Step 7 How Not to Take COVID-19 Personally: A Lesson in Humility Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID-19

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Step 7: Learned to embrace our uniqueness and connectedness to others in the spirit of love and humility.

The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children

Humility is such a strange concept, one we don’t hear about very often and probably think about even less. During this time of polarized politics and rapidly changing expectations of what life will hold for each of us, it may even feel unsafe to think about humility. But humility can be the foundation of the changes that are required of all of us as we face what to do next in this world health crisis, because like it or not, we are all in this together.

If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.

Mother Teresa

Humility is the acceptance of reality. We demonstrate humility not just when we win an individual award and acknowledge the effort of the team behind us, but also when life slaps us upside the head and we realize It’s not just about me.

Humility can help us put our lives in perspective. Such simple adjustments in how we look at life around us can take the pressure off. When we accept that we can’t have that elective surgery we were hoping for, we can understand that the needs of others are greater than our own and that we can survive. We can realize we are not alone in being fearful of riding public transportation. Humility is also the feeling of empathy when we look at our refrigerator trying to figure out dinner as we wish that our favorite restaurant hadn’t closed, and then remember our favorite waiter who is now out of a job, and our heart aches for him. 

Humility is not humiliation. Humility is not the belittling that we may have experienced as a child. This process doesn’t involve shaming (Step 6). Humility does not focus us on what we are not, our defects, our vulnerabilities. It is the opposite. Humility can focus us on what and who we are, accepting our strengths, skills, and insights, traits we began to articulate in Step 4. Humility is seeing ourselves within the context of our lives. Humility frees us to be ourselves.

Humility helps us to not take things personally. “It’s nothing personal” is a common phrase, but here the it is COVID-19, which is impacting you personally. So what can you do? This is where humility comes in. Humility helps you focus on something truly important: how connected you are to others who are also struggling. You are not alone. There’s comfort in this. Take it—you need comfort and deserve to be soothed during this time of stress. Feeling supported by fellow sufferers is part of this.

Humility provides a window into our place in this life. By offering an acceptance of ourselves and our needs, and by anchoring ourselves from within instead of fueling the railing against our fate by screaming and gnashing our teeth, humility can help change our focus. Humility offers us a perspective of genuine gratitude for what we do have, for what we have done. We can begin by seeing the heroism in many of the small gestures we and others have displayed during this pandemic.

Your Hero Within: Humility in Action

Above all, be the heroine in your own life … 

Nora Ephron

“I never thought I would be a hero, I just wanted to help others.” Statements like this are being heard around the world as those in the front lines are being asked to push themselves to their physical, emotional, and even spiritual limits to help contain the coronavirus. Nurses, ER physicians, cleaning staff, dietary staff; the staff handing out sanitized carts where I buy groceries; the farmer at our new Farmers Park-It Market who delivers groceries to my car, are all finding creative ways to offer more as they see the suffering around them.

I found a powerful example of this locally. The local drug and alcohol rehab where I consult gave all salaried employees a $100 thank-you check to acknowledge their work with the neediest, those affected by the opioid epidemic during this coronavirus pandemic. A dietary worker I know received this thank-you check and took her $100, bought fabric, and organized women she knew to make masks for resident, and staff at the facility where she worked. When the CEO thanked her, she thanked him for recognizing her role in their system of care, inspiring her to be part of a larger solution. “I just wanted to give back.” 

Understanding What YOU Give

As you are still quarantined? Or are you beginning to phase back to your place of work? As you do this, be cognizant of what you are doing to support yourself and to support those around you. No, this isn’t about being grandiose; it’s about being honest about your impact on others during this time of intense worldwide stress. 

Are you feeling freer to give a smile, or just chat with your roommate or spouse? Is the time you are spending with your children helping you to see them in a new light as you wonder at their gifts and curiosity? Are you more connected to those you care about who you can’t see in person but can speak to through some type of technology? 

Are you more connected to yourself? Humility is also about appreciating yourself and the growth you have made during this time of very real struggle. 

Within the AA framework, Step 7 is about committing to a new way of approaching and living your life. COVID-19 is demanding that we make changes just to survive. Ask yourself if you are using this crisis to positively enhance your sense of yourself. More about this in our next step, Step 8. 

Exercise for Today

On a piece of paper or in your journal, record your answers to the following questions.

  • How are you not taking COVID-19 personally? 
  • How has this crisis put into perspective what is important to you?
  • How has acceptance of the changes COVID-19 brought helped you make decisions that are helping you?
    • What you are doing to keep those you love safe? 
    • Notice what you are doing to keep yourself safe. Are you following distance guidelines, wearing a mask, and gloves when needed? Have you decided not to visit a loved one?
    • Are you more aware of what you need? 
    • What would be important for you to do even if no one noticed or thanked you?
  • Ask yourself where you are being heroic today. What have you given to yourself? To others? What are the small gestures you do that make a big difference in your life and in the life of others?

Make a note in your journal about how this works for you, and feel free to share it on my new Facebook Group, Self-Parenting in the Age of COVID, which I invite you to join by clicking on the link. There you can post your struggles and solutions as we create community. I invite you to share the blogs and posts you find on the Facebook Group by tagging those you know and care about, whether they are in recovery or just loved by you. 

This is the seventh of a twelve-part series based on The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. More tips will be available in my new ebook (to be published later this summer), and are available on my blog, The Powerful, and in my books: Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting, The 12 Steps to Self-Parenting for Adult Children, and The Resilient Woman. Learn more Learn more about my work as a consulting psychologist and speaker at