“Honestly, I’m not okay,” I said sadly to the man that had recently ended our relationship.
He was checking in, he said, and went on to say he too was not okay but had no choice but to pretend he was, so was keeping himself busy, to apparently distract himself from the thoughts of me, of us.
He told me to “get busy.” He said just “find things to do, so you don’t think about it.”
Ahh yes, distraction. Denial. Burying those feelings and emotions so we don’t have to deal with them. He was an expert at it. I was not.
We live in an age where so many claim to be “woke,” spiritual, self-aware. Where self-help books abound. Self-proclaimed coaches sell their services on social media, with handheld signs saying, “The one thing you need to succeed” or “Stop suffering now.”
We are told to think positively, be positive, and we are reminded daily by these social media “coaches” posting internet quotes onto their own special templates. A personal touch.
I’m not suggesting that this is all bad, in fact there are some fantastic books to read, there are some amazing coaches, and there are some beautiful quotes, but people need authenticity. They need honesty and reality. They need to heal.
What we do not need is bypassing. Burying and compartmentalising. We do not need toxic positivity.
Society is filled with people who are so used to bypassing their emotions, their pain, their trauma. So used to looking for the quick fixes that provide temporary relief but never tackle the darkness. Never address the underlying trauma—the shadows. Never really healing but rather putting the mask of avoidance on—dancing with distraction. Because it’s easier to pretend you’ve climbed the staircase to heal, when in reality, you’ve spring-boarded yourself to the top, completely bypassing your bleeding wounds. So much easier to just pretend those wounds aren’t there, because if we fake it enough, surely we will make it. Right?
You will be hit in an avalanche of pain. Perhaps emotional, perhaps physical. But make no mistake, the body always keeps the score. We cannot bury our pain forever; it must be felt, acknowledged, addressed, openly and honestly, if we are to heal.
Social media is rarely a healthy place to support healing. The highlight reels of some people portraying a life that is far removed from reality is terribly sad. The abundance of “gurus” out there who can change your life in six sessions for a hefty fee is actually dangerous. And this toxic positivity is like a poison seeping into people, encouraging us to avoid being negative because that’s deemed unhealthy. To get busy, be busy, stay busy, anything to distract us from actually feeling normal human emotions and pain.
Because f*ck knows we wouldn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable by being human and having actual feelings. F*ck knows we wouldn’t want to appear negative. F*ck knows we wouldn’t want to be open and honest, to show people who we really are.
So on we go conditioned to pretend we have the perfect life. The perfect relationship. The perfect kids. We post all the best pics, we declare our perfection to the world, and we continue on in our mask-wearing façade. Maybe some do have this life, but from my experience, very few do and I’ve seen the happiest of couple photos when I know the relationship is in turmoil. I’ve seen the beautiful house and car—when I know there are financial struggles. So why the hell do we do this?
We do this because whilst we can convince the world we are happy and have our life together, maybe, just maybe we can convince ourselves also.
We may be able to convince the world, but we are lying to ourselves. And whenever we continue to lie to ourselves, busy ourselves, distract ourselves, look for the quick fixes, and bypass our sh*t, we can never truly heal. Because real healing is hard, it’s painful, it’s a process, and it’s honest, and sometimes people are just not willing or able to really face the darkness. And that guy holding a sign on social media, saying “Just change your mindset and think positively,” is not the “guru” who is going to help you heal.
There is no quick fix. There is no healing in busying yourself. There is a process and there is unpacking every single one of your feelings and emotions. There is looking back, not to live there or suffer but to find those wounds, address those wounds, so you can then move forward to heal those wounds.
So back to my breakup and admitting I wasn’t okay. I didn’t listen to his advice to “get busy.” I sat in my pain. I allowed myself to feel every tormenting blow. I got up and I fell back down again, more than once. I cried and cried and cried again. I sought professional help and slowly started to work through my pain. I started my counselling and coaching course and underwent more growth and healing when I was triggered throughout my learnings. I started writing again and have put so much of my feelings and my pain into what I write. And I’ve finally started to help others as a counsellor and coach.
I don’t believe in gurus and I don’t believe in any coach encouraging you to only look forward and not supporting you in healing what needs to be healed. I loathe toxic positivity and all that it encompasses. Inability to share your true feelings, scared to show negative emotions, ignoring your emotions and feelings, pretending all is well—are toxic.
I really wish people were comfortable enough with who they truly are to portray themselves authentically.
The road to healing is authenticity and that requires vulnerability, transparency, integrity, and the truth.
It starts by saying, “Actually, no, I’m not okay.”