It seems anxiety symptoms are skyrocketing these days. People come into my office tied up in knots and paralyzed by symptoms such as fear, tension, shakiness, describing a lump in their chest or stomach and feelings of dread. Anxiety is a very unpleasant feeling, and yet it is pervasive in our society. We are overworked, underpaid and we barely have the time to do the things we “must” do, the things we “like” to do are a mere fantasy.
We do not have time anymore to cultivate supportive relationships in which we feel “safe.” We rush from work to the soccer game to home in time to throw dinner on the table and clean up just in time to go to bed and start all over again. Conversations at work are superficial, and soccer games are hardly times to deeply connect with people. We run around with our social “masks” on and lie and say we are doing fine as we juggle our responsibilities and we ache and are all alone on the inside.
Anxiety and Authenticity. What do the two words have in common you ask? Authenticity allows us to remove the mask, to share the fact that we struggle, to allow that we are not perfect and that we long for things we are not experiencing, that we are not happy or that we feel alone or that we are afraid we are not enough. To be authentic we must feel safe taking off the mask and sharing ourselves with others knowing that we will not be judged. In all of our busyness, we have neglected as a society to cultivate these safe relationships. We wander around thinking “If they REALLY knew me, would they love me?” And there is where the anxiety comes in.
We are afraid we will be found out. Afraid it will be discovered that we are not who we say we are, not who we wish we were. Afraid we will be rejected, neglected and abandoned if we share what our true needs are. Afraid to ask to be accepted and known, and to be loved anyway. Anxiety is the sense of inevitability that we will be found out, to be discovered, to be known, and that we are “not enough.”
How do we combat this eternal longing to be known, and to be loved anyway, to banish that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop, when they finally figure out that we are a sham, and that what is on the inside is just a pile of broken pieces, not nearly as attractive as the package we have been presenting? We start engaging in purposeful revealing. I propose we get naked with one another.
Seeking out people that feel safe is key here. Develop one relationship at a time where you can remove the mask and share your true thoughts and feelings and inadequacies. It is a risk, it is scary, but what if it enables you to drop the mask, and along with it to find out that you are acceptable just as you are? Imagine the honor you will feel when the other person takes off their mask too and becomes real before you, just as the velveteen rabbit became real. What if we stood before each other naked, with no defenses, in all of our ugliness and insufficiency, and just loved each other? Can you imagine how that might feel?
I know this sounds utopian and lofty, but if we start small, like actually stopping our busyness and listening and caring about the answer when we ask someone “How are you?” and providing a place of warmth and acceptance for them to share their true response, I think we will start to see a change in how we are seen and received. When you provide a safe loving place for people to exist, they can’t help but want to provide that back for you, and BAM! you have created a moment. String a series of moments of authenticity together and you have created a lifestyle. Get rid of the question “if they truly knew me would they love me?” and many of your feelings of anxiety would fade away.
Sometimes we have learned to be inauthentic from past hurts and events that have taught us our world is not a safe place. Before we can take that step towards removing the mask some of us may need a little guidance and help along the path. Counseling can help you reframe thoughts that are keeping you trapped in inauthenticity and anxiety. I
f you long to develop authentic, supportive relationships but feel you need to work through a few things before you get there, then counseling may be something you want to look into. Please find a qualified counselor if this is the case.
You can reach me by phone at 770-789-0847, email at email@example.com, or via my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com if you would like a consultation. The feelings of relief you will have when you are finally able to take off that mask and BREATHE are so worth it! Get naked today!!
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome: he felt a surge of anxiety.
the quality of being authentic: the paper should have established the authenticity of the documents before publishing them.
2 [ attrib. ] (of something such as feelings or behavior) undisguised; blatant: naked, unprovoked aggression | the naked truth.