I think in every family dynamic you are either designated with a specific role, or you naturally evolve into one.
You step up to that role when it’s required for you to do so. I took my role as the “advisor and fixer” very seriously and fully immersed myself into it so that I wouldn’t have to address my own issues that were beyond fixing.
I became incapable of giving myself the advice I so willingly gave others.
Early on, being young and vulnerable, I needed the help and support of my family. They have always been my rock and love me unconditionally.
However, seeing those I loved breaking down because I was hurting, was possibly more heartbreaking and devastating then my own pain. Thats when I started pretending.
Putting on my biggest smiles and masking my tired face with makeup. I thought I was doing a good job of it, and for the most part I really was. But the laughter never reached my eyes and it was draining. My anxiety was getting overwhelming, I felt detached from my own life and the people around me.
My family and friends could see through it, I always avoided conversations and confrontations.
What I didn’t realise was that my children who looked up to me to lead the way, saw through my pretences. It wasn’t until my daughter broke down, and said that her “friend” (who wasn’t a friend) was being mean to her, and she was “pretending’ that everything was ok between them (we had her over for dinner quite a few times!) That was a real eye opener for me, and it was at that point I decided things had to change.
I was not OK, my kids were not ok and I was setting a terrible example of how to deal with difficulties. Pretending was not loving myself and I was passing that on to my children (I was truly ashamed of that).
Everything is fixable. Even at their lowest points things can take a turn for the better. With the right intention and small positive, consistent changes (a few big ones too sometimes!) you can break away from habits that are harmful.
These are a few of my tips on how you can ‘stop pretending’ and live a more authentic life and address your difficulties head on.
1. Be honest with yourself.
This is always the first step to authenticity and it could possibly be the hardest one. It is easier to live in a false bubble of “everything is ok” when it really isn’t.
Whether or not people around you acknowledge your feelings or not, you need to be in touch with and validate your emotions. Remind yourself that “it is ok if I am feeling” sad/ anxious/ hurt/ angry etc.
These emotions are part of being human and you are allowed to feel them. If you are not happy, you do not have to pretend to be happy for other people, however, it is also really important that you do not project your feelings/ insecurities/ negative emotions on others.
2. Give yourself time and space to process your feelings.
The only way to grow from difficult situations and feelings is to navigate through them, validate them and really try to get to the root cause of why you feel the way you do.
Are you reliving past hurt and trauma? Has a situation triggered other emotions? Have you reopened wounds you haven’t fully dealt with?
Whatever it might be do not sweep your feelings under a carpet or try to declutter by pushing them into a cupboard that is already overflowing. Because when it all gets too much and you feel like you are upset about “everything” it is much harder to deal with them, or turn to someone for help because you don’t even know where to start!
3. Things wont get better just because you want them to
If things have not been OK for a long time, stop telling yourself that they will get better. I found this really difficult because I never believed in quitting, I thought I could fix everything and help everyone until I got lost in the process and didn’t know how I got there.
You could be in a dead end job with no prospects of growing, or a relationship where you are doing all the work or a friendship that is toxic and makes you unhappy.
Whatever it is, if it has been that way for a while and you have done everything on your part to make it better and things haven’t changed, maybe it is time to really think about whether it ever will.
You can only hold onto unrealistic expectations for so long and you can hope and hold on for as long as you want, that wont make any difference unless someone else is willing to meet you in the middle somewhere.
4. Tell your truth to those you trust and love.
Once you have addressed how you feel and have gone through all the emotions related to it, opening up about your struggles and voicing them to those you trust can be really liberating.
It gives you back some power and control over yourself. Not everyone deserves your vulnerability or to hear your story so choose who to share it with wisely.
Remember you don’t have to feel bad about letting people know the truth. You don’t have to think about how others might react, or that it might upset them etc.
At the point of sharing your truth, it really is about you and allowing those around you to be there for you just as you would be there for them if it was the other way round.
5. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t let fear hold you back.
Always remember you are capable to deal with every difficulty and curveball life throws at you. You are resilient and strong and worthy of the best.
Change is inevitable and the most growth comes from being out of your comfort zone. Remember without change you could be stuck in the same unhappy situation for another year, five years or even another ten.
The thing you will grieve for the most is loss of time being in a situation that was far from what you made it out to be. Time is priceless and your life is precious. Believe that and embrace change with open arms.
Remember that it is ok to address your struggle and ask for help. Don’t try to be a superhuman and do it all yourself. Talk if you need to. Invite people around if your lonely. Let people know you are struggling if you are.
Be yourself in every moment of every situation. You don’t have to be strong for others and it ok to allow others to be strong for you too sometimes.
6. Take responsibility for your own life.
Once you start taking accountability of your life, living it to the full and putting yourself first it will be the greatest way for you to be real and authentic with those around you.
I was always a people pleaser and was raised with the fearful notion of “what will people think?” It wasn’t until life happened (I mean really happened) and ‘adulting’ finally took place in my early thirties when I confidently got to a place of “I really don’t care”.
As long as I can live with my decisions, my intentions are pure, I am not intentionally hurting anyone and I can face my Lord whatever decision I make then I am content.
I can live with that and sleep peacefully at night.
I don’t have to justify my actions, answer really idiotic insensitive questions nor do I have to let everyone know what is happening in my life every step of the way and to be really frank, nor do you!
Remember struggles in life are inevitable and going through challenges and heartaches, let downs and hardships make you who you are.
They help you grow, shape the person you are, give you wisdom beyond any formal education.
The biggest disservice you can do to yourself and your growth is pretend you are happy when you’re not to give others a false perception of who you are and what you are going through.
No one needs to know the details of your life intimately. But the judgement of others should also not hold you back from making the right decisions for you.
Check out my previous Blog post on “10 essentials for being a little happier” for tips on things you can do to make positive changes in your life.
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respect, love, heal always
Brown Girl N