IF I asked you today, “how are you feeling?” what would you say?
What would your reply be? Would you say “fine thanks” and give me a full beam of a smile?
Or say “I’m great? Never been better!”
Perhaps you would mean it. Perhaps you’re jumping around with utter joy today. I hope that is the case. Hell, I’d love to think this is the case, for all of you that may be reading this.
But what if you’re not doing so well?
Would you admit it? Would you open up? Would you say, “actually Kate, I’m feeling really low and I’m so unhappy”?
It’s hard to open up to people isn’t it? To admit our vulnerabilities. To confess our feelings. To put ourselves out there in such an authentic way.
So much easier to plaster on a fake smile, hide our tears and carry on ‘as normal’. So much easier to disguise the weight on our shoulders. So much easier.
Or is it?
Have you ever noticed that when you go out for a few boozy drinks with friends, that by the end of the night, all sorts of revelations come out, fuelled by some Dutch courage.
You might well say it’s the booze talking.
And it is of course, that’s true. But it’s also our hearts, don’t you think? Our poor suffering souls screaming out. Desperate to share, desperate to reach out, desperate to find a shoulder to lean on.
People are desperate to share. Longing to tell their truth. Really they are. And I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to notice it more and more.
It’s just that most of us don’t know how to do it. Or we don’t do it very well. We’re too scared of what people might think. Or we lack the courage to try.
And so we wait.
Wait until we’ve drank numerous glasses of lip-loosening plonk or until we just can’t take it anymore or until someone gently encourages us to speak up.
And in the meantime, we hop on Facebook and read the happy highlights from the people we knew at school and we go on Instagram and see all the beautiful people living their beautiful lives.
And we add our two penny worth too.
We tell people we’ve had the best day ever! Even though we’re terrified that our life is falling apart.
We snap the prettiest image we can and contribute to a beautiful feed, even when we’re feeling far from pretty inside.
And on it goes.
Pretending our lives are perfect. Pretending we’ve never been happier. Pretending we’re just tickety boo.
And so the days roll by and we bump into people we meet and we tell them we’re great and nod along smiling when they tell us they are too.
And we plaster on the make up every morning as well as the fake smiles and make sure that it looks like we’re having a blast.
And we keep our pain and our secrets and our fears and our dark, dark thoughts hidden away deep down inside.
And so does your best friend. And so does your sister. And so does your husband.
Until it all comes spilling out.
Until you or someone you love, falls apart.
Until eventually the pretender gives up the exhausting day job and all is revealed.
We are living in a world obsessed with perfectionism and image, but isn’t it time we stopped the role playing and tell ourselves and each other, that actually it’s OK to not be OK.
That it’s OK to have a sh***y day. To feel angry. Or bewildered.
(And completely normal in fact.)
That it’s OK to stop pretending you’re no longer OK.
To your partner. Your Mum. Or a colleague.
(They can handle it.)
That it’s OK to have messed up, to cry or lose your temper.
That it’s OK to not think something is OK.
To disagree with something. To dislike someone. To have an opinion.
That it’s OK to tell someone that actually, you’re not OK.
To open up. To reveal the truth. To admit your life isn’t so rosy.
(We’ve ALL been there.)
It takes courage to acknowledge you’re not OK, when the rest of the world wants or expects you to be, doesn’t it?
We worry about what people will think, we feel we have to deal with things on our own, we believe it would make those we love sad or we fear that it makes us abnormal somehow.
We’re encouraged to share so much these day.s But only the best bits! We’re invited to be ourselves. But only if our face fits!
We’re expected to put ourselves out there. But only in a positive light! Is it any wonder that so many of us are suffering, quietly and alone?
When life is great, we all have a habit to shout it from the rooftops.
We want the world and his wife to know we’re succeeding, having a baby, moving countries, living the dream. We’re proud to share our triumphs and our happiness. And we enjoy wallowing in the attention and love, for as long as we can.
But you know when darkness falls and when things start to go skew wiff, it’s OK to not be OK.
And it’s more than OK – bloody brilliant in fact – to just admit it!
It’s honest. It’s real. And in a world that craves the ‘perfect’ it’s a refreshinginly imperfect change.
Admitting we are not OK paves the way to deeper emotional connections with each other, makes us feel less alone and opens up the door to a hell of a lot of healing and feeling.
So I’ll get the ball rolling…
Yesterday I was not OK. Today I am a little better. Tomorrow, I am hopeful that I will be just tickety boo.
But if I’m not, I’m not going to hide it.
And if you’re not, neither – my friend – should you.
Photography: Images taken by Masque Photography.