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Madeline Perez

So, let’s engage in a thought exercise. You are a breathtakingly bodacious babe who is looking for a man to solve mysteries with. You have all the apps and programs: Kik, Chatroulette, Facebook Messenger… Suddenly, a message! Your hopes soar, but you are dismayed to find that some 45-year-old creep has just “*tips fedora*”’ed at you, and that’s the 10th time this week. Politely you decline, assuring him that his Ramona-Flowers-dream-girl/gamer is still out there but is most definitely not you. His Shakespearian chivalry persona immediately dissolves as he dons the MGTOW mask, ranting about how “your[sic] an ugly bitch anyway” and how you’re fat, fatherless, or whichever red-pilled insult is trending at the moment. 

Now, let’s step away from the exercise. How do you feel about that reaction? If you unironically thought “King!” I’m going to have to ask you to disengage from this article, look out from a dock across the nearest body of water, and ponder your life’s meaning and/or choices. If you thought “Cope,” then you are helping me actually get to the point of this article. Saying “Cope” has become very popular recently to point out when people are lying to themselves or others as a way to cover up a “major L.” This is reflective of a greater trend of overusing “therapy speak” to the point where it loses all meaning, as we regretfully saw with “gaslight,” “narcissist,” and believing that “setting boundaries” means controlling what other people can or cannot do. (Speaking of which, I’ve literally been saying Jonah Hill is evil for years and no one ever listens to me. Seriously, WTF.) 

Anyway, give me a minute to explode your brain with some indisputable fact. Firstly, coping is something everyone does every day. Yes, even you. Yes, even I. Yes, even Elon Musk despite the fact that he is literally real-life Tony Stark! Secondly, not all coping is negative or a sign of weakness as you may have been led to believe. This stands true whether or not you believe someone is “coping and seething,” or “huffing copium,” or quite possibly my favorite, “sliding down the cope slope.” *Coping can be helpful or harmful, but it’s all a way to deal with stressors, adversity, or simply your general existence*. Where this becomes confusing is when the lines between helpful and harmful are blurred, which I will dive into after I finish wading through all this thick exposition. 

Okay, so you realize you’ve been coping in some harmful ways. How can you unlearn? Well, any therapist worth their pepper is going to lay it out nice and simple. Firstly, recognize that you are using unhealthy thoughts or behaviors to cope with something that makes you uncomfortable. Next, identify some healthier skills you can use to replace the shitty ones that make you numb yourself with alcohol or pull your hair out. The common oversimplified advice will most likely involve talking to another human or, like, taking a shower. Success! Then, if you have some extra free time, explore why whatever is bothering you makes you uncomfortable.  (Then you can decide whether your feelings are valid or if you need to do some serious thought-lifting or hitting-the-thinking-gym or whichever metaphor is going to get through the brain rot TikTok has caused you.) But what happens when your coping mechanism isn’t that black and white? What happens when your coping mechanism is seemingly healthy, the healthiest coping mechanism out there: winning at coping? 

How can you unlearn (Pt 2.) when your coping mechanism is currently being idolized by half of Gen Zers as “being on that sigma grindset mindset,” and does not even seem like a problem but is so ingrained into your daily thinking that changing your cope would be in a way changing your sense of self, self-worth, and position in regards to all people around you and society as a whole? 

It’s time to finally understand what this article is really about: Me. I have been struggling in the most efficient and successful way possible. To cope with a sense of self-worth that is constantly in a state of flux, I have defined myself through outside endeavors I can hold up to prove that I am the GOAT. It’s all very needlessly complex and meta. When I am feeling stressed, I have urges to do something productive so that I can point to it and say Could a stressed person do THIS?? It’s honestly hard to separate the hobbies I genuinely enjoy doing from the hobbies I enjoy doing because they serve some weird psychological function. This is the “radical extremism” of sublimation, and it horseshoe theories right back to being an unhealthy coping skill. But it can be really difficult to understand hard work and dedication in a negative light when, for most of us, the importance is stressed from a very young age. (If you haven’t realized it yet, too much of it is bad and leads to your neck hurting like a motherfucker.) 

Sadly, I have been increasingly seeing this trait in others, and part of the reason I don’t use social media anymore is because it’s absolutely rife with it. Some people (not you, I’m sure) use social media as an extension to literally document themselves being funny, or interesting, or hot. It’s a stable template you can direct others to when you feel your core sense of identity can’t hold all those things at once. This is almost like being prepared for a challenger who is probably never going to show up, and the challenger is secretly you and the thoughts you insert into other people’s heads 24/7. It’s impossible to consistently be funny at the drop of a hat, or be super sexy 100% of the time, (though Meg from Hercules finds a way) so how can you fully believe this about yourself without some kind of referent? This is the hard part that I, and many others, still have to learn. You need to stop overthinking and have faith that you can be all these things and more just by existing. Even if you lack some desirable trait, this doesn’t take away from your worth as a human, like, at all. No one is going to be all up in your grill like “Oh, so you think your existence is valid? Well I don’t, so prove it!” unless you’re gay, in which case screw that guy, amirite? 

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