There are people who will assume they know what is or isn’t happening in your life based on what they see of you.
They’ll assume they know what your relationship is like based on what they see of it.
They’ll assume they know how well you feel and function based on what they see of your life.
The thing is: a lot of people’s life experiences are very different from what people see or assume.
Your life experience may be very different than what people assume.
The truth is, nobody can REALLY tell how healthy a relationship is by looking at it from the outside.
Nobody can REALLY tell how you feel or how well you’re functioning based on how well you’re performing at work or school.
Lots of people are REALLY good at masking what’s really going on with them.
Especially when our lives are painful or complicated growing up, we can get really good at managing appearances so everything appears normal, or even good, from the outside.
Sometimes, when we finally let on how much we’re hurting or how painful a relationship is, people are surprised, or even skeptical.
Why, they ask, if things were that bad for that long, didn’t you say anything?
The truth is, many— maybe even MOST— people DON’T say anything when they’re stuck in a painful or complicates situation.
One of the most panful symptoms of depression is feeling stuck or hopeless. We might not say anything or reach out for help because we don’t believe that anything will change.
When we’re in a painful relationship situation, we might be embarrassed or afraid to reach out.
There are LOTS of circumstances in which the potential downside of even trying to reach out or make a change seems very real— and the potential upside seems not at all realistic.
But many people who are not in our situation don’t understand that.
They assume if THEY were in our situation, THEY would have put a stop to it.
Other people might judge or disbelieve peoples’ accounts of their experiences with emotional pain or difficult relationships because they can’t imagine THEMSELVES in a similar position — and, in fairness, it’s often hard to imagine something until you actually experience it.
All of that said: we need to be REALLY careful not to judge our own behavior when we’ve been down the rabbit hole of depression or stuck in a difficult relationship.
We need to remember that it truly may not have been as easy as “just ask for help.”
“Asking for help” is not at all straightforward when you’re struggling to keep your head above water emotionally or you’re fearing for your (or someone else’s) safety in a relationship.
Decisions that may SEEM easy from the outside— often aren’t.
Nobody knows your life experience but you.
If you were in a painful situation for a long time, I’m always going to assume it was because you were UNABLE to get out of it right then, for whatever reason.
We don’t need to judge our own ability or inability to change something.
We’re not able to do what we’re not able to do— for whatever reason.
We’re not talking about a lack of “bravery” or “willpower” here. People don’t stay in painful situations because they are “cowards”— although sometimes other people (or even our own Inner Critic) likes to tell us that.
Don’t let others’ assumptions and judgments get in your head.
They don’t know the inside scoop on what you were feeling and why you made the decisions you made.
Judging yourself for not being able to reach out or make changes once upon a time won’t change the fact that, for whatever reason, you just weren’t able to make those changes just then.
The “you” of then deserves compassion and understanding. They were not having a good time.
Just like the “you” of now deserves compassion and understanding.
(Yes, you do. Don’t listen to your Inner Critic.)