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The Question You Need to Ask Yourself After Election Day (No Matter Who Wins)

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Seth J. Gillihan, PhD - Blogs
By Seth J. Gillihan, PhDClinical psychologistOctober 29, 2020

We’re almost at election day. I know so many of us are dealing with anxiety about the outcome. Who will be president for the next 4 years? When will we know the results? Will the election be contested?

These are important questions -- and many of us are emotionally invested in the answers.

But I’d suggest that on Nov. 4 -- the Wednesday after the election -- the most significant question for each of us, whether we’re pleased with the election results or not, is this:

Who am I going to be? 

As individuals, we have limited power to affect a national election. While it is important that each of us vote, no single vote will ever flip a state from red to blue or vice versa, realistically speaking, much less change the overall election outcome. But we have extraordinary power in being the type of person we want to be -- regardless of who holds political power. 
That's not to say we shouldn't be passionate about our political views or have strong feelings about which candidates we prefer. I certainly am invested in the outcome of this presidential election and have already voted. I’m writing this as much for me as for everyone else, because it’s easy for the drama of a presidential election to eclipse all other concerns.

But as strongly as we may support a specific candidate or party, we can recognize that no matter who's in office, each of us has a responsibility to bring the light within us into the world. We get to determine the quality of presence we'll bring and how we'll show love to our family, neighbors, and those who disagree with us politically.

If our candidate wins, we can decide to be gracious in victory and to work toward ensuring that the interests of all Americans are protected, especially for those whose candidate lost. If our candidate doesn’t win, it’s never more important that we bring to the world as much goodness and light as possible.

So on the morning of Nov. 4, just before we check the day's headlines for any news of a winner, maybe we can check in with ourselves:

  • Who will I be today? Decide which values will drive your thoughts and actions.
  • On what will I base my peace of mind? Choose something that doesn’t depend on chance or others’ actions.
  • How can I avoid outsourcing my happiness today? Remind yourself that you have the final say in your well-being.
  • How can I take good care of myself today? Plan in advance to be extra kind to yourself, regardless of the outcome.
  • Who else needs my love and care? Reaching out to those in need is a powerful way to remember who we are.
  • How can I stay present for myself and for others? Being the best version of ourselves starts with simply being -- opening ourselves to our reality, whatever it is.

The hard truth is, around half of us are going to be disappointed with the outcome of this election and scared about what that could mean for our country. But even if our candidate doesn’t come out on top, we can maintain the integrity of our own deeply held values. So let’s focus on the paramount question: Who are we going to be as individuals -- for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our nation? 

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About the Author
Seth J. Gillihan, PhD

Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and host of the weekly Think Act Be podcast. He is author of The CBT Deck, Retrain Your Brain, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple, and co-author with Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh of A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred in Everyday Life. Dr. Gillihan provides resources for managing stress, anxiety, and other conditions on the Think Act Be website.

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