Blog: Stop assuming you know everything

Many people will be beginning their Christmas breaks today. Spending time with family and friends (physically or even virtually this year). For many it’s a time of celebration, joy, happiness and relaxation. For others it is tortuous, painful, lonely and pushes many to the brink.

Many do not even celebrate Christmas or do so in a very minimal way.

Unfortunately, I have found that some of the corporate push for ‘forced fun’ over Christmas can be highly damaging. It has seemed, particularly this year, those who do not celebrate Christmas, or find it a difficult time have effectively had Christmas forced up on us. This has included mandatory Christmas related meetings and peer pressure to be involved.

I personally declined to be involved in a Christmas event within my own directorate. I then had to deal with the specific person messaging me to ask why I declined this. I personally find this to be completely unacceptable. I fully acknowledge people’s desire and freedom of choice to be involved in such events, but to question it when they decline is completely unacceptable. I chose to not even dignify this accusation with a response. I was highly offended by this message too.

So let me give you some context here. You can do damage without considering certain things. You do not know what the other person’s circumstances are, if you do not consider why I may have declined, for example, you can cause damage or problems.

There is a great campaign from Mental Health first aid for England, called the my whole self campaign. This seeks to create understanding that you do not always know what the other person’s circumstances or conditions are. Legally, they do not have to disclose this information, but you as an individual need to recognise you do not know the circumstances either.

This campaign also seeks to create an environment in the workplace where people feel comfortable to be their whole selves.

So back to me. I know I do not have to disclose this, but I am open about myself to try and inspire or assist others. I suffer from a diagnosed anxiety condition. I also only celebrate Christmas in a very minimal way, to be it’s a bank holiday. In January 2018, my Dad passed away suddenly. Prior to this I was seriously ill, and still in recovery. This was the start of an awful period that continued with the shocking death of my Uncle from cancer.

Christmas to me signifies the breakup and collapse of family. I choose not to celebrate in any depth, my choice.

I am telling you this story, to hopefully create more of an understanding why recognition that you do not know an individual’s circumstances is really important. I’ve had Christmas effectively forced on me, and I was then deeply offended by a colleague who chose to question it. This led to a significant low mood and anxiety episode two weeks ago. Had this individual used some common sense and empathy, they may not have caused this damage to me.

I am sorry if this is not the Christmas message you all wanted to read, but I think sometimes we have to touch on difficult topics to raise awareness.

Christmas can be a lonely, sad or depressing time for many, myself included. There are of course always support and resources available throughout the Christmas period .

The My Whole Self campaign isn’t just for Christmas, it comes in other forms. Staff are being told they have to turn on their video in team meetings or calls, and that it is mandatory. For clarity, no its not mandatory – its not even mandatory to have a profile picture set up. I am lucky that I am open on my own team, if I’ve had an anxiety event, I simply say I do not feel up to turning on my video, or simply decline.

Think of my story above. The same can happen when you force someone to turn on their video in a call. You could be causing them damage too. Its not mandatory, and staff do have that right to say no.

Please do read the My Whole Self campaign website, and do take into account that you will never know the whole picture of an individual. And I ask you to respect that too.

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