Essential v. Non-Essential: Is Feeling Discretionary a Symptom of the Virus?


Dear Reader,

As I write this, I am profoundly self-conscious of the fact this advice is going to miss its mark to many who are suffering beyond comprehension. Others, however, may find this advice helps them see silver linings and gain back some confidence and control. Ultimately, to any reader, my hope is that you are weathering these storms as well as anyone can.

To all the people who are keeping my pantry full, my family healthy, and life as normal as possible during these unprecedented times, thank you. It is not lost on me that I’m secure in my home office because of you. 
Stay healthy, everyone.

Pubali Chakravorty-Campbell, SHRM-SCP

Don’t let a virus make you lose sight of who you are.

At a time when some businesses and people suddenly labeled ‘essential’ are making the news and going into overdrive, others are fighting to stay relevant. The non-essentials are shuttering doors, working quietly in isolation, or being asked to call back later (much later).

As a person who works in the workforce/talent development space I couldn’t help but wonder, are some people struggling with their sense of self-worth and value while enduring the unique circumstances presented by Covid-19?

Perhaps not. In fact, I hope not. But in the event there is a bit of that going around, I wanted to speak directly to the importance of maintaining a sense of self-worth and value at a time when a global pandemic has reduced people and organizations into one of two categories: essential or non-essential.

Whether the labels are warranted, needed, and represent a temporary condition are really beside the point. How we are perceived, whether we are needed, and the value we add are all important factors for people which influence motivation, behaviors, and morale. Especially in the face of adversity or uncertainty.

If you, reading this, are struggling to cope with being placed into the category of non-essential either on a large scale (you have had to close your doors) or individually (your work suddenly feels discretionary), stop letting a virus challenge your self-worth and destroy your morale.  

The virus will leave soon. Until then, here are a few ways to come out of this stronger than ever:

  1. Avoid Letting Insecurity Drive Your Actions

    For some, insecurity results in needing to compete or assert control. You may want to push harder, dig in, and make noise so you feel seen or productive. Impulsive action in the absence of introspection, thinking, or being strategic can end up backfiring.

    Once those survival instincts kick in, pursuing instant gratification may become an overpowering need. Before hitting ‘send’ on that decision, calendar invite, email, social media post, or telephone call, stop and ask yourself: what emotions are driving this decision?

  2. Refuse to Let the Virus Destroy Your ‘Why’

    We are all motivated and inspired by something. That something is your ‘Why’.

    There is no such thing as a wrong Why and people often have more than one. While the current climate created by the virus may be creating chaos all around you, your Why remains unchanged.

    Remember that the Covid-19 is the reason things may have shifted for you - not your knowledge, skills, or abilities. Don’t let Covid-19 destroy your Why.

  3. Limit or Stay Off of Social Media

    Even in the best of times, social media has been scientifically proven to exacerbate pre-existing feelings of insecurity or fear of missing out. Now, more than ever, social media has become a dumping ground for grandstanding, humble bragging, and soapboxing.

    If you are working through feeling self-conscious or anxious about your current circumstances, continuously scrolling social media may be doing more harm than good. At a minimum, consider making changes to the people and topics populating your feed so what you see and read are informative and motivational.

  4. Help Others

    There is no equivalent to the emotional boost of doing good.

    While volunteering in person may not be possible right now, there are still ways for you to feel good and make a difference. If you are a subject matter expert, put on a free Webinar. If your local food pantries need supplies, drop off non-perishables. Call and leave voicemails at your favorite haunts and remind them how much you care. Buy someone’s coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

  5. Remember You are the Sum of Many Parts

    There is no getting around the fact that depending on your current circumstances, certain portions of your life may have been downgraded overnight. You may have lost your job. You may be facing the reality of losing your business. Your goods and services might be getting harder to sell. Your projects may be getting delayed. All scary and demoralizing experiences.

    Remember, in this moment, that you are not one dimensional. You are the sum of many parts. Rejection and loss in one area of your life do not imply that the whole of your existence has been rejected or lost. Who are your dependents? Pets, kids, parents, siblings, your church, your community, even your favorite stores and restaurants - they all need you. To them, you are essential.



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