We’ve all fallen victim to denial at least once in our lives (and don’t try to deny that!). Denial — procrastination’s more dangerous cousin — is essentially a lie to one’s self. It is a way of choosing to be “unaware” of our unawareness of a problem or an issue. But it’s not quite that simple because denial is not only powerfully seductive, but sneaky.
The easiest way we choose to deny things in our lives is to rely on a positive mindset. There is power in positive mantras and in seeing the glass as half-full, but there is also a difference between positively tackling an issue and just hoping that everything will work out. When we tell ourselves that “everything will be okay!” and then distract ourselves, we hope without action. When we do this, how can we hope for a solution?
The truth that we don’t want to hear when we are in denial is that denial only makes the situation worse. Whether we like it or not, there are consequences for our actions and there are also consequences for our inaction. At some point, we have to face our problems — and sooner (rather than later) is usually the best choice.
But this is difficult, I understand. Incredibly difficult. If you are in denial, you are probably overwhelmed and wondering where to even begin. Here are some steps to help you stop denying your problems and start dealing with reality:
1. Accept the situation. Even without acting, accept it. This includes acknowledging the issue or potential issue and also accepting that you feel unable to face it. If you are scared, accept that. If you are hurt, accept that. If you have absolutely no idea of how you are going to fix it, accept that. All you need to do is look at the situation, acknowledge what’s happening and acknowledge how you feel. That’s it.
2. Reach out for support. When you are in denial, it’s easy to isolate yourself or to want to save other people from the burden of dealing with your issues (after all, it’s much more manageable when you have others to assist you). Sometimes even just sharing your problem with other people can help. Admitting that you don’t know what you are doing or what you will do can help you to feel like less of an imposter. Instead of using that energy to fake being okay (which is absolutely exhausting), you can use that energy to tackle your problems.
3. Respect yourself. You need all the energy you can get to deal with your situation and the negative thoughts will only block you from being able to think of and execute solutions. Even if you are completely at fault for your situation, still treat yourself with decency and respect. Stay away from negative self-talk, even if it seems deserved.
4. Focus on the solution. At some point you definitely need to deal with how you got yourself into this situation, but what’s more pressing and important right now is how to get out of it as best you can. Think about how you can make things better instead of worse. Think about the ways in which you can be a person that you respect in dealing with your problem. Also consider the consequences and effects that your solution will have.
5. Be patient. It may take a long time before you feel better about your situation or get it resolved. In some cases, you may not even be able to fix it completely, but focus on improvement instead of perfection.
Denial is difficult to combat. That’s why it’s good to remember that though life is not completely in our control, we should take responsibility for the things we can control. It’s scary and can produce a lot of anxiety, but you do not have to be free from fear in order to act in ways that are necessary. Be courageous and face your life — and you’ll find rewards that are beyond your imagination.
Image Credit: Andreyah Portilla / Flickr