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Breaking the toxic chain of pretence

Samridhi Shroff Sancheti | Updated on August 10, 2021

Call it out: Being vulnerable before others will only help break the chain and give others the courage to speak out their fears   -  istock.com

A mother, wife, daughter, friend and a colleague shares her struggle to stop pretending that she is in control and accept that it is okay not to be okay

* For someone like me this entire pandemic has been one of the most heart breaking and yet soul-searching rides

* I am not okay with this toxic need to pretend to be in control when you know that you have absolutely no control over the next minute let alone the next hour of your life

* Yes, change is a constant, but it can also knock you off your feet. And when it does, let’s take the time we need to accept that blow

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Change is the only constant, but also not necessarily something that every individual can thrive on. Despite having lived across continents, moved multiple homes, dorm rooms, jobs, I still find it difficult to say goodbye! I even had attachment issues with hotel rooms every time my project as a consultant ended. Let’s leave that for another day though, it’s a whole story in itself. It’s no surprise then that for someone like me the pandemic has been one of the most heartbreaking and yet soul-searching rides.

I remember listing adaptability as one of my strengths at every job interview. To be honest, it’s not exactly a lie. I do find a way to fit in; figure out a way to adjust my style to changing circumstances and even move into completely different career paths with considerable ease. As a consultant, having worked across multiple functions within industries, adaptability as far as work is concerned, is pretty much second nature to me. However, this is one aspect where my personal and professional life don’t align. And this new normal has definitely not been an easy change to acknowledge, let alone accept.

I know it’s been a lot harder for some, and I can’t be more grateful as I write this article from the comfort of my home, on a full stomach, surrounded by the warmth of my family. And yet, this I write not from a place of privilege but as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a colleague, grappling to adjust every single day to a world that seems to be changing way quicker than the outfits being swapped on Instagram reels. Trying to chase deadlines while making sure the little one is fed at 7 pm sharp, or celebrating festivals on Zoom while pretending that we’ve got it all covered, or secretly correcting my 7-year old’s math homework using a calculator — it’s not normal, and calling it a ‘new normal’ does not make it any less strange, overwhelming or confusing. And what probably makes it harder is this incessant need to appear like we’ve got it all together.

As mothers we constantly plaster a smile on our faces to not let our little ones even get a whiff of the storm that’s brewing within. As senior colleagues, we constantly strive to keep our voice, tone, vocabulary all under check till we practically sound like robots spelling out the same, “We’ve got this” mantra on loop. We fear for our parents, but pretend to be calm and talk about every non-important topic to avoid that quivering voice from giving away the panic that keeps us awake every night. And that’s the change that I find the hardest to make peace with. This new world where we say it is okay to not be okay but refuse to acknowledge it. This toxic need to pretend to be in control when you know that you have absolutely no control over the next minute, let alone the next hour of your life.

That’s the change that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around. So, I’m going to call it out. No, I’m not okay, and no I can’t change that. People dying aren’t simply statistics that I can read on my phone and the very next moment go back to a game of Monopoly or Play Dough with the kids. And that’s okay. Not being okay with this change should be the ‘new normal’. Yes, we’re in this together but our individual circumstances are not the same. My struggle is no less important than that of the next person, and I refuse to judge or be judged. I should be able to express my fears, my anxiety, my panic without fearing insensitive repercussions. Not being able to hug a friend who’s grieving leaves a huge hole in my heart — and no — I don’t need anyone to rationalise it by comparing it to greater losses faced by others. No loss is small, no hurt is inconsequential, no life is unimportant and no tear is any less precious. Yes, change is a constant, but it can also knock you off your feet. And when it does, let’s take the time we need to accept that blow. Let’s not pretend that we’ve got it all together. Being vulnerable before others will only help break this toxic chain of pretence and give others the courage to speak out their fears. It will make our children view us as humans first and grow up more resilient. Breaking down isn’t always a sign of fear, in fact it takes incredible courage to let go of those bottled emotions. And maybe once we finally accept our loss of control, can we finally come to terms with this change.

Samridhi Shroff Sancheti is a Gurugram-based media consultant and influencer

Published on August 10, 2021

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