We live in a crazy world where we need to stop pretending in order to be happier and healthier. Below the surface, everyone has problems. Whether the problems relate to relationship issues, financial worries, health concerns, a lack of self-confidence, addiction, anxiety or depression etc, we all have our cross to bear. So why is it that we pretend that everything is fine?
Pretending increases mental health issues
We need to stop pretending because the pretense adds to and reinforces isolation, feeling disconnected from one another and leaves us with a sense that there is something wrong with us. If you feel that everyone else has a great life but you don’t, it stands to reason that you will assume that you must be doing something wrong.
The truth is that this world is ‘groaning’ under the strain of misery, lack of fulfilment, fear of not feeling good enough (through comparing), and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. We are experiencing an explosion of mental health issues and when we keep pretending that everything is fine, we add to the problem.
As a therapist, I am well aware of what goes on behind the façade of the perfect selfie, biased magazine articles, PR machines, and image consultants. The general media and social media only tell you part of the picture. You see the air-brushed, edited version of life, and many people ‘buy into’ this perfection and believe they need to match up. I once had a client who felt her whole holiday would be ruined if she was unable to get that perfect selfie to place on Instagram. If her selfie couldn’t compare to the social media influencers she followed, it was proof that she was a failure. This pressure created so much anxiety that she was dreading the holiday. We seem to have lost our way and need to stop pretending.
Pretending to be perfect is far more appealing than being real, open, and honest..and this pretense is causing more harm than good. Those that are real tend to have happier lives because they are happy in their own skin and don’t care about matching up to others. Instead, they do their best to focus on where they have been and how far they have come.
Image: Courtesy of https://www.decade2doodles.com/
Be real by approving of yourself
It’s so refreshing when people stop pretending and make themselves vulnerable by admitting that life isn’t as wonderful as everyone is led to believe. This is real. What isn’t real are the airbrushed images, the one-sided stories that are carefully curated to show a perfect life, the carefree photos on Facebook, and the reality TV shows that offer up a glamorised and polished version of real life.
We need to stop pretending because the true scale of the problem is hidden and no one will ever take the mental-health tsunami of problems seriously when we all feign happiness and act as if we are coping.
Reality isn’t quite as perfect
Meanwhile, ‘back at the ranch’, what’s really happening is that we are waking up late, spilling tears into our cereal bowls and hiding from our friends and family because we feel ashamed that we aren’t coping. I guess no one wants to know that. We’d rather all pretend that life is great than stop pretending and risk being judged.
What’s with that anyway? I am so relieved to see that more people than ever are admitting that they’re not fine. That behind the success and seemingly perfect life, all is not that well. It’s okay to not be okay but as a society, we still perpetuate the message that we have to be okay and that feeling bad is unacceptable.
When you tell it like it really is, you break down invisible barriers. You appear more human and others can relate to you as someone who experiences life just like the rest of us.
We all have problems
I have had clients from all walks of life. Clients from lower socio-economic levels may have more basic problems like money issues or being evicted but wealthy clients have problems too although they differ in nature.
They may not worry about money but they worry either about losing their money, not having true friends, or finding their next source of validation. The nature of worry may change but anxiety and stress are never far away no matter who you are (unless you are a psychopath!).
Take perfection with a pinch of salt
Perfectionism is a growing problem and I am seeing a growing number of clients with anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression due to their perfectionistic tendencies. Often, when we dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that perfectionism is to blame. Maybe you had parents that pushed you and expected a lot. You may have had a group of friends who have all gone to university or you may spend a lot of time on social media. Whatever the reason – more people feel pressure to achieve and their self-worth is wrapped up in what they do rather than who they are.
Perfectionism traps you in a maze of trying hard but never quite feeling good enough because there is always going to be another step, something more to achieve. Perfectionists rarely stop to give themselves credit and find it impossible to stop pretending. If they do achieve their goal, they dismiss it as too easy, and if they don’t achieve what they set out to, they take this as proof that they aren’t good enough. A never-ending exhausting cycle that leads people to feel depressed and anxious.
How to stop pretending
Break free, accept that life is full of ups and downs, success and failure. Perfection is a myth so stop trying to achieve it. Instead, show yourself compassion. Keep a sense of humour, stay grounded and embrace failure as a success because it shows you are trying and embracing life.
Be yourself and care less about what others think of you. Define success for yourself – for me, it’s being real, being open, and honest. I have no trouble being open about the things that aren’t working in my life. I don’t see what the benefit is of hiding this truth. Never get caught up in the fake world of social media, air-brushed images and/or people who are good at making you believe that their lives are always smooth sailing – it’s complete nonsense!
Be free, accept who you are, return to the basics, STOP PRETENDING (stay away from comparisons) and you will feel lighter and more content.
Someone who is VERY REAL (I salute her) and has stopped pretending is Celeste Barber. If you want a giggle -look her up.