45. Practicing vs Pretending

Hello my friends!

I had such a good time in California last week!  It was so nice to leave our winter wonderland for a change scenery.  There was a moment when things quieted down, so I went out on the balcony of the beach condo and sat in a comfy lounge chair.  I closed my eyes and it was just me, taking in the warmth of the sun on my skin, listening to the sound of the waves, and just breathing…deeply. Oh so nice!  Life has been moving rapidly for us lately so to sit still for a moment and just be, so good!

The photoshoot was a huge success and I’ve already had a sneak peak of some of the pictures.  I’m really excited to see them all.  If you haven’t heard, the magazine, Best Holistic Life now has an app where you can download all the articles to your device, available any time at the touch of a button.  You can purchase a yearly subscription or download the months separately.  It has articles related to wellness for the body, mind, and spirit, including an article by me each month.

Okay, so I was trying to think about what I could say today.  I’ve been working hard on creating my program and studying more on relationships and behaviors and why we do things and the topic of pretending peaked my interest.  Why do we pretend in life?  Especially in relationships.  For example, if we’re upset at someone because we think they should be acting a certain way and they’re not, if we are trying to avoid the issue or hide that we’re upset but we continue to rehearse in our heads our good reasons why we should be upset, then we’re pretending.  If we’re concerned, but don’t address the situation for fear of backlash or judgement, then we’re pretending. 

Say your partner just leaves their things all around the house and you prefer the house tidy.  You know if you say something they’ll just shrug it off and say something like, “It’s just a sock. I’ll get it in a minute.” You convince yourself that it’s silly to have an argument over a sock and you want to give your partner some space to behave how they want, but secretly, it really annoys you.  So instead of talking to them about it, you just avoid looking at the sock, but the next time you walk by, that sock multiplied!  And you feel a little twinge inside, and maybe your eye twitches.  What do you do?  Do you keep pretending that silly socks aren’t bothering you or do you practice?  Stay with me here.

What do you think the upside would be to pretending? Learning a little more about why people do things, sometimes we pretend because we’ve learned from the past that making ripples in calm water can turn into tidal waves.  Say you grew up around someone who got angry really fast or who was really judgmental or critical of you.  Children don’t have the mental capacity to understand that the behavior of that person has nothing to do with them. In fact, it’s easy to assume that if I, as a child, do something undesirable and they get angry at me and criticize me, then my undeveloped brain is going to attribute my behavior to their reaction and think I was the cause.  So I teach myself to do the best I can to not “poke the bear” so I don’t have to face the backlash.  Do this enough and you convince yourself that you have the power to control other people’s emotions with your actions and if you’re not someone who likes confrontation, then you become a people pleaser.  Look, if you’re a people pleaser, I get it. I had the same ideas about perfection and being accepted.  Not judging, just good to know.

Another reason why we pretend is because we think it’ll help us create a deeper connection.  If I don’t cause waves about the socks then there won’t be an argument, right?  It’s convincing to think the less arguments we have, the more connection we’ll feel.  Brene Brown says that connection comes when we feel seen and heard.  So if we are trying to create a two-way connection, then you feel seen and heard and I feel seen and heard.  When you are feeling irritated, do you think it’s because you feel seen and heard?  Here’s what I want you to consider.  If you don’t even try to communicate your preference to your partner, and you are feeling irritated, then who are you not allowing to be seen and heard?   When you pretend or hide your feelings, then you’re hiding you.  You are hiding your opportunity to be seen and heard.  You are not seeing and hearing you.  Make sense?

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t be considerate of other people’s feelings.  I think that’s really important to point out.  And when it comes to other adults, we can voice our opinion and make requests all day long, but ultimately it is up to them if they want to do it or not.   But wouldn’t you rather have a true connection based on two people being authentic about their opinions then having a pretend connection because you’re pretending about how you feel?  I know, this is much scarier because you are possibly putting yourself in harm’s way of contention and confrontation, but if you don’t, then you risk losing the connection with yourself because you’re constantly shoving your preferences to the side and tuning them out.

And it’s scary to think that if you aren’t always agreeable, then people might not like you, but are they really liking you or a false version of you?  And here’s something to consider.  No matter what, we aren’t going to be for everyone.  And I know we don’t want to be for everyone because everyone are not for you.  We all have people who we gravitate towards and people who we avoid.

So if some people are not for me, then I’d rather try and show up as my authentic self and have the people I would naturally be drawn to, gravitate back towards me.

If I, personally, am trying to be my authentic self, then I am going to try and be considerate of others as I communicate to them.  This is me practicing being my higher self.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be perfect or even great at it all the time.  My messy human self is still coming along for the ride.

For example, the past few days have been filled with extra tasks that were out of the ordinary.  My daughter went to Montana and she ended up losing her car keys.  Her car takes a key fob to start it and the spare sat here at home.  So I went to FedEx and overnighted it so she could finish what she went there for and come back home.  I am choosing to leave a lot of the drama out of this story, but just know that by now I’m functioning on less sleep and am mentally worn.

The next day my daughter is waiting for her key fob to arrive at 1030 so she can start her 7 hour trip back home and it doesn’t arrive.  Turns out it’s stuck in Tennessee due to ice storms. It’s been delayed until tomorrow…probably.  Aside from figuring out a plan B on lodging and creating another spare key fob, I’m thinking that $70 to overnight a key that didn’t show up should be reimbursed.  So I’m on the phone with an agent at FedEx trying to get an idea of how long we’re looking at until it arrives and I ask if we can be reimbursed in some way due to the increased expenses coming our way to fix this.  Having worked in a call center for three years in college, I knew that there was no upside to being rude.  However, when the representative didn’t seem to care about the inconvenience, I’m not going to lie, I was tired and I was getting irritated. 

I still tried to stay calm and rational, but as the agent started answering more and more like she was an uncaring robot, I threw in a little passive aggressive comment that suggested I should’ve gone to UPS instead.  Not my finest moment.  I would’ve rather still communicated my feelings, but maybe minus the snarky comment at the end.  I admit, I was not feeling seen or heard. There was definitely a bad connection.

I’ve spent time practicing how I want to show up around people whose behavior I don’t care for.  For the majority of the call, I used that skill; but by the end of the call my muscles had fatigued, and I fumbled.    I thought maybe if I got a little snarky, then I’d be heard.  I was wrong.  I got off the phone more irritated then I preferred, but still feeling a little justified.  However, as I sat with it the rest of the morning, I allowed it to muddle my thinking and create roadblocks in my schedule.  I lost my flow, and it was a struggle to get back on task because my focus was split between what I needed to get done and how I thought that call should’ve gone and what they should’ve done instead of what they did.  I may have had more success with my day if I had just stopped and acknowledged my thoughts and feelings around it all instead of pretending like I shouldn’t be bothered by them.

So what’s the difference between practicing and pretending?  When I ask my clients how they would’ve rather handled a situation, after they have detailed it out, I advise them to replay it in their heads that way.  Not changing how the other person reacted, but still practicing how they envisioned them showing up instead. 

There was a study conducted at the University of Chicago on visualization.

Dr. Blaslotto asked a group of randomly selected students to take a series of free-throws and then tallied the percentage of successful free throws. The students were then divided into three groups and asked to perform separate tasks over a 30-day period. The first group was told not to touch a basketball for 30 days, no practicing or playing basketball whatsoever.  The second group was told to practice shooting free throws for a half hour a day and the third group was to come to the gym every day for the 30 days and spend a half hour with their eyes closed, simply visualizing shooting, and making every free-throw.

After the 30 days all three groups were asked to come back and take the same number of free-throws they had at the beginning of the study.  The first group of students who didn’t practice at all showed no improvement. No surprise, right? The second group that practiced every day, showed a 24% improvement. The third group who visualized successfully making the free-throws, showed a 23% improvement.  So just 1% different from the group who actually went through the physical motions of it. 

Our brains are amazing!  Now some might say that visualizing and practicing what we want different, would be pretending since we’re trying to be different then we currently are.  After all, there is a gap in our current belief system versus how we’d like to see ourselves.  Here’s where I think they are different though and I’ll let you decide if you agree. 

When we are pretending, we are changing how we act while avoiding the emotion we are feeling inside.  So we might be irritated by the socks on the floor, but we push that aside and still try to be kind and polite and avoid the thoughts that are creating the irritation. And we’re acting this way in an effort to not rock the boat, not do something that would give them negative thoughts about you and so we try and manipulate their emotions about it. And often times, when we are pretending, we aren’t necessarily wanting to change our thoughts around what’s causing our emotions because we believe we are justified.  And maybe we are, but even if we are, are those emotions useful to you?  Are they helping you get the results you want in your life?

Are you feeling fulfilled and like you have deeper connections with this person?  A connection that’s beyond surface level?  Maybe they are useful for you.  That’s only something you would know.  However, usually when we pretend, we aren’t being true to ourselves which eventually leads to resentment and we decide we’re tired of pretending and we turn into a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment.  So our kindness only lasts so long, our dancing around the subject gets old and… boom!  At this point, trying to see and understand people is really hard because you spent however long collecting proof of why they should be different than they are.

If you are practicing something, you’re allowing your feelings how they are right now and then practicing who we’d rather see ourselves acting as in the future.  We are acknowledging our messy side.  We are seeing that we are feeling this way and we try to understand why we are feeling this way and then we’re also acknowledging that there are parts that we’d like to improve on. 

There’s practicing compassion and pretending compassion

There’s practicing self-confidence and pretending self-confidence.

Practicing kindness and pretending kindness.

Practicing courage and pretending courage.

Practice allowing we are both messy and amazing right now and then there’s pretending we are amazing so we can avoid the pain of our messy.

Practicing is saying, I believe I can truly get there and pretending is you saying, I’d like to, but this is not who I really am.  Pretending is being something we believe we aren’t and practicing is becoming someone we’d rather be.  Practicing is intentionally choosing a better future out of love for ourselves.  Pretending is hoping we can get around it so we don’t have to answer it.  I hope I’m making sense.

If you are wanting to practice having a conversation with your partner about their socks and other things, while creating a deeper connection with them, how would you truly try and see and hear them?  You could ask yourself, why would they do that?  Not why would they do that?  But really sincerely ask, I wonder why they would do that? What might be going on for them right now?  Are they struggling with something right now?  This doesn’t mean we are condoning their behavior, we are just trying to see them. Understand them.

Also, when you actually have the conversation, be completely honest.  More than, hey, could you pick up your socks because I’m starting to resent that you’re not helping me keep our home tidy.  It’s also, and I know that you work hard and are tired and I really appreciate that.  And I’m a little nervous about you thinking that I’m being really picky about some silly socks, but I want to be completely honest with you so I don’t have to pretend. And I know that I’m not perfect and I probably do things that bother you too, but I’d rather understand you, I’d rather work on seeing and hearing what’s going on for you and you understand what’s going on for me instead of us pretending. This is what’s real for me and I’d love to solve it together.  That’s being completely honest.  You’ve shared all of what’s going on for you.

Notice though, being able to know what’s going on for you means you’ve done the work to see and hear yourself first.  You’ve figured out that you don’t want to pretend.  You’ve really thought about all the reasons why you are thinking the way you are and why you really care so much about the socks that are being left and figuring out what you’re making that mean about you.  You are willing to be vulnerable with your partner and saying, yes, I realize I’m a mess too, but I’d rather be messy and be real then amazing and pretending.  I’m willing to be real because I love you and I want an authentic relationship. 

Doing this will take practice.  And being willing to be real doesn’t mean your partner is ready to be real with you, but what an amazing feeling it is to know that you are also seeing and hearing you and honoring your desire to go deeper with your relationship with yourself.  Because once you’ve developed the skill of having your own back and being willing to embrace all of you, messy and amazing, you just took your limitations off.  Sometimes, learning to ride the waves that were started from a ripple is a more amazing, fuller experience then being stuck on the shore because you’re afraid to stick your toe in the water.

Practice, practice, practice, my friends.  It’s how amateurs become pros.  And be kind to yourself when your messy side crashes the party.  Becoming is more about the journey than the destination. You are all brilliant!  I love you and thanks for listening!  Bye!

If you’re looking for a life coach, I’d love to be yours.  If you want to lose weight, better your relationships, or need help with crafting your confidence, I’ve got you!  go to myinnerlove.com and sign up for a free mini-session today.

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