Why We Pretend to be Okay Even When We’re Not

Why We Pretend to be Okay Even When We’re Not why we pretend to be okay even when we’re not
Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash

Questioner: “How are you doing today?”

Reply: — “I’m fine and you?”

Actually, that’s our interactions in life summed up in one response. We automatically use that response every time someone ask us about how we are faring on with life. Most of the times, it’s not actually true and we’re just pretending to be okay. When we say everything is okay or everything’s fine, we’re invalidating our true experiences and feelings. We’re just brushing off what we’re truly feeling deep inside. One thing with our lives is we want to present this picture to the world that we have our lives together even when everything is not going okay.

In the context of leaving an abusive relationship, you may be practicing ‘no contact’ but you’re really struggling to get through the day, you’re constantly thinking about them, you’re emotionally overwhelmed but you’ll still manage to put on this “I’m okay” face. To the world you project the “I’m okay” face but yet deep inside you’re really not feeling great about yourself.

So, why do we Pretend to Okay even when we aren’t?

1. Maintain Peace — Avoid Conflicts

The first thing is you may be afraid of upsetting others or those close to you when you open up about what you’re going through. This mostly happens when you have people pleasing behavior, so to avoid sharing your true feelings you just respond with being okay because the moment you open up you feel that you’ll be a burden to your ‘loved ones.’ You want everything to be peaceful so you’d rather just lie about your true feelings and experiences because the moment you talk about it to someone, it may unsettle them.


If you share about your deep hurts, those close to you may feel sad or get entangled in your deep stuff, so it’s better to just pretend to be okay so that you do not disappoint your loved ones with your true deep emotional baggage.

2. It’s the Path of Least Resistance

Let’s admit it, it’s very easy to just brush things off with that automatic “I’m fine” response. When you pretend to be okay, it provides the easy path of avoiding or ignoring those deep emotions. Who really wants to face those inner “demons”? Very few of us will really want to challenge them. So, the moment we say we’re not okay it means we’re bringing to our awareness all those deep emotions we’re bottling deep within us. The moment you acknowledge they’re there it means you have to do the emotionally challenging work to address them.

The work is not easy as it may mean you: –

· Spending money on therapy or coaching

· Cutting off some of your friends or family

· Waking up every morning to meditate

· Ending that situationship which means taking a celibacy break

· Limiting the time you spend on social media (digital detox)

· Spending some time alone to just do self-reflection

· Hitting the gym or working out

· Avoiding those unhealthy ‘delicious’ foods

· Spending time studying instead of watching your favorite shows on Netflix

· Or just avoiding something which provides you some sort of false sense of comfort in the present moment.

Those are huge sacrifices you may have to make the moment you acknowledge you’re not okay. It’s like trade-off between saying “I’m okay” and keeping all those things that provide you ‘comfort’ and saying “I’m not okay” and losing all those things that provide you ‘comfort.’

Of course, all the bones in your body will not even look at the latter option, the former provides the best temporary gratification. So, when you pretend to be okay, it will mean less change in your present life but when you acknowledge you’re not okay, there is just this huge amount of tedious boring changes you have to make in life.

3. Emotional Numbness

When you pretend to be okay, you’re also avoiding those painful feelings (shame, guilt, sadness etc.). Those emotions are very uncomfortable and the best thing to do is to just pretend that they’re not bothering you so that you don’t have to feel them.


When your system is not used to regulating painful emotions, the thing it will do is to just not feel them at all so as to protect you. So, when you respond you’re fine it just goes along with your current identity of being a numb person. You don’t really feel anything as much which means you’re okay. When you’ve numbed your emotions for so long, you’re operating in this premise that you’re really okay.

When you’re experiencing this emotional numbness after abuse, you will utilize different strategies (consciously or uncosciously) that help you avoid your emotions. One of those strategies is of course an automatic, “I’m okay” response. You’re disconnected from your emotions (negative and positive) so in a way your response of being okay just goes along with your current identity.

So, from your current perspective and in some sense you’re ‘okay’ (you don’t feel any kind of pain) which means it may not really look like you’re pretending you’re okay.

Doesn’t feeling nothing mean that you’re okay? No, it also implies that you’re not feeling those positive emotions of joy and happiness. You’re just masking those feelings with “I’m okay.” Read more on emotional numbness (here).

4. Fear of Judgment

Who would like to be judged for being such a woose or someone who can’t man up and just be strong or a cry baby? That’s how things are, it’s better to pretend to be okay than openly express our feelings because of fear of that backlash we may receive once we say we’re not okay. “Like, why can’t you just let go Jane/John (not actual names just used figuratively), it’s the past?” That’s what you can get if you try to openly talk about how you can’t get over your abusive ex or how you’re feeling deep inside.

Very few people will deeply understand what you’re going through and be compassionate with you without letting their biases get in the way. So, to end all this and to avoid these harsh judgments, it’s better to just pretend to be okay so as to prevent yourself from further feelings of embarrassment and invalidation.

This is a common norm especially with those close to you who may hold you in a high regard as this kind of person who has really figured it all. So, to protect this false image you will always choose to pretend you’re okay. Isn’t it puzzling that everyone seems to be ‘okay’ yet from what we see around us people are struggling with various mental health issues?

5. Low Self-Esteem

We may also pretend to be okay when we have low self-esteem and we just want to hide our deep insecurity. When you have low self-esteem, you base your worth on how people view you. So, you will project this false outward image of being okay so that they may not really know that you’re struggling deep inside. You just want people to like you and compliment you and not see you as having ‘flaws’ like being emotionally feeble.

You just want to be seen as strong and not a vulnerable human being who has just accepted not being okay as a part of life. This also ties in to the fact that you don’t want people to condemn you for not being okay. When you’re deeply insecure, you feed off what other people say about you but when you have high self-esteem, you don’t even care much, you’re just honest as you deeply understand that you’re worthy and other people don’t have to define who you’re.

Acknowledging You’re Not Okay

The hardest level of honesty in this universe is you having a deep conversation with yourself and being totally honest. It’s not easy of course to acknowledge we’re not okay because of the weight those words carry and the impact they will have in our present life. But on the flip side, it can be so liberating to just acknowledge that you don’t have to pretend you’re okay to fit in. Imagine living a life where not being okay is a normal thing? Like, it’s okay to cry, to feel those emotions, to process them, to seek help and it doesn’t mean that you’re really a mess? Sounds freeing, right?

It’s okay not to be okay and you don’t even have to explain yourself to people. You can just acknowledge to yourself that you’re not okay (no one is watching) and then start taking the small steps towards deep ‘okay-ness.” Look at not being okay as just a temporary misalignment from your authentic self and you just need some tweaking to realign with your authentic self.

You can seek help to address those deep fears and deep painful feelings that are keeping you stuck with this false premise of wanting to show others you’re okay. The pretense of being okay is preventing you from building deep connections in life and it evens leads you (consciously and unconsciously) to picking harmful things in your life. For example, if you pretend you’re okay after leaving an abusive relationship, you may jump into the dating scene only to find yourself in another abusive relationship.

In conclusion, acknowledging you’re not okay opens doors for you to seek deep authentic connection with yourself while pretending to be okay feeds your current ego which keeps you stuck and doesn’t want you to thrive and blossom.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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