The HR Juggler

Day 40: It’s OK Not To Feel OK

Posted on: January 9, 2013


Today’s post is written by Ryan Cheyne, People Director at Pets at Home and thoroughly nice chap. You can find him on Twitter @ryskicheyne.


This year has been a challenge!

Now I’m a glass half full kind of a person, a natural optimist and always think that the best will happen. In my job too, I am surrounded by positivity, by people who talk about grabbing every opportunity, making the most of life and choosing a positive attitude, there is a real JFDI kind of attitude in HR these days and to be fair, I’ll promote this as much as the next HR professional. Positive psychology, employee engagement, the happiness factor are all growing concepts that make a lot of sense. We all know instinctively that if we are happy we will do better, be better, feel better and of course spread the joy to colleagues and customers. It all makes sense and we all know that this is how we should live, of course it is.

But you know what, life’s not always a bed of roses and no amount of positive thinking or JFDI attitude can change that.

In January this year one of my best friends and my neighbour for 10 years committed suicide. That knock on the door on that Sunday morning will live with me forever. Since then there have been lots of questions Why? Why did I not see it coming? What could I have done? How can we support his wife and two young children? As is true when anyone dies, the year since has been full of events and anniversaries that remind us that our friend that is no longer with us. To be honest, I find it quite hard to find my natural positive angle to this situation. I was honoured, if not a little petrified, to be asked to speak at his funeral.  Now I do a lot of public speaking, but this was the toughest gig of my life. I hope I did you proud mate.

Roll forward 8 months and my wife of 13 years and I separated. Whilst we are working through things and who knows where we will end up, it was the right thing to do, however painful for us both. No amount of positive thinking could repair the pain of  telling two young girls that you are moving out, a genuinely heart-wrenching moment! Thankfully children are resilient characters, with an inbuilt positivity and I take some sort of comfort from the fact that they’ll often just say hi when I walk in the door, life does go on! So looking back 2012 has not been my best year personally, in fact it has been pretty pants! Now I do know that there will be many people out there who have had really really bad things that have happened to them, my friend’s wife is one if them and maybe I should be grateful! I’m just not sure that trying to drive a positive approach on the basis of “look how bad it could have been” really works.

Of course, slipping back into positive mode for a moment there has been a lot about 2012 to celebrate. The kids are genuinely OK and we have grown closer through the challenge of being apart, although they know how to work me for all things money related – well what are Dads for? We are all healthy which you should always be thankful for. The Olympics were amazing, I was lucky enough to go twice and take the family, a true once in a lifetime experience that everyone in the UK should be proud of –  if you could bottle that feeling of national pride, that really would be positivity captured. Professionally, it’s been a rewarding year too. We came 2nd in the Sunday Times Top 25 Big Companies to work for (guess what this year’s target is?), the business is doing well in a difficult retail environment and my team have achieved so much it makes me incredibly proud to work with so many great people that are driving a really positive colleague and customer agenda. So in summary, 2012 has had some great moments but just a bit more than its fair share of  bad too.

As we head towards the positively positive time of year that is Christmas, we really should try and celebrate the good things in life, we should join with and appreciate our friends and family because that is where we get our strength from. There is a lot in life to celebrate but there is also a lot that is really rubbish. Sometimes the pressure to be positive in itself can be really hard to deal with!

Whilst many gurus try to convince us otherwise, life is tough: a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. From my perspective, I struggle to see how you can genuinely appreciate the good times if you don’t experience the bad times? As we head into a new year my natural optimising has been turned up to max, 2013 will be a cracker I’m sure. I like having a glass half full but as I have seen someone say before, even if your glass is half empty at least you’ve only got half a glass to go before you can have a new full one!

It is good to have a positive outlook and as I often tell the girls, it’s nice being nice but you know what? It’s OK not to feel OK too.

7 Responses to "Day 40: It’s OK Not To Feel OK"

All credit to you Ryan for being some honest about a topic which most people avoid. I hope your 2013 is better for it.

Brave blog, thanks for the reminder to all that it’s OK to be human. 2012 was without a doubt, the worst year of my life BUT – also the year where I learnt the most about myself. It would not have been normal to approach the challenges I faced with a super optimist attitude. I pride myself on understanding the people side of this job as well as the processes. To understand humans you have to give yourself the permission to be one first! Hats off to you for a dignified and learningful approach to your challenges and have a brilliant 2013.

Thanks Peter and Hayley for your feedback and comments. Here’s to an amazing 2013 for all of us

Great post – I allow myself to have a bad day now and then so that I can appreciate the better times. It’s a pleasure to be acqainted!

Excited to see you here today Ryan – I let out a little *whoop* 😉 I absolutely agree with you, even though I’m also known for my fairydust & positivity, life is not life without the dark and the light. The subtlety I find is in how long to stay in or out of those shades/realities as we and those around us move through our journeys. Much of what you’ve been through this year really resonates. Thank you for sharing. Here’s to you and yours.


Hi Ryan – kudos for being open about such a tricky subject, I really like the way you’ve told your story, it has a natural straightforward feel to it. Well done – hope you enjoy your 2013 and that we can enjoy another beer together before too long.

[…] Day 40: It’s OK Not To Feel OK […]

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