Upon first glance this photo made me laugh in hysterics.
I mean, all parents probably feel the frustration of trying to get active kids to pose for the yearly family photo without the necessary cooperation needed to look like the perfect happy unit.
As my laughter subsided, I looked at this photo a little closer and thought about how many of us as adults would never allow a photo of ourselves to be taken sobbing and throwing a tantrum (except Philip Rivers) like this. We walk though life purposefully casting a certain appearance in order to project a very specific image. Especially n the world of social media and selfies. On the outside, we may try to appear happy, perfect, cool, content, strong, or joyful, right? But what happens when what we feel on the inside does not match our outer appearance? C’mon be honest, we’ve all faked being happy or “good” at one time or another. I’m betting you are a master at faking it too. I know I am.
Most people are not aware of my health problems or the struggles I had raising my daughter because I can wear a fake smile better than anyone I know. And I know you have faked a smile at work or school, with your friends and acquaintances. Or the boss you don’t trust. Or the family member who continuously hurts and disappoints you. It’s what we are supposed to do, right? Keep the real emotions inside and look happy on the outside, even when we aren’t. There’s a phrase for it: “fake it until you make it?”
Here’s what I say about faking it until you make it. It’s all well and good in times where you are taking risks and doing something you haven’t done before. When giving a speech I hide my nerves by faking it until I make it. But faking it until you make it by stuffing your emotions deep inside is not what I want for you. Instead, I want you to feel your feelings. I want to to be happy on the inside and the outside. And when you aren’t, I want you to be able to express your feelings, acknowledge them and heal.
Go back to the photo of the sobbing unhappy kids. If your photo was snapped right, now how would you look? If you chose to be authentic and posed based on the way you were actually feeling instead of how you want the Jones Family to see you on their Christmas card would your face show joy? What are you carrying around with you that needs to come out and be dealt with? Is it anger? Are you grieving something or someone ? Are you lonely? Stressed? Are YOU living authentically?
I challenge you to make the effort each day to be aware of how you are presenting yourself to the world.
This is a process and each step must be followed to become your most authentic self. Take the following three steps now. Feel, deal, and heal.
What if each day we made the effort to show our authentic selves? Take the risk to be sad when you feel sad. When you are fearful, be fearful. When you are angry, be angry. No more of this “fake it until you make it hide your true feelings and stuff them all inside.” I know some generations (like my mom’s) were taught to be stoic and keep their feelings to themselves. But I’m giving you the permission you may have not known you needed to stop keeping everything inside and deal with what ails you.
For many of us it’s very scary to feel our feelings. I’ve been afraid if I cry or feel something I will fall apart and not be able to pick myself back up again. I’ve feared the tears will permanently run down my face and I will be so hysterical I won’t ever be able to stop them. But I promise you this won’t happen.
There are times when you may know you feel something but not know what it is you feel. Ask yourself. Seriously ask yourself: “what or how do I feel about this right now?” “Are these feelings real or am I making them up?” Then you must promise when you make the effort to be aware of your feelings and feel them, you follow up with the next two steps.
Feel the feelings and DEAL with them. Yep, you need to acknowledge the feelings. “Fear – I acknowledge you are here, thank you for wanting to protect me. I don’t need you here anymore.” Now c’mon, don’t make it weird. Just have an internal conversation with yourself. You’ve been feeling a certain way and now it’s time to address it.
Addressing your feelings might mean having a conversation you haven’t wanted to have with your boss, a family member or a partner. Or it may mean you speak up for yourself and ask for an unmet need to be met. Or you decide to set a boundary in a relationship. In this step we are taking a forward moving action. We aren’t complaining and then doing nothing about our situation. It could get uncomfortable. It may not be easy but acknowledging and dealing with your feelings allows you to move forward and not stay stuck. Stuffing your feelings will stunt your growth. (Insert short joke here)
Deal then heal! Healing allows freedom. Freedom allows you to forgive and to let go. Letting go of the hold your feelings have on you. For me, forgiveness was the hardest part of this process until I realized forgiving someone didn’t mean I had to say what happened was ok. Nor did it mean I had to like them or invite them over for dinner. I learned when you forgive you do it for yourself; to free yourself. For your own happiness. Heck, the person doesn’t even need to know you forgive them.
We heal to free ourselves. Read that sentence a couple more times. We heal to free ourselves. So we can sleep well. Improve our health. Be enjoyable for others to be around. Live our purpose. Share our gifts with the world. Grow. Be open to new outcomes. So we no longer fake our smile for photos. So we can be in the present moment.
You’ve done it. You’ve acknowledged your feelings. You’ve felt them. And then you’ve let them go. It takes hard work to feel, deal and heal. I hope this process will be a step towards building your confidence. You are a badass. I mean it. It takes strength to rise above the crap we’ve been carrying around, sometimes for decades. If I can do it so can you. You are not alone.
Now, go practice. Let me know how it goes. And ask for support when you are tired or stuck. And smile pretty in the next photo because you can be happy with the life you have.