The pandemic has been a hard time for most people, even if not everyone is struggling in the same way. Families, for example—mothers in particular—had to shift their routines drastically to accommodate remote schooling schedules for kids, which disrupted daily life in big ways. Several of my mom friends lamented to me repeatedly that they felt shame about giving their children the iPad to occupy them or letting them watch inordinate amounts of TV so the adults could get their own tasks done (or just have a break!). Pandemic aside, parenting seems to be one area where people are worried that others must think they’re a “bad mom” or “bad dad” for not adhering to some idea of perfection. But as social psychologist Anna Bruk writes in the cover story, our so-called messy lives aren’t really noticed by outsiders. And giving yourself a high dose of self-compassion is a tried-and-true way to relax about an imperfect—and sometimes chaotic—existence (see “Other People Don’t Think You’re a Mess”).

Elsewhere in this issue, check out the surprising ways that the sound of our voice affects how we perceive ourselves (see “A Change to the Sound of the Voice Can Change Your Very Self-Identity”) and a report from senior editor Gary Stix on whether we’ll ever want to get close to people again (see “COVID Expanded the Boundaries of Personal Space—Maybe for Good”). Yes, life has been exceptionally unsettling lately, but it’s the only one we’ve got.