When I was struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia, I did lots of pretending. And when I say lots, I mean every day! I didn’t want to allow myself to be human, and I certainly didn’t want to let others see that I didn’t have it all together. If you’re a client or student of mine, you know how important it is to let yourself be human. But the reason I teach so much about embracing our humanness is because I know that if we all did more accepting, we’d all experience lots more peace, joy, and freedom.
And that’s why I want to talk about the importance of embracing our humanness in this week’s podcast episode. We’ll talk about why we sometimes pretend to be okay even when we aren’t, why we might feel like we need to pretend, and how we can learn to embrace our humanness. Because when we understand why we engage in these behaviors, it becomes a whole lot easier to create new, healthier habits!
Why Do We Pretend To Be Okay?
There are lots of reasons why we might try to pretend we’re okay, even when we aren’t. But I want to share a couple of big reasons why we pretend. Most often, pretending is a learned behavior. Whether it’s from parents, friends, or other social influences, you might be taught that you need to put on a happy face, regardless of how you really feel. Maybe you’re surrounded by lots of toxic positivity or people who look like they always have it together. And let's be real, social media certainly doesn’t help!
At its core, pretending is a coping mechanism. It’s how we cope with the parts of ourselves that we aren’t accepting of, and it’s a way to avoid how we’re really feeling. It’s how we avoid discomfort, and how we avoid the unknown. This might seem or even feel helpful in the short term, but it only disconnects us from ourselves and leads to increased stress and anxiety in the long term!
Leaning Into The Not Okayness
Leaning into the not-okayness can be really uncomfortable at first. You might be thinking “Am I going to be okay? Can I handle this? Am I still going to like who I am?” And the answer is yes! Doing the brave thing is often uncomfortable at first, but taking action is what leads to more peace in the future. Letting yourself be seen for who you really are, imperfections and all, helps you to be honest and reconnect with yourself. And in order to heal, grow, and love yourself, you have to be close to yourself. Letting yourself be seen, even when you’re not okay, is raw, beautiful, and freeing.
I was talking to a one-on-one client of mine the other day who said, “Shannon, I feel like I wake up every day and I put on a mask. I’m always trying to make it seem like I’m normal and have it all put together. And now I feel like I have so many masks on that I don’t even know who I am anymore.” I’m sure many of you can relate to this feeling. And this was interesting to me because the reality is that although we largely put on these masks for others, we’re really doing all of this pretending to protect ourselves. So many of us just want to feel normal, and I've realized that being normal actually means allowing ourselves to be human, and to be imperfect.
Embracing Your Humanness
I want to leave you with some practical steps you can take to embrace your humanness and experience more peace, joy, and freedom. Because you deserve to be seen and heard, my friend!
Embracing your humanness looks like…
Resist putting on the mask. Be honest about how you’re feeling, and remember that it’s okay to not be okay!
Practice being honest about your feelings with those you trust
Ask for help when you need it
Find a therapist or a coach you can talk openly and honestly with
Don’t compare yourself to others
Instead of aiming for “normal”, aim for letting yourself be human
Imagine how amazing this world would be if we were all practicing allowing ourselves to be human on a day-to-day basis! Cheers to being human, my friend! And until next time, keep taking healthy action.
Make sure to tune in to the full episode for all of the goodness!
Welcome to a healthy push Podcast. I'm Shannon Jackson former anxiety sufferer turned adventure mom and anxiety recovery coach. I struggled with anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia for 15 years. And now I help people to push past the stuff that I used to struggle with. Each week, I'll be sharing real and honest conversations, along with actionable and practical steps that you can take to help you push past your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic and fears. Welcome, you're right where you're meant to be.
Let's stop pretending to be okay, and instead embrace our humaneness. So if you're a client, or a student of mine, you already know how important it is to allow yourself to be human. And I teach so much about this topic, because I know that if we all did more embracing of our humaneness, we wouldn't be struggling so much. And we would all experience so much more joy and peace and freedom. So back when I was struggling, I did lots of pretending. And when I say lots, I'm talking every day, like a lot of moments of every day, I was pretending I was pretending I was okay. When I wasn't. I was saying I'm good. When somebody would ask how I was doing. Knowing full well, I was anything besides good. I would pretend that I wasn't anxious when I felt incredibly anxious. I would also pretend that I wasn't have having a panic attack, when I was experiencing a full blown panic attack. I would also hide what I was struggling with from everyone and always try to appear to be quote, normal. And like I had it all together. And it was exhausting. It led to so much isolation. And I already felt a whole ton of isolation. And it just didn't feel good. It really piled on top of the not okayness and sadness that I was already experiencing. Does any other sound familiar? Yeah. So I want to start by talking a little bit about why we pretend and why we think we have to pretend. Because when we dig into the why, and we understand why we do what we do, it can really help us to uncover lots of insights about ourselves that can really then help us to change our behaviors, and create new and healthy habits. So a couple of big reasons why we pretend wine, I think the first is it's really often a learned behavior. I work with lots of clients and students who will say, Yeah, Shannon, I grew up with parents or caregivers where they told me, you know, we don't talk about emotions, we just put on a face, you're fine, you're just feeling a little bit anxious, you're scared. But we really didn't talk about it. We didn't talk about not feeling okay, we didn't make space for it. And I really didn't know what to do with the not okayness. And I think the other way that we've learned this behavior for attending is societal and cultural influences. I think so often in our day to days, we hear so much messaging surrounding happiness, and there's just so much toxic positivity, and just this idea that we all have to appear. Like, we have it all together, and everything's great and fine, and we're all not struggling. And it's like what, and of course, social media doesn't help because they're everyone appears to have a happy and joyful and, and these perfectly curated lives with no struggles, which is just so far from the truth. And so this is a big reason why we pretend we learn it, and then we sort of just fall into the behavior. And number two, I think, really at its core of why we pretend is because it's a coping mechanism. And maybe for you, it's a coping mechanism that was passed down to you by a caretaker, but maybe it's a coping mechanism that you've adopted. And pretending is a coping mechanism that we use, because it really helps us to avoid what we're feeling and experiencing. Because let's face it, it can be really uncomfortable, right to face the hard stuff. And it can sometimes feel like a better option in the moment to ignore and suppress what's going on rather than to face the non okayness and to make space for it. But that very short lived in the moment. Ignoring and suppressing is just that it's super short lived. And you know the More you ignore and suppress, it just continues to bring up those feelings of not okayness. So pretending is really this coping mechanism to avoid discomfort to avoid being vulnerable and to feel the discomfort of being vulnerable, to avoid being honest with ourselves and others. And it's really this coping mechanism to avoid the unknown. Because it's like, if I open up and I actually show my not okayness I don't know how I'm going to respond. But I also don't know how other people are gonna respond, like am I going to be received? Are they still gonna like me. And of course, as humans, we fill in the blanks with all the worst case scenarios, and we tell ourselves, hold it all in, it's just better to do this. Because if you don't show this stuff to anyone, everything will be okay. And this is so far from the truth. Any recognize, right, this coping mechanism has probably worked to some some degree, or in some capacity for some time. But acknowledging when you are struggling and going through adulthood, and really realizing this probably isn't working so much, this doesn't actually feel good. And pretending doesn't feel good. And I really don't want to do this anymore. You know, I know all of it can be really scary, especially the not knowing that if we let ourselves feel what we're feeling, and really show it rather than pretending it's like, can I handle it? Am I going to be okay? Am I still gonna like me? And I want you to know, the answer is yes. leaning into the knot okayness actually helps to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings you're facing. Like all of these uncomfortable feelings that you're wanting to stop and to go away. The key is leaning into it. And letting yourself be seen for the honest truth or we're not okayness then helps you to be honest with yourself and to connect with yourself, and truly see you for you. Because the reality of pretending is that it puts you so far from yourself. It really disconnects you from yourself. And in order to heal and grow and love yourself, you have to be close to yourself. So letting yourself be seen for the honest truth of your okayness is raw. And it's beautiful. And it is so freaking freeing. So I want to share a story with you. I was talking to a one on one client of mine the other day and she said, Shannon, I feel like I wake up every day and I put on a mask. And I'm always trying to make it seem like I'm quote normal. And I have it all put together. But on the inside, I am experiencing so much struggle. I'm so anxious and fearful, in my every day. And but now I feel like I've put on so many masks that I don't even know who I am anymore. I don't even know what to do. I don't even know how to not pretend. And this is such a common place that so many people get to. But it is so good when you have this awareness and this realization that's that it's where you're at. And, you know, we were talking and I said to her I think it's interesting because the reality is yes, we put on masks for others. Because we want it to appear to be quote normal and like everything's okay, because a lot of this messaging that we've got tells us just continue to act normal, right? But we largely put on these masks. And we do all of this pretending because we're trying to protect ourselves. And unfortunately, what happens when we pretend is that we deny ourselves of our emotions and our experiences and our pain. And it just leads to more of the emotions that we're trying so hard to relieve. It prevents us from getting that validation that we need, and to be seen and heard and supported, most importantly by ourselves, but also of course from others. So so many people walk around and they put on a face every day because they think that they need to appear as though they have it all together or else and it's like or else what I want you to challenge that right if I don't put on this face if I don't pretend what's gonna happen. You know, putting your not okayness out there, letting people see it, letting you see it, letting you be with you, letting you feel it. It actually allows you to Let go of it. And I know it's really hard and scary. And letting go is not easy. But there is so much healing that happens in the letting go.
So how do we let go, I want to talk about something that I often hear from my clients and students and they'll say, you know, Shannon, I've just been struggling for so long. Like, I don't even know who I am anymore outside of anxiety, panic and agoraphobia. And I just want to be normal. And they put on these faces and pretend because they just want to be normal. And I want to talk about this because I often felt the same way throughout my recovery journey. And just throughout life in general, this, I just want to be normal. So here's the thing, I've come to realize that being this quote, normal actually means letting ourselves be human. Because normal means truly embracing our humaneness and allowing ourselves to struggle and to be seen with the things that we're struggling with. Because what is normal, like it is normal to struggle, it is human to struggle. So normal is letting ourselves struggle and to make space for it. Normal is letting ourselves struggle, and to get support. So when we're struggling, I really don't think that we're shooting for this normal. I think that what we're actually shooting for as humans is to be seen and heard and validated. And we all deserve this. We all deserve to be seen and heard and validated. And I always think to myself, how much more compassionate and peaceful and beautiful the world would be if we were all just more honest, if we were all more honest with ourselves, and we really tried not to pretend if we all really tried to embrace our humaneness, and stop shooting for normal. And instead, if we all were shooting for embracing our humaneness. You know, I don't have many friends, I'm talking like two to three really close friends I that I really enjoy spending time with and that I love. And it's because I really crave connection, like true connections, connections where we don't bullshit. And we don't say we're fine when we aren't connections where we hold lots of space for each other and are not okayness and connections where we hold space for the growth that happens when we let ourselves be with our shackles and really be seen in them. And I wanted to tell you this story, because it's funny, I went out with my friends the other night, Brett, and we were talking about this subject. And he said, You know, when people ask me how I'm doing, I tell them. And I said even to people, like you're not really close with like people you don't really know. And he said, Absolutely. I'm always honest with myself about how I'm feeling. And I don't expect anything in return. Like I don't tell people how I'm feeling. I don't say I'm not okay, and expect the other person to have some amazing response, or to fix my shit. Or to even in that moment, like hold space for me, I just have to be honest with myself about how I'm feeling. And I thought, dang. It's truly not about the other person. It's not about what they might think or what they might say, or how they might respond. It's about being honest with ourselves. And I recognize that you might be thinking like, yeah, kudos to your friend, but I'm not telling perfect strangers that I'm not okay. And I get it, that's fine. But I think the message here is you have to be honest with yourself. And we have to stop trying to fool ourselves. And we have to actually be honest with ourselves. And being honest with ourselves, helps us to be connected with ourselves, and you need that. So I want to give you some more practical steps that you can take to embrace your humaneness and experience more of that peace, joy and freedom that you're wanting. So the first is I really want you to resist putting on the mask. Like Be honest with yourself and how you're feeling when you feel it. If you're not okay and you're not feeling okay, it's okay. Let yourself be with that not okayness you know, I think we're always trying to do our way out of not feeling okay. Like if I just put on that cute outfit if I just put on makeup if I just listen to the happy music if I just try so hard to make myself happy. And it's like, what if we don't? What if we didn't do that? What if we just said I don't feel like doing that. And we just let ourselves be with the not okayness. Because if you don't make space for that, not okayness, if you're not, if you don't allow yourself to be with it, it's gonna get bigger and bigger, and it's going to take up more space. And it's going to lead to more the feelings that you're trying so dang hard to relieve. So I have to tell you, when I don't feel okay, I speak it out loud. And this is something that works for me. And I want you to obviously find what works for you. I've given you some ideas, but I truly let myself be with it. Like my students know my panic few students, because I share it with them, I will walk around my house, and I will dance and sing and it's not like in this, I'm trying to get myself happy. Because it definitely doesn't look like that. But I literally will say to myself, like I feel sad, and it's okay, there's nothing wrong with how I feel. And you can tell I'm not a singer, and I'm not going to try to sing for you. But I will literally say out loud, you know, I feel blah, and it's okay. There's nothing wrong with how I feel. And I love using that laughter and that playfulness to help me work through the not okayness. But for me, I have to put it out there. And I can't put that mask on. Because I know if I try to pretend and I try to suppress, and I try to act like it's not happening, it's just gonna get bigger and bigger and take up more space with things that I don't want to be there. So the next is I want you to really practice being honest, and not pretending with those you trust and feel comfortable with. I want you to really practice being vulnerable with somebody you trust and feel comfortable with. And when they ask how you're doing. Tell them like really push yourself to tell them or don't even wait until they ask, just say hey, I want to talk to you. I'm not feeling okay. And I would love some support. You know, I want you to think about a time where a loved one or a friend came to you and told you that they weren't okay. And they leaned on you. And I want you to think about how that felt? Didn't it feel so good? To hold space for their not okayness? And to support them? I bet it did. I know it always does for me. And I'm saying this because I think we often play that game of I can't tell people how I feel I can't tell people that I'm not okay. I don't want to burden others. I don't want other people to have to carry this, I don't want other people to think I suck like I just don't want people to think I'm weak or a burden or on and on and on. Right. But the reality is, the people that you have in your life that love and support you, they want to love and support you. That's what they're there for. You know, it's one of our greatest roles in the relationships that we have is to be able to love and support each other. So they want to support you because they love you. And the truth is as humans and our humaneness. We all crave this, we all crave to help each other and support each other. Because we're a species that loves connectedness, we crave connectedness. And being vulnerable and honest, helps us to be more connected. But especially remember, it helps us to be more connected with ourselves, which then helps us to be more connected with others. Okay, the next is kind of stating the obvious, but it's important. It's asking for help when you need, you know, don't convince yourself that you can get through it on your own or that you have to. It doesn't work. You don't need to. Instead of waiting, I know how it is because I'm I'm an introvert, I'm the type that will get quiet when things are hard, that won't, won't reach out and won't ask for support. And thank goodness, my loved ones and my close close friends know this about me. And so they'll say, Hey, I noticed you've gotten quiet, I notice that you've withdrawn a little bit. Are you okay? But I also have to push myself and challenge myself to say, I'm not okay. And I need help. And that's something that I've been practicing a lot more recently. And it's been incredibly, incredibly helpful to get that support when I need it. So really challenge yourself, push yourself to ask for help when you need it. The next kind of goes along with this one, find a coach or a therapist, like somebody you can talk to openly and honestly with somebody that you trust, somebody that you can come to and just say I'm not okay. And I want space for it. And I want to feel that safety and I Just need to be with it and I need you to help me to be with it. That is incredibly helpful.
The next is Don't compare yourself to others. I know it's so hard not to do this because we all do this as humans. It's part of our humaneness. But part of it is acknowledging and being aware of when you're doing it. And reminding yourself, we're all human. Nobody is walking through life, easy, breezy, has it all together, is in this constant state of peace, joy, freedom, like we're all human, we're all struggling. Life is not what it appears to be on social media. So don't compare yourself to this thing that does not exist. We all are struggling, your life is not such a mess. And it's not so uncomfortable to others, like your life looks like a lot of our lives look. And the last, instead of shooting for normal, please start shooting for letting yourself be human. Because Can you imagine how freaking amazing this world would be. If we were all just practicing allowing ourselves to be a little more human, rather than to be normal. I know how freeing this has been for me, and how freeing this can be for you, too. So I want to give you one last nudge here and out the push to stop pretending stop pretending to be okay, and start embracing your humaneness and letting yourself be human. All right, if you have found what I've shared here to be helpful, I would love for you to share it with somebody, somebody who needs to practice allowing themselves to be more human. And if you have not yet taken just a minute to rate and review the podcast, I would appreciate it so deeply. If you could do that. It means so much to me. And if you do, please reach out and let me know and I would love to send you a personal thank you. Okay, until next time, my friend. Keep taking healthy action. I hope you enjoyed this episode of a healthy push. If you want more, head on over to a healthy push.com for the show notes and lots more tips, tools and inspiration that will support your recovery. And if you're hoping for me to cover a certain topic, be sure to join my Instagram community @ahealthypush. And let me know in the comments what you want to hear next.