“I know I feel tired all the time, but my life really is good.”
“I know my life is super busy, but so is everyone’s.”
“I know this little voice in me keeps on wondering if there’s more to life than I’m experiencing, but I have everything, I really do.”
“I know s/he did that, but s/he’s really a good person inside.”
“I know I don’t have the time for myself that I need, but who does these days?”
“I know the hours are long and the work is boring, but it’s a good job.”
“I know I get overwhelmed from time to time, but it’s expected – I have a lot on my plate.”
“I know I shouldn’t have eaten that tub of ice cream, but it did make me feel less stressed for a bit.”
“I know I’m just going through the motions and not putting anything of myself into what I do, but it’s an efficient way of getting things done.”
There are many, many ways in which denial can play out in your life – the list above represents a handful of them. Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking any of these?
A sure sign that you’re in denial about something is that use of the word “but”. It says that you feel you have to justify something you’re doing. You should NEVER feel as though you have to justify anything in your life – either it’s right for you, or it’s not. End.Of.Story.
So, why do you deny what’s going on in your life? You deny it, because you’re not ready to face the reality of it.
I get it. Denial seems like the path of least resistance. Denial allows you to carry on living your life as is – all you have to do is push those feelings and voices aside. But, here’s the thing. The truth is actually quite different.
Denial is a path of MAXIMUM resistance – it just takes a while for that to become clear. It’s a path of maximum resistance, because the feelings you have that niggle way at you and the little voice inside your head that questions what you’re doing don’t disappear when you push them aside. They go deeper inside you, intensify and then erupt some time later when you’re not expecting it. The MORE you push them aside, the STRONGER and more disruptive they get – all they’re trying to do is get your attention so you deal with whatever reality you’re denying. And you know what? Your feelings and little voice telling you something is WRONG won’t give up – they’re your intuition trying to protect you from yourself. Their last resort to get your attention is to do some serious damage to you, usually in the form of an illness or disease. Your health gets hit, because, although you mightn’t realise it, maintaining your state of denial causes you a lot of stress – and stress causes your immune system to shut down.
I learned how destructive denial can be the hard way – a lifetime of it eventually caught up with me and left me with a debilitating disease*.
Getting ill is how denial affects your physical health. It also affects your emotional, mental and spiritual health. When you’re stressed, even at a low level, your relationships suffer. In order to keep up your denial, you suppress the feelings you don’t like, but you also suppress the rest of your feelings – you cannot selectively suppress feelings. So you become emotionally distant – you feel and express less joy, and you’re less aware of nuances in the emotions of those around you. The stress of maintaining denial makes you less smart, less creative and less able to problem solve – in addition to shutting down your immune system, stress reduces the flow of blood to your brain, sending it to your limbs instead (in readiness for fight or flight). And you’re less able to access your alpha waves when stressed, making it hard for you to meditate, pray or be mindful.
So, instead of being the path of least resistance, denial is actually the path of much destruction.
How do you get out of denial and ready to deal with your reality? Here are 8 steps to take.
- Acknowledge and accept that you’ve been denying something. This step is essential to get you to FLIP THAT SWITCH in your mind that makes you stop denying that reality.
- Make a commitment to yourself to deal with the reality you’ve been denying. Without commitment, nothing will change, because change isn’t easy – it requires you to STICK AT IT, through thick and thin.
- Review the reality you’ve been denying. What is the DETAIL of this reality? When did it start? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your life? What will happen to your life when you deal with it?
- Dream up different ways to deal with this reality. Let’s say your reality is a boring job, you can: find a new job in a new company; create a new job in the same company; change the way you look at the job; start your own business on the side. And then choose the ONE that feels right to you.
- Prepare for what you want to do. Do you need any new skills to deal with this reality? Do you need any new habits? Do you need any other TOOLS?
- Make an action plan. You need a plan so you know how to achieve the result you want. Make sure each step along the way is ACHIEVABLE – big enough to be interesting and motivating, but small enough to guarantee success.
- Take action daily. NOTHING will change in your life if you don’t take action every day. Ask yourself at the end of every day what you did today to take you closer to your goal.
- Celebrate your small wins along the way to the big win. Regular celebration gives you the momentum you need to keep going, even when things are tough. Find a way that works for you – I high five myself!
Keeping your head in the sand is sabotaging your health and well-being. Start dealing with your reality today and feel more alive and self-fulfilled ! Your relationships will thank you.
* This disease is no longer debilitating for me as I transformed my lifestyle and am once again healthy and active.
Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).