I Didn’t Realize I Could Be Happy Too
I moved to a new city seven years ago and when I arrived I had a very clear goal for myself: to rebuild myself.
I was fresh out of a new divorce, had just relocated for a new start, and was completely emotionally lost.
My definition of rebuilding myself was characterized as attaining: a good job, a kind and trusting partner, a strong and interesting social circle and an advancement in my education with a Master’s degree.
I spent the better part of five years working extremely hard, in many aspects of my life.
I am extremely proud to say that I accomplished all of my rebuilding goals and many more, but I never stopped to ask myself where these goals came from and what purpose they served me.
I never once checked in on myself to see if these goals were making me happy.
As the years ticked onwards I kept accomplishing more and more, all the while feeling more and more desolate.
I simply could not understand why my accomplishments were not making me feel happier. The moments of happiness were so fleeting; I would get an amazing promotion, and I would feel good for about a day and then my mind would start whittling away, creating the next step I had to take.
I never gave myself a break.
I never allowed myself the ability to rest and relax, properly. Sure, I exercised, ate healthily, and socialized regularly, but I was not taking care of my mental health appropriately. Since I was functioning so well in every area of my life, I felt that this unhappiness I was feeling was fine because it was only impacting me (and I did not value me all that much).
I never sat down and made my mental health the first priority in my life.
I was always willing to sabotage myself for the greater good of an external form of success. It was not until rock bottom became a very plausible home base that I (finally) realized that I had to make me my first priority.
It took me half a decade and a lot of self-sabotaging, ruts, and depressive episodes to realize that even though I was continually succeeding in life, I was not truly happy.
I was not happy with who I was. I was not content with the person I was and on top of that, I was now extremely focused on external success and saw it as the only form of life fulfillment.
I made doing into something desirable, never realizing that all my accomplishments were not having the long term effect I thought they would.
I had hinged my entire identity on succeeding and had completely stopped asking myself if said achievements were bringing me joy.
When I finally started to make myself a priority, it felt completely unorthodox.
I had no idea what to do with myself at first. I spent the first week or so watching too much television, napping the day away and being frustrated with myself. When I finally got tired of doing nothing, I actually started digging into the real work of learning to love myself. At the time, I did not know that is what I was doing, but by the time I finished, that is exactly what I realized.
Once I learned to love myself I realized that happiness was not something which was only attainable after some achievement, but rather a feeling I could have each and every single day. Happiness is something that is completely in my control and it was life-altering once I realized this.
The road to self-love and true, daily, honest happiness was not pretty, but no road to greatness ever is.
It took a lot of time reflecting on who I was and who I wanted to be. It took a lot of time realizing that money was never the true source of internal joy. It took a lot of time relearning the activities, which brought me joy as a young child, that I had shelved for decades. It took a painstakingly long time to realize that every moment of every day does not need to be filled with items to complete.
It took a lot of time to realize that not everything I did had to be for a goal or some completion point. I realized doing things for joy was not just good enough, but the true source of life’s simple pleasures.
- I learned to go for runs without tracking the miles or my pace.
- I learned to read for leisure (again), not simply for professional or academic reasons.
- I learned to take a personal day from work and not stress about what other people thought of me taking said time.
- I learned to say ‘no’ to loved ones when what they were asking of me was too much or I simply did not have the time emotional capacity to take things on.
- I learned to cut people out of my life if they were toxic to me and my betterment.
- I learned that I did not have to explain myself, my life or my decisions to anyone, ever.
- I learned to spend a day doing nothing and not feel guilty about it.
- I learned to forgive myself for past mistakes and actually let them go.
- I learned to let the past live in the past, keep the lessons the past taught me, but no longer keep carrying around the weight of the past into my daily life.
- I realized that working myself to death did not make me better for myself or others.
It took a lot of hard work to learn to be happy.
It is not like learning to ride a bike either, you must work on your happiness every single (damn) day. You must build your life around ensuring that you are taking care of yourself and that your needs are a priority to yourself.
I did not think you could be successful and happy.
I thought that being successful meant saying ‘yes’ to everyone and everything all of the time and being some sort of a real-life superhero. I did not realize that you could be successful and still have strong boundaries. I did not realize that loving and respecting yourself will make you so much happier than any external validation of success.
If there is anything I can teach someone else is to learn to love yourself and once you figure it out, never stop working on it because once you love yourself nothing that happens in the external world can impact your happiness.