feelings · mental health

Get real

I recently went on a bit of a rant with a friend, complaining about people who are not transparent or open, and how I’m just authentic to a fault and it’s important to me but maybe not to everyone else. But what I’ve learnt though, in the last few months, is the importance of authenticity within your mental health journey.

It was in a moment where I was joking with a colleague (followed by me questioning why I was oversharing to such a degree), about how I keep myself so busy to avoid my feelings. And then my psychologist red-carded me for doing the same with my therapy. So there it was. I avoid my feelings. And that is one of the things that was making my mental health journey inauthentic and stagnated.

I put a lot of work into my self-esteem and self-love journey, but for me to start healing in a big way, I need to stop running and start acknowledging those feelings.

Cartoon of characters representing different emotions in Inside Out movie.
Inside Out movie

We always hear how we have to be true to ourselves, but what exactly does that even mean? I was called out for not have “self-integrity” and while I consider myself to have a lot of integrity in normal everyday life, I was forced to admit that that was true.

It comes from being a people pleaser. We do and say whatever we think the other person wants to hear. And we deny ourselves. Zero integrity for self. Because what if what they are saying is against your values? What if it’s in direct contravention of your beliefs? Why are you not standing up for what you believe in?

And when it comes to your feelings, and your needs – are you denying these? Are you allowing the feelings and needs of others to be more important to yours, and thereby, denying yourself feeling your feelings? Are your behaviours in line with your values, and what you believe in and your needs and feelings?

For example, I hurt my wrist recently, and instead of resting, I have been doing all the things, because I don’t want people to think that I’m lazy or unhelpful. But the reality is, I am denying myself the healing process.

Woman posing with flowing dress.
What depression looks like – me looking happy just before a psychiatric clinic admission

And it’s the same with being our authentic selves and staying true to what we need. If we go against what we truly need in a moment, we are not being authentic towards ourselves. We are denying ourselves. And we don’t always consciously do it, sometimes, we do it out of habit, fears of rocking the boat, fears of not being liked. But if it costs our mental health, it’s not worth it.

And it’s not about being mean, or cruel, or hurting others – it’s just about staying true to yourself. So, if you need to rest on the weekend, and a friend invites you out, say that you cannot join, because your need is for rest and recovery. And that is more important than doing something for someone else’s reasons, and neglecting yourself.

A couple of years ago, a movie poster had the subtitle, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”, and while it’s a cliché, I’ve never forgotten it. I was forced to remember it in this moment where I realized that the people pleaser within me was falling for anything. And for someone who has convictions as strong as I do, that was a hard pill to swallow.

Standing up for ourselves feels mean to us, because we spent our entire lives being mean to ourselves, by not standing up for ourselves.

I am pledging to look after my own needs and emotions. If I feel down, I am going to allow myself the space to feel that emotion, even though it may not be accepted by the people around me. I am not going to pretend to be happy just to appease everyone else. I need to experience the emotion to work through it.

I pledge to be truly authentic.

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