How to let go of the false sense of safety, control, and security and replace them with what can truly allow us to be authentic, genuine, and content!!


mask representing internal struggles mental health issues

It is not unusual to see someone who seems a mess on the outside and assume it’s because of how they are feeling on the inside. The same is true for the opposite. It is very easy to assume that someone who presents being “put together” on the outside as not experiencing internal struggles. To look beyond the surface goes against a fallacy that the inside and the outside self are in alignment. The reality is that looks can be deceiving. Questions that should be asked often are not. Instead, we tend to rely on assumptions made by how things look or appear. 


The silent masks people have been taught to wear, both covertly and overtly, contribute to the growing increase in anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. Many feel they are expected to be happy, especially if there is an appearance of outward success. People who appear happy all the time are often covering up a deep need and silently hoping and praying that someone will somehow notice their desperation. You might hear it in someone’s tone or notice the way they break eye contact. In order to be able to spot the need, we have to pause long enough to be present and pay attention. Nonverbal cues are often the most important messages people are sending. 

The pressures to be “superhuman” and the constant gnaw of assumptions and judgments can be detrimental to our vulnerable youth. When we compare ourselves to unachievable expectations and perfected appearances, we will always be anxious and feel like we are not enough. Anxiety and depression are the biggest risk factors for risk-taking, self-harm, or suicidal ideation. There are often many layers to this sense of despair.  

It’s OK to not be OK. The Struggle is Real.

Many of our youth come into this world with a biological predisposition towards being anxious or depressed. The pressure society tends to place on them as well as their own unrealistic thoughts further exacerbate the problem. This formula can flip the switch on this gene, potentially turning it on faster and more intensely. This is epigenetics – the interaction of our experiences and our genetics. Our youth need to know that experiencing anxiety and depression is NOT a choice and NOT their fault. We need to approach and educate youth about depression and anxiety in the same ways we might address asthma, diabetes, or another physical condition. Lack of conversations has slowly led to a rise in suicide attempts as well as impacted kids younger and younger. As parents, teachers, and friends, we need to remind ourselves that things are usually not as they appear and that perfectionism can be just as much of a cry for help as a child with defiant and explosive behavior. 

The Pressures of the Environment and Social Media


The pandemic came on abruptly and greatly expedited our over-reliance on social media platforms that greatly contributed to generating unrealistic thoughts about happiness and self-worth. The constant chatter of the outside world deeply impacts the thoughts and beliefs we develop. Without taking the time and attending to our inner selves, it’s easy to focus on achievement, appearance, and observable successes as determinants of happiness and our sense of self. We are more likely to form inaccurate and misleading judgments about others and about who we think we should be.  

We feel the need to “mask up” and play the part, often due to an ingrained generational or societal pressure to hide their flaws and vulnerabilities. Others may simply not know who they really are, but feel pressure to have it all figured out. A consistent, “put-together” outward appearance often serves as a distraction from what we struggle with on the inside. At the end of the day, we are all vulnerable and letting thoughts from the outside world dictate our thoughts in an unhealthy way. 

How Can We Support a Healthy Sense of Self and Effective Coping?


This generation needs us – the adults in their lives – to model what it looks like to slow down and create a healthy pace. We all must pause long enough and revisit our fundamental beliefs and values. These periodic check-ins increase awareness and help us identify which thoughts are highly influenced by things that are not important or are not the truths that we want to live by.  We can discover what fills our hearts and fuels our passions. The beautiful message from Singer is that there is hope for everyone.  We can decide that we want a more grounded and richer life. 

We can model and teach our children that making mistakes, engaging in self-discovery, asking for what they need, and setting healthy boundaries are not only important, but vital, to creating a healthy, balanced life. Our kids need physical breaks that allow time to recharge and recalibrate so they can become aware of what THEY really want instead of what they THINK they are supposed to believe, feel, or do. We can normalize that the struggles are real and part of everyday life and worth conversations. People need people. When we connect with each other on authentic, genuine levels, we build resilience and compassion. Kids and adults alike can develop compassion for ourselves and each other. 

We can model and teach our children that making mistakes, engaging in self-discovery, asking for what they need, and setting healthy boundaries are not only important, but vital, to creating a healthy, balanced life. Our kids need physical breaks that allow time to recharge and recalibrate so they can become aware of what THEY really want instead of what they THINK they are supposed to believe, feel, or do. We can normalize that the struggles are real and part of everyday life and worth conversations. People need people. When we connect with each other on authentic, genuine levels, we build resilience and compassion. Kids and adults alike can develop compassion for ourselves and each other. 

The greatest gift we can give one another is teaching each other that we can become good consumers of our thoughts and feelings. We can choose to observe and not absorb thoughts and emotions, as we highlight in our book From Surviving to Vibing: Filling in the Gaps. “This means that you can become aware of and empathize with [yours or] someone else’s thoughts or feelings without absorbing them and letting them take over,” (p 42). We can decide what our feelings are trying to tell us and whether they are worth keeping or letting go; likewise, we can notice what thoughts we are having and decide whether they are useful and helpful or unnecessarily distracting and distressing. These are important skills for us all to learn to stay grounded.