Have you ever faced a secret battle in your healing? As a result of this, did you make yourself feel small in order to accommodate the comfort of others? Healing is uncomfortable, to say the least, but it doesn’t have to isolate you from people who want to support you.
Something that I’ve learned as an esthetician for the past 15 years is you never really know the challenges someone is secretly battling. We all bear invisible scars and heavy hearts at different times and severity throughout our lives. The private battles are often what impact our interactions with others and even our ability to ask for help. Unfortunately, we can get used to that privacy and hiding our true hurt unless it becomes physically impossible to hide anymore. Skin ailments are a perfect example of this. They force us to go inward and heal ourselves because our exterior shield is reflecting that it needs more support. And if how our society responds to an imperfect complexion is a reflection of how we would feel when our true pain is revealed publicly, I can understand why it’s easier to just put on a brave face and pretend everything is “fine”.
Let’s just drop the “fine” for now and get introspective. Life can come at you in ways that feel really damaging and in those moments, we really need to lean on each other without fear of judgment or lack of support. I’ve recently been forced to evaluate this darkness in myself that believes that no one will show up for me. Or that I’m not valuable without an equal exchange of goods – “I owe you” or “You didn’t have to do this” are constant phrases for me trying to equal out exchanges where I am being cared for. That belief system is based on such lack-mindedness and is ridiculous to admit because my soul and heart know better. But whatever imprint on my subconscious that wants to ring in this falsehood won’t go away even after years of therapy then maybe it’s time I try to hack my way into a new mindset. Stay with me here because after having 3 surgeries in 2 years, 2 within 3 months, endless doctor’s visits, and continuous heartbreak from my chronic illness and fertility journey, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I see it in my clients through all of their life experiences but I also see it in other parts of my life all the time. Especially after the wild year and a half, we’ve been having.
I hear it from a lot of you in a variety of ways all the time. We need each other but it’s difficult to feel seen, heard, and understood when you’ve previously advocated for yourself to only be left in total isolation and/or grief. There are some observations I have made with my own journey through this that I feel is worthy of sharing to help those of you looking to get a little support or even feel comfortable in acknowledging what you may be needing.
The issue with “How are you?”
First, there are a lot of moments in the day in which we unconsciously shut down engagement opportunities to connect. Whether it’s to give or receive support, we are conditioned to say certain things that can be deemed as socially appropriate but end up hurting ourselves in the process. For example, does this sound familiar to you:
“Hey, how are you doing?”, “I’m fine, how are you?”, “Good!” and then onto the next thing.
Listen, this could be picky of me but what if we actually said how we were feeling and asked with the intention to receive whatever response we got. This doesn’t need to lead to a therapy session between you and your barista while picking up your morning brew, but it can lead to practices in honesty with how you are actually doing. Because the more we practice the “I’m fine”, the more we disconnect from truly being able to answer the question of how we are. Only you can know how you are doing and if you need help while everyone in your life thinks you’re fine, it can be incredibly difficult to break that pattern in order to express your needs.
You can start with expressing yourself through journaling if feeling like direct honesty in the moment doesn’t work in your current social dynamics. As long as you learn to be honest with yourself first, that can help you when you may need to be honest with someone else – like a doctor, a concerned family member, or a therapist.
When you don’t want to “Have a great day!”
Phrases like “Hope you’re doing well!”, “Have a great day!” are niceties that we say to each other all of the time. And I know they are meant to genuinely wish well upon each other. But the sentiment has definitely become diluted the more and more we say it. If anything, it’s like when we ask “how are you?” and are meant with an honest answer. Asking someone who isn’t well or is in the middle of a terrible situation to have a great day can actually feel like the heaviest thing to receive.
What if we stopped wishing people were only well and to have a great day as that can force an expectation on ourselves that we are only supposed to be well and have great days. In reality, I hope people are safe and if they are not okay, I want them to know they can reach out.
Just recently I had to get a prescription from the pharmacy and it wasn’t a fun prescription to get. The pharmacy staff knows very well how heartbreaking it is to be picking up a prescription, yet they casually left me with a “Have a good weekend” as I was driving off. It really didn’t sit right that they knew my weekend would entail the debilitating side effects of this prescription they just gave me instructions for yet still mindlessly told me to enjoy my weekend. The two things couldn’t live in the same universe even if they tried. I had wished that they had just said “Please be safe” or “Take care” instead of acting like anything good could occur.
But what about boundaries?
Would that just invite in a lot of complaining and annoying back and forth? Shouldn’t we aim to stay positive all the time?
There are definitely certain settings where this type of honest interaction will feel inappropriate and probably exhausting. But how I see it is it’s also an opportunity, to be honest in return. If I’m not in a position to support someone the moment they ask for help or acknowledgment in some way, it’s okay. I can still be supportive by expressing how I don’t have the capacity to be fully present with them at the moment.
One of the most important relationships in my life is the one I have with my sister. She’s my only sibling and we’re pretty close in age (she’s 2 ½ years older). For the majority of our relationship in our adulthood, I didn’t know how to express to her my boundaries. Mostly because I wasn’t aware of why I was so exhausted all the time so giving my energy to anyone after working felt like the biggest ask. After years of discomfort trying to figure out how and why we were having tension, we came to the realization that we just needed to work on our boundaries and expectations. Now we have language that feels supportive to each other and we are no longer afraid to ask for what we need. “I can’t give you the emotional support you need right now” or “I’m going to be offline to focus on a project” are simple examples of simple boundary setting phrases that have helped us tremendously. Applying this method to my friendships and other relationships has allowed me to be honest with myself first and when I’m capable of being supportive for someone else, I know I can give them what they truly need, which is a present person willing to listen.
When emergency situations happen…
Lastly, there are emergencies that come up which will take you out of your comfort zone in ways that can feel traumatizing if you don’t know how to advocate for yourself. There are little things you can do to learn how to speak for yourself in an honest and transparent way without the scaries attached to it.
Start by thinking about things that are important to your health and happiness such as a list of grocery items you rely on, tv shows that always make you laugh, or even some little luxuries that you love like a weekly manicure. Having a list of things that help you feel more balanced and like yourself can come in handy when you’re in a state of emergency and need help. Because people will be offering to help but they may not know-how. Having something like a go-to grocery list prepared can really help your community support you in ways that are tangible. Even having a Venmo account set up for donations can make a huge difference in how to ask for help on larger platforms like social media. This can often be much more useful than “sending prayers” texts – especially if you really do need groceries and people are asking what they can do.
People want to show up for you, but if you don’t know what to ask for or haven’t expressed how you’re really feeling – then it’s not their fault if they don’t know how. In the end, inviting people in this way can help you from feeling isolated in your healing. It’s uncomfortable because it’s not how many of us we’ve been conditioned to behave, especially if you’re a woman or in a marginalized group.
This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.
All product reviews, recommendations, and references are based on the author’s personal experience and impressions using the products. All views and opinions are the author’s own.
This blog post may contain affiliate links. An affiliate link means we may earn a commission if you click on a link and make a purchase, without any extra cost to you.
Please see our Disclaimer for more information.