If your candidate lost in the 2016 election, describing your experience is likely very difficult. It’s somewhere near grief, but more than that, because you know there are still more battles to fight…and yet you feel tired, demoralized, and getting out of bed is difficult.
As an executive coach, these are the words I’m hearing from clients this week, and the words I’m seeing across Facebook and other social media platforms where people go to express themselves. Hearing the cries of so many in pain and in fear for their country, I’ve felt a call to serve in whatever way I can.
Starting this past Wednesday, I opened up my coaching schedule to as many people as I can accommodate for the next few weeks, to hold a safe space to anyone who just needs someone to talk to, at no charge. If you’ve been feeling a need to talk to someone, you may contact me here.
My service continues with this post.
If your candidate lost and you’re feeling despair and sadness, if you’re unsure what comes next, and if you feel that all of this happened rather suddenly and left you feeling bereft and unsure of what comes next, read on.
First, be gentle with yourself. Take time to heal. Tune out any voices that tell you that you don’t have a right to your feelings or that you are “whining.” It’s okay to feel bad right now. And it’s okay if you don’t know what to do next.
Give yourself a time to honor the feelings.
I recommend that you give yourself a time limit so that you do not allow yourself to get stuck in the despair. I don’t mean that you can set an egg timer and when it goes off, “bing!” you’ll no longer feel those feelings. But rather, set a time limit during which you honor and nurture your feelings. Snuggle up in a blanket with a warm cup of cocoa and feel all the bad. Take the time you need to be at peace and honor the very real emotions that have come up for you.
When your time limit is up, you can emerge from your cocoon of safety and sadness. And if you need help finding your way back, ask someone to guide you out of the despair and into a place of constructive action.
Set an intention.
The time limit serves to get you back in motion, but you also need to set an intention for moving forward.
For now, feel all the feelings. Honor them. But as you do so, set an intention that you will move forward with singular intent. You might not know right now how you will move forward or what you will do next, but set the intention now that when you are ready, you will move forward. This will set your brain on the path so that when you have spent your time honoring and feeling all the feelings, you will marshall your resources, roll up your sleeves, and get to work on the next thing.
Do not subscribe to the belief that this is no longer your country.
Only about half of the country showed up to make their voices heard. Of those who did vote, a little over half voted for your candidate. That means that only 25% of the people in this country supported the winner. And the research shows that most of the country is moving in a more liberal direction. So even though your candidate lost, this is still your country, too. And your country still welcomes you and needs you.
Try not to sequester yourself.
You may be surprised that so many of your fellow countrymen voted in a way that is so contrary to what you believe. You may be inclined to distance yourself from anyone who voted for the other candidate.
Many of my clients have expressed a desire to cleanse their lives of anyone who voted for the opposing candidate. Before you give into this temptation, pause. Breathe. Take a moment. Do not make hasty decisions during deeply emotional times.
Remind yourself that one of the things you dislike most is that the other side just won’t listen. And just before you hit that button to “unfriend” someone, just before you delete their number from your phone, remember that this belief, that the other side won’t listen? They have it, too. The only way the minds of anyone will ever open is if they are exposed to the honesty of stories that illustrate the value of alternatives to their beliefs. If everyone does what you want to do, none of us will ever find our way to the other side of this.
If you need to take time away, take time away. But don’t quickly dismiss someone with an opposing view before at least trying to understand their feelings and perspective, too.
Become a media detective.
Irrespective of what vote you cast, we are all susceptible to a media that distorts truth – on both sides. Become a detective and search for truth, not just what supports your views. Dig for original source material. Be willing to take the time to read beyond the headlines and look for what’s real. And be willing to hear things you don’t like. Get your news from somewhere beyond Facebook. I myself have recently become such a detective, and have found stories shared by both sides that turned out to be untrue or “spun” in a way that wasn’t honest.
Find ways to serve that are constructive for you.
Finally, when you are ready, look for ways that you can get involved in your community and/or in your political process. Don’t let the feelings of today fade into nothingness – when you are ready, use them to fuel you to effect change. Don’t just post your truth on Facebook – live your truth.
Stand for what you believe in and fight against what you think is wrong. And be willing to explain to others why you fought for a candidate the other side hated and to listen. Be open to understanding. Listen to why they feared your candidate. And don’t just argue back. Consider that the Truth, the objective Truth, usually resides somewhere in between “your truth” and “my truth.”
Find those friends of yours who voted for someone else. Find the friends who didn’t vote at all. Talk to them. Understand them. Inspire them. Infect them with your spirit and your hope. Believe that the world can be better, even if we don’t all agree on how to get there. Believe that there is a way for everyone’s views to be represented fairly. And work toward a better world. It’s the only way we’ll ever get there.