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When you go through challenging times, the question you get asked most often is, “How are you?”. Almost by default, the answer is, “I am fine!”.
Pretending to be okay is the plague of the “strong” individual who appears to have everything under control.
In my books, not having everything together is simply called life. However, in our overachiever society, it equals weakness and failure.
Masking the struggles you are going through is harming both yourself and your relationships. Let’s explore why you might feel the need to pretend and how you can shed the masks and embrace authenticity!
Why Do People Pretend To Be Ok?
Fear Of Rejection
When we only show a certain face to our circle, we create an identity of the “strong” person who has it all figured out.
However, even when the mask we have created for ourselves is suffocating us, we fear that by showing our true colors, we will break that bubble of expectation.
People will see us for who we truly are and understand they are not getting what they signed up for. We fear that they will not accept our authentic and vulnerable side.
However, we forget that we all have one. We are all going through tough situations in life. And by showing up as your whole self, you inspire others to express themselves authentically.
Feeling Unsafe To Be Vulnerable
Sometimes, things are more complicated than internalized fear of rejection. Maybe, you live in a highly critical and toxic environment where pretending to be okay is a protective mechanism.
If you know that being vulnerable in your environment would lead to more emotional or physical distress, I would not recommend it. Seeking help and finding a support group outside of this environment is crucial.
Having Too Many People Depending On You
Pretending to be okay to not upset the people depending on you daily is a very real thing. Parents or caretakers, for example, take on the work of caring for everyone else, often at the expense of their own well-being.
However, admitting your struggles and taking care of yourself is an act of ensuring that you will be able to care for others in a better and healthier way.
Fearing That If You Let Go You Will Crumble Down
Pretending to be okay for a long time could mean that you have accumulated so much repressed emotion. It’s like each time you open a box and shove your truth inside. When it finally becomes unbearable to keep that box closed, you are afraid to open it up.
Similar to Pandora’s box, everything will come out, and you will not necessarily be able to control the process.
However, you should know that even if you never open the box, there will come a time when it will be so full the lid won’t close. Then, life will force you to do what you couldn’t do for yourself.
How To Embrace Authenticity: Stop Pretending To Be Ok
Accept How You Feel
Pretending to be okay can resemble the coping mechanism of denial. By concealing the problems you are going through, even from yourself, you can forget about them momentarily.
The first step to embracing authenticity is to give yourself permission to shed the mask and explore how you truly feel.
Embrace everything that pops up with self-compassion, forgiveness, and unconditional acceptance.
Allow Your Truth To Flow
Why not be honest that you are struggling to cope? If you let people know about the tough spot you are in, your interactions will become more honest.
You will be able to set boundaries about what is helpful and what is not at the moment. You will be able to tell your truth and receive honest responses and sincere help.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
If you notice people avoiding showing up for you and taking their distance when you are not at the top of your game, it’s best to excuse them from your life.
It is undeniably hurtful to let go of people, especially when you have burdened psychology. However, this process will highlight which people are honest about having you in their lives.
People who will listen to you and help you in any way you need it without judging or imposing themselves. Allow these people to give you their support and receive all the help and love you need.
Sometimes, even the most amazing support system is not enough to lift you up. This usually happens when pretending to be okay has been your default for so long you don’t know how to start unpacking.
In these cases, seeking the help of a therapist is the best thing you can do for yourself. A specialist can guide you through spaces you find hard to navigate. It will also help you avoid putting all the burden on your friends and family members.
Embrace That Nobody’s Perfect
Even if most people try to hide it, everyone reaches rock bottom at some point in their lives. Let’s admit it, having to navigate all of life’s challenges can be overwhelming.
No one has everything figured out. Getting out of tough situations is mostly a trial-and-error process.
Know that your lows are not permanent. You will follow life’s natural ups and downs and find yourself on your feet again.
Walk Your Own Walk
Sometimes you are forced to conceal your struggle by social comparison. You think, “But everyone is handling their lives so well?”, “We are going through the same things; how can they be reacting so controlled?”.
However, the truth is that you never know what happens behind closed doors. These people could be just like you, struggling on the inside but pretending to be okay because they don’t want to appear “weak” or “incompetent”.
Allow yourself to be honest, and you will be surprised to find that people will start opening up to you more easily, revealing they are also human and not machines.
Shut Down Criticism
When you stop pretending to be okay and show your true colors, be prepared to face criticism. Unfortunately, some people feel entitled to offer their opinion on your situation even when you have not asked about it.
These people will pinpoint what could have led you where you are, point out what you are doing wrong in your recovery journey, or straight out blame you for everything you are going through.
Isolate these voices and shut them down. Micro-analyzing everything will not get you anywhere at this point of healing. Avoid giving space to criticizers and surround yourself with supportive people.
Take Care Of Yourself
Constantly pretending to be okay leads, without fault, to emotional burnout. Ask yourself what would you do if your body experienced burnout after too much exercise. You would rest and give your body all the essential nutrients it needs to heal.
Why not do the same for emotional burnout? Prioritize yourself and your needs. Take a good rest, do the things that make you happy and energized, and keep yourself healthy by eating and exercising.
Find A Medium To Express Your Emotions
Even when you stop pretending to be okay, expressing all the bottled-up emotions can be hard.
However, it is essential to release your emotions to be able to heal them. Some great ways to unlock emotional expression are drawing, singing, dancing, and spending time in nature.
Find New Purpose
Being the person who always gets things done or showing up for relationships no matter how they feel is a role.
When you stop pretending to be okay and can no longer live up to that role, it is natural to feel like a “failure” or like you lack purpose.
Redefining who you want to be and what you want to do are crucial parts of the healing process.
Find what gives you a sense of joy and purpose, even in the small things, like taking care of your plants or taking your dog out.
Conclusion On Pretending To Be Ok
The habit of pretending everything is okay when times get tough can be more damaging than it seems. Saying “I’m fine” often hides deeper fears, societal pressures, and responsibilities we carry.
Choosing authenticity is like a breath of fresh air. It begins with letting yourself feel what you feel without judgment. It’s about being honest with yourself and those around you, creating deeper and more genuine connections.
Sure, you might encounter criticism and the temptation to compare yourself to others. But remember, your well-being matters more than others’ opinions.
Recovery involves taking care of yourself—rest, self-care, and finding ways to express your emotions. And as you heal, you’ll find a new purpose beyond the facade, a purpose that truly resonates with who you are.
So, let’s drop the act, embrace the messy journey of life, and discover the strength in our vulnerability. You’re not alone on this path, and authenticity will lead you to a more genuine, fulfilling, and connected life.