Do you really think you're convincing anyone when you say "I'm fine"?
We humans seem to have forgotten that it's not just the words we say that convey meaning. Our body language, tone of voice, and general energy depict a whole world of emotions that can't be wrapped up in a pretty "I'm fine" package.
But we carry on pretending that everything in our life works, that we don't have fears, or hurts, or dreams.
I always thought I was the mistress of faking it. I pretended everywhere I turned. On the outside I was this bubbly, confident-seeming woman, living the life of her dreams. I thought everyone believed it.
Inside, I was like a snail who had recently moved to a bigger shell. My body felt bigger than my soul, and I wasn’t ready to fill my own shoes. I was constantly on edge because I was scared of criticism and judgement from others. I was anxious that someone would come and catch me out, as if I were some kind of thief.
Whenever anyone would ask how I was, I'd give them the standard answer of "I'm fine" and a big smile. I thought that if I pretended everything was perfect, it would somehow become perfect.
When you pretend, you push people away. You create an invisible wall between you and them, so when they reach out to you, instead of touching your hand, they get cold hard bricks.
You think you’re doing other people a favour when you act happy, but really you’re denying them the opportunity to love you.
When you say “I’m fine”, you cut the olive branch that could lead to an authentic connection. Plus, people can sense when you're not ok. Even dogs can! By denying their intuition, you're not only denying yourself support, but also creating confusion in them because they get mixed signals from you.
During a stressful time in my life, I was meant to be meeting a group of acquaintances for breakfast. I pulled out at the last minute because I just couldn’t get it together and slap a fake smile on my face. One of those people obviously recognised this and came to my house to see what was going on. The whole story came out, and I confessed that I had been taking anti depressants, therefore was clearly a complete failure at life. To my complete surprise, my friend said that he’d been on antidepressants too for a while, and it wasn’t the end of the world.
In that moment I realised that if we always put a wall up, we are only stopping ourselves from being loved. By being our imperfect selves, we allow others to also be themselves and show us their scars. We see that nothing is as it seems (especially on social media), and strong people aren’t those who have never had anything bad happen to them, but those who have gone through the fire and come out the other side. I had no idea my friend had been on antidepressants, and I’m sure that if I didn’t give him that opportunity, I still wouldn't know.
And then it happened with another friend, and another. Suddenly all my relationships were transforming simply because I was being myself! The misunderstood person inside was actually not that strange after all - I was just a human feeling normal human emotions! What a crazy concept...
When you show people who you truly are, you create a bond with that person. When you have bonds with others, you feel loved, supported, cared for, and happier. If you feel lonely, reach out to others, because when you receive their love you’ll feel better. If, on the other hand you pretend to be happy and never reveal your true feelings and thoughts, you isolate yourself. You feel no one understands you, no one knows the ‘real’ you, and you don’t have any true friends.
If you put on your happy mask, you send the message to people “I don’t need you. I have enough friends, enough love in my life. Thanks anyway”. That person innately feels your distance (even if they can’t articulate it), and they steer away from you.
It is human nature to want to help people. We are wired to feel empathy for others. Denying people the right to show their own nature will only repel them from you. If you want better relationships, start talking about real things. Talk about how you feel, what you’re afraid of. What you dream of doing.
I’ve always loved the Marianne Williamson quote “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” - But I misunderstood it. I thought it meant, if you’re successful, happy and brilliant, you will inspire others. The way I see it now is, just be your quirky, nerdy, cheesy, badass self, and in so doing you give others permission to be whoever they are.
We are all humans. You may think your friend has everything together, doesn’t seem to have problems, handles everything fine. Just try opening yourself up a little to those people. See if they do the same back.
Do you always pretend to be fine? What are your strategies to open up to connect with people? Let me know in the comments below!