My high school yearbook is full of good luck messages and fun jokes from friends. It’s funny to look back on them now, especially when I read some of the comments that people left. “Love your smile,” says one. “Thanks for your positive attitude,” says another. I get a kick out of these messages because they paint a picture of a cheerful, motivated teenager. In reality, my high school experience was a lot different: I was severely depressed and most of my classmates didn’t know it.
Of course, some time has passed since then and our society’s conversation about mental health is a lot more open than it was when I was in school. This is probably due to the fact that more and more of us experience these types of issues, sometimes even at an earlier age. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that almost 58% of Canadians are stressed out. If this is the case, then why do so many people (including myself) feel the need to hide their anxiety and depression?
“Smiling depression”, as it’s commonly referred to, often shows up in people who are seen as ambitious or goal-oriented. Their high standards for themselves and others may lead to dissatisfaction or disappointment when these standards are not reached. These people, myself included, could be labelled as perfectionists. (More about that here.) The ironic thing is that the less perfect a perfectionist’s life becomes, the stronger the need is to “fake it until you make it”, that is, pretend that your life is okay when it isn’t.
If this sounds like you, then you’re not alone. There is an increased pressure in our society to constantly be living our best lives leading us to the conclusion that if we’re not thriving, it means we’re doing something wrong. Truthfully, life isn’t all peaches and cream and trying to live your best life is a struggle that occurs on a daily basis. If we accept this reality, we may find ourselves less inclined to hide behind a mask of happiness and become more honest with each other about our feelings and moods.
You don’t have to hide behind a smile. You are a perfectly imperfect person and those that love you will appreciate you for what you are, no matter what your state of mind.
In this day and age we place so many demands on ourselves that sometimes even going about our day-to-day lives is exhausting. As a person who likes to keep busy, I find myself struggling to stay balanced. You can follow my journey here, or click here or here to find more ways to streamline your life to keep it simple.
What are some of the ways that you stay balanced? Give us your advice below, or email your strategies to firstname.lastname@example.org.