.

    It’s not only those in the MBC community, but also home health personal assistants. I’ve now been NED for 2 years, but still experience lymphedema & numbness in my left leg at times. I have PT exercises, but not once has any PA asked if I wanted them to help me even when my right hand looks as if it’s transforming into something that belongs on an ET. All they would need to do is help hold my arm up after the 5th repetition. Rather, they say, “You can do it. You’re strong and determined”.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. How I respond depends on my mood.

        It’s family also. After asking how I’m doing, they flip the script to talk about their issues in which they want me to help. (Keep her working so she’ll forget about the big C-anxiety and that she has no boops) seems to be their intent.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. We (humans) all find it scary and hard to hold someone else’s pain, I guess we say silly things more for our own benefit… Because Of the fear of not being able to hold the pain or that uncomfortable feeling of wishing we could make it better when we know we can’t, feelings of inadequacy makes some say things that they don’t even know what it means and furthermore regret later. I remember wishing people would rather say nothing than some inane comment, however well meaning they might be. I have told people to their face that it’s really OK to say nothing rather.

    But I really like your proactive approach of letting people know what they can say or do. You have written about what people can offer to do previously and I have passed the information on to a young friend who sought my advice on how to respond. I might share this post as well. Thank you for your sharing your truth it is very valuable. Mx

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You are welcome and Absolutely 👍 that is so true,… Just.. “I am here for you” is reaching out because I think most people want to be there for you. I appreciate reading your blog and hope in some ‘social media’ way that I can support you, even by reading about your truth. Sending virtual hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Toxic positivity has become all too common. Personally, I’m inclined to tell people to take their good vibes only and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine. Validation yes, toxic positivity no thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I totally agree with you. I hate when people say “you got this”. As you point out, there are some things which are completely outside out control … things we wish were in our control … because we would do whatever we could to turn the situation around. Great post. I’m sure it resonates with a lot of people.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Well you just ruined an art project I was thinking about doing. 😂

    For me, it’s been people who say they “couldn’t do what I’ve gone through,” or they “don’t know how I can do it, because they couldn’t.” I always respond, “Well, I didn’t realize I had a choice?!”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Boy, has this resonated with a lot of people! I’ve used “You’ve got this,” as self-talk to myself. I am probably guilty of using it with others (kids, friends) in non-cancer settings. If I were to translate my intentions I’m really saying, “I believe in you” or “You know what to do” which is what I need to say in the first place. Context matters a lot. It gets tough to remember who has said what, who prefers which terms, and what the latest offensive phrases may be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you!! It is hard to remember which terms are “correct”. I’ve tried to err on the side of saying what is behind those words, to say … “you have a 100% track record of surviving hard days and I’m here for you.” ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Abigail,

    OMG, I hate hearing this particular platitude! When I hear/heard it, I always want/wanted to say something like, “Yeah, I’ve got this alright. I’ve got the damn cancer.” People say it before surgery, chemo and other situations too. Saying it to someone with MBC is out of line – just plain wrong, IMO.

    I guess it’s supposed to mean you can handle it, but that’s not something someone else gets to assume about you either. It only adds to the pressure because, sometimes we all feel like no, we can’t handle it.

    It’s one more example of positivity pushing. Your suggestions about what to say are far better. Thanks for the post. You know how I love a good rant!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve a few more coming … I’ve been in a ranty mood lately. So much, so many things; at some point, I just can’t. I do try to see the intent behind things but when it’s just dumb, when the “reason” is just dismissive or further ways to avoid real emotions or real empathy, I’m just done.

      Like

  10. Thank you, Abigail and commenters. This is a most valuable lesson on the carelessness that hides behind what one believes is well-meaning intent.

    Looking forward to further rants. They’re always instructive and clear the air.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oh, so well said, Abigail. Another one that gets to me is: “If you stay positive, you can beat this.” Really? And here’s me thinking chemotherapy and radiotherapy had a part to play in trying to get rid of the cancer cells in my lung. Looking forward to your next rant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, I think it’s important not just to rant and rave about things, but also to offer alternatives or solutions. It’s not a one size fits all situation and I’m always open to hearing about other options. One friend suggested offers to babysit or keep children occupied/entertained as an alternative. That definitely makes my list!

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  12. I’ve actually talked about these platitudes with my therapist. My best friend told me that she thinks I have a ‘positive attitude’ and I just lost it. We got over it (because she is the one who keeps me going some days), but I wondered if my dark place was keeping me away from accepting the “You’ve got this”, “You’re so positive”, “You’re amazing” things I hear from others. And also, sometimes I read others’ tweets or comments about having a bad day and the counselor in me wants to reach out to someone I don’t know, will never meet. So I do and now I feel guilty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t feel guilty!! I think this is hard for everyone to know what to do and how to do it. I am struggling with feeling dismissed and that’s part of where this rant came from. The dismissive nature of the comment “you got this,” to me is just really triggering and makes me think people aren’t really understanding or wanting to understand what’s going on and also, I rarely feel as though I have the ability to handle just one more thing at times. It’s a lot of yuck. I do think that the comments you noted above are really toxic positivity rather than true engaging with what is going on, but that’s just my opinion. Always appreciate your comments and how thoughtfully you read all of my posts. 🙂

      Like

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