Happiness is a practice, a skill, and a way of being, that develops from the inside-out. Feeling joyful on a regular, consistent basis takes time, heart work, and lots of self acceptance. How do I know this? Because it’s taken me years to realize that I, myself, haven’t been genuinely happy. I worked so hard on the outside, but forgot about the inside, where it matters most.
A Very Personal Story
After getting married, my life changed more drastically than I thought. And I didn’t handle it as well as I wanted. My husband is a US citizen in the Military, and I am a Canadian teacher who spent the last 5 years living abroad. We opted to follow his career path, which sent us to California. A beautiful state, that I’ve dreamed about living in since childhood. But instead of embracing this new life in sunny California, I complained, wishing I was living abroad again.
As a married couple, my husband provided for me financially, giving me time, space and money to do literally anything I wanted. Yet I constantly whined, and felt guilty, for no longer having a career of my own. Sure, I could have continued to pursue teaching, but I didn’t. I made excuses, and decided it was all too difficult, and not worth the effort.
When it came to physical capabilities, I was in great shape, with a fully functional body. There was no pain, no sickness, no disease and no illness within me. Anything I wanted to pursue was readily available- sports, travel, running, surfing, and endless activity options. But did I make use of these- no! I spent my energy wishing my body was different, and then wondering why I wasn’t participating in more things.
Socially, I was friendly and outgoing. I had no problems talking to strangers, and developed friendships with people all over the world. Regardless of the time of day, there were always people somewhere, that I could message, or call, or text. But I didn’t. Instead, I complained that I had no real friends, despite putting in zero effort to make any.
Even though there was an abundance of physical, social, intellectual and financial blessings all around me. Something was missing within. There was no happiness. No joy. No emotion. Nothing.
I knew I didn’t feel right. But I also understood that I had no reason to feel down in the first place. So I tried to change things up. I worked different jobs, started going to church, tried shifting my diet and exercise. Then I went to counselling, bible studies, and even beachside meditation chants. When none of that changed my inner happiness, I completed yoga teacher training. Hoping a shift in my body/ mind connection might do the trick. But still nothing. I was miserable, and had no idea why.
Although my lack of joy wasn’t constant, I was definitely down more than I was up. And this played out hard on my marriage, as my poor husband was the recipient of all my negative emotions. I didn’t want anyone else to see how down I really felt, so he ended up seeing everything!
Eventually I got pregnant. Not to make myself feel better, but because it was one thing in life I hadn’t done yet. It was a new experience, and another opportunity for love. I’d like to say that becoming a mother, and having a child, changed the misery I was feeling, and enveloped me in genuine happiness. But it didn’t. As we all know motherhood comes with its’ own struggles and hardships, which only added to the inner pain I already felt.
So there I was, full of misery and sadness, trying to raise a child. Wanting my daughter to be happy and full of joy, but unable to demonstrate it myself. Of course I tried. We would go on walks, join play groups, and hang out with other moms. I would smile, laugh and play along. But my inner sadness never left. And I’m sure my daughter noticed.
I continued to hold in my misery, and move on with life. Worked on my Masters, moved to Japan, and planned family trips like my life depended on it. On the outside, I’m sure my life looked pretty amazing. But it definitely didn’t feel that way on the inside.
I blamed my husband for how I felt, regularly communicating that I should not have gotten married. Motherhood became my next target, as I started to believe I should not have even had a child. Basically everything, and everyone, was the reason behind how badly I felt about myself, and my life. And when I tried to take personal responsibility for my inner world, I found myself purposely pushing those closest to me, further away. I blindly believed that taking care of myself, meant I had to do it completely alone, isolating myself from those I loved and needed most.
I wanted so badly to feel different. To enjoy my life, have fun with my child, love my husband, and myself. But I didn’t know how. I became so desperate to feel again- anything- that I went on antidepressants. Sure, the medication made me less anxious, less stressed and allowed a little more happiness to enter my heart. But it didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want a pill to make me happy. I wanted to feel good on my own. So after a few months, I stopped. Should I have tried longer, and given medication more of a chance- NO. Every. Single. Ounce. Of my being, was telling me it wasn’t right. For me. Somewhere inside of me, I just knew that that things would get better. I still had heart. Faith. And hope. Eventually I’d be okay.
I’d love to say that magically I became happy. That one strategy altered my thinking, and changed my life. But it didn’t work out like that. Since I had already tried literally. Every. Possible, Tactic. There was nothing else I could do. So I just allowed myself to be miserable. If I was grumpy, I was grumpy. If I felt badly about myself and life, then I allowed it. I didn’t tell myself what I should, or shouldn’t be feeling. Instead, I just let myself be. And somehow, without the pressure to feel better, I just did. Happiness started coming into my life in unexpected ways. Time with my daughter and husband became enjoyable. I felt truly satisfied, inside and out. And I no longer had to pretend.
This shift towards true happiness from within, not only affected me, but had the biggest impact on those around me. I can now be a happiness role model for my daughter, because I actually feel it on the inside. She can see my joy when I’m with her, and senses how happy I truly am. Even my husband is happier now, because he finally sees me being truly happy. Making friends is easy and effortless, as my heart is out in the open, ready to give, and ready to receive. I am also finding my own ways to make meaningful contributions to the world around me again.
Is everyday perfect? No. Do I still feel down sometimes? Of course. But the difference is that now, I am actually allowing and accepting it all. I’m not trying to hide, or fight, or change how I feel. But embrace the beauty of my changing emotions.This means facing, feeling and dealing, with anything that comes my way- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So if the misery monster pays you a visit, for an hour, a day, a month or years. Embrace it. Feel it. And genuinely be okay with it. The feelings will pass. You’ll realize how temporary they are, and how wonderful you, and your life, really are. Inner happiness does wonders for yourself, your relationships, and your life. But also has the potential to do miracles in the world. The more that you are truly happy on the inside, the more you can radiate that happiness out to others. Then one-by-one, the globe gets filled with more and more genuinely, happy people, just trying to make a difference.
Enjoy the journey!
Sending Love, Faith and Happiness to all who need it, and even those who don’t.