Why I'm Done Pretending I Have It All Together

This idea that I need to be perfect all of the time, at everything I do, is something contained deep within my psyche.

“Hi! How are you?”

The dreaded question that I’m always anxious to hear. “I’m doing well, how are you?” is usually my go-to, even though I’m kicking myself as I say it, for being dishonest, since I immediately feel that pang of guilt when I say it. 

I’ve said I was “good,” “fine,” or “doing well” after crying for hours, lying in bed all day with no motivation, and even experiencing suicidal ideation. 

My worst days are when the temptation to mask my pain with a smile is the strongest.

For a long time, probably forever if I’m really being honest, things have looked pretty and perfect on the outside of my life, but have been a complete and utter disaster on the inside. 

I’ve always known on some level that this was true, because of the internal discomfort that glazing over my truth left behind. Although, it wasn’t until this year that this discrepancy hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Last year, I had one of the best years of my life, if not the best. I moved to a new city on a whim and grew my freelance practice to the equivalent of a full-time income. I traveled the country, living in Airbnbs, and did things like surf in the Pacific Ocean, consult psychics in Sedona, and browse the abundant bookshelves in Powells. I then decided that I had done it all and then some, and I was ready to try living in my hometown of Cleveland for a year, to see if a quiet life in the suburbs would suit me.

Well, I certainly found my answer.

Almost immediately after moving into my swanky apartment with my brand new furniture, I fell apart. I felt so empty — there was this peripheral “Now, what?” constantly echoing in my mind as I laid in my bed or sat at my kitchen table. 

Not only did I feel personally unfulfilled, but I saw my professional dreams start to unravel as well. I was sick of the constant search for new contracts, dealing with ungrateful clients who saw me as nothing more than a workhorse, and the often crappy pay. I resented getting up and getting to work each day. I hated the life that I had somehow worked so hard to create.

But would I reach out and get support? Admit I was having more dark days than light ones? Try to be proactive and do something about slowly but surely becoming a hot mess?

Nope, of course not. Thanks to my upbringing and the value my parents placed on image, I've always been able to keep it together and deceive others into thinking that everything is great, all of the time.

So, I did what I do best: hid behind phony smiles and “I’m-good-how-about-yous,” when I was asked how I was doing. 

If we can’t give to ourselves, then we have nothing left to give to anyone else. Lying or trying to sweep our real truths under the rug is just going to cause the underlying issues to swell over time, until the bubble bursts — which, inevitably, it always does.

I was more or less caught in this cycle of finding hope (deciding to let go of freelancing for a more steady communications job and an inspiring desire to be an intuitive coach) and watching myself drop the ball (doing the bare minimum to get by at work, not signing new clients for months). I was constantly sad, exhausted, burnt out, and wondering what the point of it all was, if this was all that life really had to offer. 

I stayed in this rut for pretty much the entire year, until I had a really intense wakeup call. 

I’ve struggled with depression since I was 14 years old, so that mindset, and the symptoms that come with it, are nothing new to me. Suicidal thoughts are something that has come with it, but never in a way that was constant or all-consuming. Well, that all changed this summer.

I started to have entire days where I’d be pulled into a vortex deep in my mind, which told me that the only way out of pain was to end it all. I cried, I did some scary, outlandish things.

It was enough to scare me to get more help. It was my wake-up call.

I started seeing a psychiatrist and went back on medication, which I’d been resistant to do for five years. I knew that I had to take control of my life if I wanted to have any shot of getting back to where I was a year ago.

Taking this step was the catalyst that got me into a better place.

I started smiling every single day. I felt grateful to be alive and have the opportunities that I do. I started understanding and embracing my gifts as an intuitive and stopped trying to embody some kind of corporate business snob that was just a mask for my deep sense of spirituality.

I felt like me again.

After the dust settled so to speak, I realized that, in many ways, I was still operating on autopilot.

I was still saying “I’m good!” when prompted about how I was feeling that day. I was still avoiding talking about my feelings. I was still hiding under a veil of “greats” and “awesomes” and “I can do thats.” I was still trying to project perfection, when that’s exactly what got me to where I was in the first place — trying to pretend that everything was A-OK. To others, yes, but most of all, to myself. 

Being in a better headspace allowed me to see this subtle dynamic play out, and I realized quickly that if I wanted this new outlook to last, I would need to drop the perfection act STAT. 

Starting to get in-tune with my emotional patterns made me see how well-ingrained these ideas and pressures really are, not just for me, but for women in general. 

We’re supposed to be the “good girls” who never complain, never dare to make waves, and never, ever, prioritize ourselves over the bottom line. We’re supposed to be the best employees, the best friends, moms, partners, business partners, cooks, housekeepers, and personal assistants, all the while wearing a big, fat smile and not just accepting these roles, but relishing in them. 

This idea that I need to be perfect all of the time, at everything I do, is something contained deep within my psyche. It was why I felt that I couldn’t speak up, even in my own business, about my needs. It was why I always put my to-do list and deadlines in front of my desperate need for self-care.

It was why it took me so long to admit I needed more help in the first place. 

The truth was, I would have rather suffered quietly inside, than have my reputation of always being reliable and responsible even risk being tarnished. 

As women, it is demanded that we uphold this image, even when we're crumbling to pieces.

It’s why I’ve decided to reclaim my voice and my sanity, by being done pretending to be okay.

If I’m having a bad day (which happens to everyone, medicated or not), I am going to speak up. If I’m upset about something, I’m not going to just let it go. If I need to speak, I will let my voice be heard. If I need help or support, I am going to f*cking ask for it and ask for it without apology.

Here’s the thing: I understand how hard it is to actually follow through with these ideas and actually stick up for your damn self. But, it’s crucial to remember that acting like everything is great serves no one.

No one.

Not your boss, not your mom, not your spouse, not the lady at the checkout counter at Target.

No one.

Especially, not you, my dear.

If we can’t give to ourselves, then we have nothing left to give to anyone else. Lying or trying to sweep our real truths under the rug is just going to cause the underlying issues to swell over time, until the bubble bursts — which, inevitably, it always does.

Faking it is only going to give you more of the same problems. It’s only going to leave you unhappy, unfulfilled, and worst of all, without healing.

We cannot create healing under false pretense — the universe knows what’s real and what’s BS, so trying to slap on a smile and say “I’m fine!” isn’t going to energetically cut it.

That is why I am calling on you, on all of us, to rise up. 

To do better for ourselves and the world, by owning our truths.

When we don’t have our sh*t together, let’s say it and rally around one another for support. Let’s give other women permission to be the imperfect, human beings that we all were born to be. Instead of shunning and shaming, let’s love and celebrate ourselves, just for being brave enough to speak our truths.

Let’s refuse to accept “good enough” for ourselves and demand greatness.

Let’s stop pretending to be what we never were, and instead, embrace who we really are; perfectly imperfect. 

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