I t won’t be long before Thanksgiving arrives, with thoughts of turkey and pumpkin pie. As we move into the month of November, we will be surrounded with thoughts of gratitude and the hashtag #blessed populating your Facebook trophy wife by gerd millerand Instagram feeds.

And, I am all about gratitude and counting your blessings.

Gratitude can fuel your joy, rewire your brain, and shift your entire way of being. And this isn’t just a statement I throw out in the season of Giving Thanks, because it has solid scientific, psychological, and sociological research to back up the value of a gratitude practice.

But let me talk straight with you, sugarplum. Hiding behind how “grateful” and “blessed” you pretend to be when deep down you know that you’re trying to survive the day is a crappy way to live.

Because, darling, you shouldn’t have to settle.

Some of the things we say when we’re settling…

“My husband and I are like two ships passing in the night, but at least he’s a good dad….We have an OK life

“My teenager is so disrespectful and downright hateful, but at least I’m being challenged to be a better mom…I should be grateful I get to BE a mom…”

My office is so negative. My stomach is tied up in knots every Monday. But I make good money…

“Deep down…I just know that something’s missing…but I shouldn’t complain. I really am so privileged….”

“I feel lonely in my own house, but it could be worse….”

And the truth of the matter is, that yes, your life is pretty good, but deep down you know it could be better. And, dear God, you are tired of making do and settling for less.

Seeking to figure out it out, you find that everything you read tells you to that to change your life, you have to change your thoughts. You have to shift the natural negative bias of our brains.

So you meditate, journal and focus on how #blessed you are. You do your best to focus on how great your life is in the present and ignore what’s missing.  You have a consistent gratitude practice. You post positive quotes with shots of nature and perfect lattes on Instagram.

And these are all great ways to be happier, truly. Don’t get me wrong here, because these tools do WORK.

But let me shoot straight with you, my darling: if this kind of conscious self-work means you only feel so-so most days…and deep down you know that you aren’t really happy, then, darling no amount  doing this kind of work will give you the results you are seeking.

Because, you’re choosing to settle.

Most of us use pain as a motivation to change and you keep sucking things up because the pain isn’t to the breaking point…..yet. You tell yourself that you’ll keep hanging on. So, you ignore the edges of the pain, put on the mask of your Perfect Life and post a fresh selfie and tag it #blessed.

Still, you don’t dared confess to any of your friends that you aren’t happy, because you just know they’d roll their eyes and remind you how lucky you are. So, you suck in the shame and pretend everything is AWESOME.

That you are so Grateful. So blessed.

((You continue to settle….living in that limbo land.))

Let me tell you something, darling: you do not have to settle.

Your pain is valid, even if you have a “nice” life. You finally realize that settling is no longer good enough….for forever.

The choice to not settle is scary, though. Because it means you have to be honest with yourself about what isn’t working.

You have to be willing to be nakedly honest with what’s within your control to change.

Honesty goes to examining your lifestyle choices, too. Are you sleeping enough? Are you numbing with food or alcohol? When’s the last time you got some exercise or played a game? Are you busy so that you seem happy?

You may need to have a vulnerable or straightforward conversation. And maybe, just maybe, that vulnerable conversation leads to changes in your situation…or maybe it necessitates making some big changes.

Maybe you just need to create a plan to facilitate a career change. Maybe you need to try a new networking group or join a book club so that you meet new people and make some new friends. Maybe you need to spend some of your time being creative, so you take up painting or commit to finally writing that novel.

Maybe it’s time to go back to school and get that Masters.

It’s entirely possible you need some help. Maybe you need to hire a life coach. Maybe you need to find a good family therapist to help everyone manage the raging hormones in your household. Maybe you need to do a couples retreat or work with a marriage counselor.

You do not necessarily have to upend your entire life to find your joy. More often than not, tiny steps towards what you need help you shift directions.

So get honest with yourself. Look at what can be changed.

And yes, keep being grateful. Continue to remind yourself that you are blessed. Just don’t pretend. Putting on a mask and pretending that everything is perfect in your life is no way to actually feel grateful, lucky, or blessed.

A little bravery and a lot of honesty can go a long way to finding that deep joy. And then the next time you post a photo of that fancy latte with the perfect heart in the foam, you really will feel #blessed instead of merely pretending to be.

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Debra is a life coach, writer, and tarnished southern belle. She resides in Dayton, OH.
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