Think about how your ears feel when you are taking off in a plane.
The pressure between inside and outside your ears is not equal. It can hurt. You’re distracted and your hearing is muffled, so communication can be hard.
You start swallowing hard to try to equalize the pressure. When your ears finally “pop”, you relax and return to normal.
This description also fits how I used to live my life.
I hid my physical struggles and pain for most of my life. I’m incredibly good at “faking normal”, to the point that it hurts me.
The mental (and physical) cost of this was very high. My inside and my outside did not match.
So, I began trying to equalize the pressure.
I swallowed hard a lot, took a lot of deep breaths, and stopped faking.
I’ve worked hard to be true to myself and my needs, and authentic with others. If I need to sit, I say so. If I need to bring my wheelchair or walker with me, I do it.
I want my inside and outside to match, in the best possible way. And honestly, this felt quite selfish (yeah, that’s a value judgment).
The most amazing thing happened though.
I realized that prioritizing my needs had the unexpected bonus of making other people a priority too.
I have more energy to be with others because I’m not burning through so much by keeping up a false front.
Communication, being (mentally) present, and socializing is easier when I’m not experiencing so much pain, fatigue, and stress.
I’m also able to educate others and help them see chronic illness and disability (mine, theirs, etc.) in a different light.
It’s helped me feel more “whole”.
It’s helped me find the humor in being chronically ill, and to share that with others.
It’s enabled me to address other people’s assumptions and judgments about me and my abilities, both personally and professionally, in a direct and empowered way (which short-circuits a LOT of problems).
So, I’m curious about you…how well do your insides and outsides match? How are you “faking it”? What is that costing you, and the people around you?
What kind of positive changes could happen for you and others in your life by making your needs a priority?
If you’d like some support with figuring out how to do this in a way that works for you, let’s talk!