How many times has someone asked you how you’re doing, and you have replied “fine” or “good,” which couldn’t have been further from the truth? How many times have you been nearing a breakdown or feel like you are mentally spiraling and put on a fake smile to mask your true feelings to please other people or to avoid that daunting conversation? The unfortunate truth is that we most likely have all done this in our lives.

Our world glorifies perfection and shuns conversations and feelings that do not indicate positive mental health patterns. It’s important to know that it is totally okay to NOT be okay. Life has so many highs and lows, ups and downs. Life is a rollercoaster, and it would be impossible not to face moments of vulnerability as a part of the experience. The pressure to maintain the facade of constantly being happy can be exhausting and all-consuming. In reality, we all have times of uncertainty and emotional instability.  These are, although some of the most challenging moments one will face throughout their lives, the times that we have the opportunity to explore our innermost resiliency and strengths to get through.

Accepting this and acknowledging the struggles is the first step to healing when you are going through a moment of not feeling like you are okay. Society often perpetuates the notion that asking for help is a sign of failure or weakness, but it takes immense courage and strength to express and confront the innermost feelings that make you who you are.

This is the time to embrace what it means to be “not okay” and foster new, genuine connections with others—learning to connect with those around us, whether a friend, family member, or counselor, and taking the step to reach out during these vulnerable times is a scary yet powerful move. Although it may feel this way, we are not alone in our struggles. Reaching out to someone around us or in the community is a way to gain support during difficult and seemingly impossible times. This is when it is my job as a counselor to meet my clients where they are and recognize the strength and courage that it takes even to take the step of coming to counseling in the first place.

As repetitive as it can sound, practicing self-care is a tool that is effective in healing and maintaining self-compassion. Have grace with yourself in recognizing that it is okay to express emotions and feelings, even if they are negative. Doing things for ourselves, like taking a break during a busy day, going for a walk, meditating, listening to music, or talking with a counselor or someone you trust, is essential in self-growth and embracing your authentic self.

Learning to accept our vulnerabilities and utilize them to show our strengths and resiliency is powerful and uplifting in a world where we feel that perfection is the only answer. By genuinely giving ourselves permission to not be okay, we discover a new layer of self-growth and change through acknowledgment, connections, and self-care practices. Emotional intelligence is expanded during these times by allowing ourselves to live in the ups and downs of life and embrace the emotions that come along with the journey. Taking the steps to grow can be difficult and scary, but it is first necessary to be able to admit during these times that you are not okay, and that is totally okay