Don’t we all wear masks at one time or another, pretending that everything is OK? There are many reasons people may act out this charade. It’s not uncommon to hide personal pain, because putting it on display for all to see can be embarrassing and even destabilize relationships. Yet studies show that using denial as an emotional defense and ‘acting as if’ everything is fine can actually shift your feelings in a more positive direction. And keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’ when you feel powerless may, in fact, result in your having more control over a difficult situation.
Yet underlying bad feelings don’t just disappear when you hide them as a form of self-medication. The transitions we go through can be complicated. And perspective is valuable, no matter whether you’re hit in the face with a crisis, giving up roles that have defined you in the past or making a slow adjustment to changes in your identity. Try to take a step back as you look at what’s going on for you emotionally. Implement some of the following tips and you can’t help but grow from the experience:
Look deep inside and be honest with yourself. You may be in denial about your emotional state of mind. If you’ve been quiet, withdrawn or holding back, what are you hiding? Or if you’ve been frustrated, angry or acting out, what are you trying to prove? Consider what you are doing that may not be in your best interests.
Stress can be a catalyst for negative behavior. Reduce the pressures in your life by honoring your body. Pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Actually schedule some relaxation into your daily routine until it becomes second nature.
Seek out the support you need and connect often. Spend time with friends who understand what you’re experiencing or who have had similar circumstances. Talk with family members whose opinions you respect and trust.
You may be confused about what to do next. Don’t be afraid to see a therapist or a coach. Learning techniques from experts can make a big difference and talking about your concerns can be a lifesaver. If you begin to put unfinished business to rest and take better care of yourself, you’ll be free to express yourself more directly to those who are important to you.
You deserve the life that you want. If you’re having problems – with your job, relationship, family, finances or health – evaluate the situation. Understanding and working through the impact is important to your well being. Decide what changes need to be made and begin to move forward, step by step.
Accept the person you are becoming. As you redefine your self, it can lead to you gradually feeling more powerful. You will be able to go from being afraid of your future to feeling excited about what’s ahead.
Bring congruency into your life. Notice that when you feel one way and act another, you’re out of sorts. Work on synchronicity – that is, making what you feel match what you do. Integrate your core values and personal ideals into how you view the world – and live them.
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when circumstances are emotionally painful. But there are psychological pitfalls when you present a false self and mask your true identity. If your negative feelings stem from a void inside, examine what is missing in your life. It takes a lot of courage to exorcise you demons and the road to healing is long and hard. But you can hold yourself to a higher standard. Take off your mask and commit to feeling more positive about yourself.
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