Why do we put on a brave face for the people around us? Is it more for their benefit or for ours? – that’s the question here.
For many years I tried to stop myself feeling anything bad so that I didn’t fall into a pit of despair that I couldn’t crawl back out from. My early twenties were a blur of depressive thoughts and fluoxetine, and so I was scared stiff to go back there. I thought that’s what would happen if I allowed myself to feel sad, even for a minute. So I compartmentalised and numbed myself with several bad habits; drinking, smoking, binge-watching TV etc.
I don’t think anyone knew I was sad. Or if they did, then they didn’t tell me. But I couldn’t tell me either. I wasn’t just keeping up external appearances, I was lying to myself too.
It wasn’t until I started therapy in my early thirties that I began to feel real feelings again. At that point I realised that in my numb state I had backed myself into a corner. I had built a path for myself that I didn’t want to walk.
And it took a long time to re-calibrate too. In the talking-therapies world you hear a lot about the ‘lightbulb moment’; a sudden breakthrough in thinking, a paradigm shift if you will. These lightbulb moments are as precious as unicorn tears, but in my opinion they are also as hard to capture as unicorn tears.
Lightbulb moments are fleeting. The new feelings or thoughts that you discover are hard to hang on to past the end of your therapy session. When you go back to your ‘real life’ you are re-immersed in your unhappy environment, and all the automated behaviours you have employed to survive while you are there. At least, that’s how it was for me.
A paradigm shift takes a while to sink in and be assimilated into your ecosystem. Humans, being the evidence-seeking creatures that we are, need time to test out their new paradigm and see it at work before they can fully buy into it.
But I digressed a little. The point here was that I was in a deeply dark place, but my demeanour was all sunshine and rainbows. And this BS wasn’t serving me or anyone else.
So was the goal here to be a grumpy rain cloud, darkening everyone else’s days? Not so much. The goal here was to be more honest; with everyone including myself. Genuine happiness is not a fake smile or joking when you really want to cry. I think that genuine happiness is found in authenticity.
When you are in a safe enough space to be able to cry when you need to, complain when you want to, and ask for what you need… actually, that solves some of your problems, and even makes the rest not so bad either.
I think in our tightly coiled, ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ society, we are too afraid to show weakness. We are too afraid to be simply human. Which is kind of silly when you think about it. Removing the mask and being authentically you, wherever you are right now, takes a lot of the pressure off. Sure, your ‘real problems’ are still there and need to be addressed. But addressing them could be so much easier if you are not trying pretend the hard stuff isn’t hard.
So this is me officially reminding you to have a cry, have a moan, vent a little. Once you’ve let it out you will probably feel a bit lighter, and may then be in a better place to work on your thinking/paradigm.
It’s okay to be human.
An Elective Orphan x