How do you put on a brave face, when struggling with infertility?

Jan 15, 2024

I was asked a question recently by a woman who said she was struggling to put on a brave face. And it got me thinking…..

What is putting on a brave face?

Why do we feel like we have to put on a brave face?

And how do we evolve past this pressure, and rewrite what bravery actually is?

Firstly, I find it offensive, outdated and disappointing that we connect bravery, or having a “brave face” with one that is happy and smiling. With one that doesn’t show any “negative” emotions (don’t get me started on this).  With sucking it up, and soldiering on. We create the narrative that to be happy and positive, whilst going through something really tough, is brave.  

But we’ve got it all wrong. It’s not brave. It’s fake. We are putting on a fake face, not a brave one.

So why do we feel like we have to put on this fake “brave face”?

I cannot count how many times people complimented me on my fertility journey, for being so brave. But I was faking it the whole time. And for me, looking back, that wasn’t brave at all. It was unhealthy. And while I was in survival mode, I was actually disconnected. I was numb.

But when people complimented me on it, it reinforced the unhealthy behaviour. I liken it to someone who has an eating disorder – they may be complimented on how good they look, despite starving themselves or engaging in other unhealthy strategies to look like that. But because they are complimented on it, they feel like they have to continue doing it.

And when you derive your sense of self-worth on compliments, or getting congratulated on doing a good job (like me), it becomes a tough habit to break. I wanted to keep getting complimented on being brave, so I kept sucking it up.

In addition, it comes from our people pleasing tendencies. Hands up my people pleasers (raising my hand here too).  It’s a sad reality, but we live in a world where a lot of people don’t know how to deal with their emotions – we call this emotional immaturity. And when someone shows an emotion that doesn’t conform to the happy or positive attitude that most people subscribe to, it makes those on the receiving end feel uncomfortable. In short, most people don’t know how to hold space for those who are going through a tough situation. Which is why you keep getting told to stay positive. This is basically their way of saying to you – I have no idea how to support you through this tough emotion you’re experiencing, and quite frankly it’s making me feel uncomfortable…… just be positive or stop thinking about it etc.

And we don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to be that person who is always complaining or saying how hard this is. So, we put on that fake smile, and push through it.

There are so many more reasons why we feel the need to put on a fake exterior, but for these purposes, I just wanted to demonstrate that it's understandable WHY we do it, and that there is no need for us to feel guilty or blame ourselves here. 

How do we rewrite the way that we view bravery? Firstly, it is not your responsibility to educate everyone. But it is your responsibility to rewrite your own definition. Here is what I believe bravery is –

To be brave, is to wear your heart on your sleeve and be honest with yourself and others, about how you’re feeling. It’s learning how to sit in the uncomfortable emotions. It’s about embracing your imperfections, and unsubscribing to the narrative of being, looking, and behaving a certain way. It’s about crying when you want to cry. Screaming when you need to scream. For me, being brave is about being real. It’s going against the grain. It’s saying – this is who I am – take it or leave it.

And how do we find the courage to be brave?

We surround ourselves with those who have the emotional maturity to accept your definition of bravery, and sit with you in it. Who subscribe to the same values and beliefs as you.  Who are here for the honest conversations, not the fake ones.

Just to digress a little – this is where belonging happens. Brene Brown talks about this in her book Atlas of the Heart. She outlines the difference between belonging, and fitting it. And belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are (or fake it), it requires you to be who you are.

The more we exercise that muscle of authenticity or realness, the stronger we become.

We become braver by saying no, and not forcing ourselves to go to parties or functions out of obligation.

We become braver by living our life in alignment with our values.

We become braver by not faking it.

We become braver by reminding ourselves that our feelings matter too.

We become braver by looking after our mental and physical health.

So, how do you put on a brave face?

You don’t. You put on a real face. And if people can’t accept that, that speaks volumes about them, not you. You are not here to make other people feel comfortable. Their comfort is their responsibility.

So the more important question is, how do you become REAL?

It’s not easy, but it is possible. Sometimes we just need a little support to untangle the outdated narrative we’ve subscribed to. 

If you’d like to start living a life in alignment and true to yourself, and develop that inner strength required to get through this journey, you can in my 1:1 coaching program.

Head HERE to book a time to chat (completely free, with zero obligations - so if nothing else, it will provide you with space to be seen and heard.)

And in the meantime, click HERE to find out a little more information about what's included.



Would you like to know more about how you can work with me, so you can get back control of your life and start moving forward?  My 1:1 coaching program is packed with information, tools and support. Find out how you can get on the wait list now.  

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