When it comes to happiness, I think we all tend to be our own worst enemy. Most of us would agree that we want to be happy. We want to live a good life filled with contentment. We want balance and an easy flow in our lives. Yet, how many of us would say (out loud) that we are truly happy?
Perhaps it’s that “out loud” part that really stops us. Off my head, I can think of dozens of moments over my lifetime when I was indeed happy. I remember plenty of moments where I felt excited, proud, loved, or hopeful. Many more, when I noticed a flow, purpose, or contentment with the here and now.
Still, looking back on many (far too many) of these instances, I kept my counsel. Outwardly, I may have seemed pleased but not exuberantly happy. I held myself in check.
Why? I think you all know that answer (or rather answers), from personal experience. Often, we distrust “good” things. We assume that with the good comes the bad. So instead of enjoying the moment for what it is, we are already preparing for the onslaught of whatever is going to happen next.
Of course, this way of thinking seems quite true. If you wait long enough something “bad” will indeed happen. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ironic thing though is that in the center of “bad things”, we rarely prepare for the inevitable “good” thing that will also assuredly come.
Then, there’s being humble. We don’t want to be braggarts. We certainly don’t want others to feel badly because they might not be experiencing such “good” things.
While I have long practiced both of these sabotage behaviors, I think this “humbleness” is probably my worst nemesis. I can’t take a compliment, feel dreadfully uncomfortable showing unbridled emotion in the presence of others, and absolutely abhor celebrating my accomplishments.
For instance, my first undergraduate degree was hard fought. I balanced home life, my health, and my studies. I went to a university campus that was bigger than the entire population of my home town. Sometimes, my Fibromyalgia got so out of control that I walked with a cane. It was tough but I persevered.
In the end, I was indeed proud of my accomplishment. My extended family was eager to celebrate my success so we had a big family gathering and they were all planning a big night out. That made me extremely uncomfortable. All I wanted was a quick fast food meal and then sitting down to visit with out of town guests. Even though I was happy and proud, I couldn’t allow myself that moment of spotlight and sunshine.
Now, at the time, if asked, I would have said that I wanted to “be humble”. If psychoanalysed, I would have said that I felt unworthy of the attention. But truth is, I don’t think either of these answers is completely correct.
The thing is I knew I had earned that piece of paper. I knew in my heart that that moment would forever change me. I could no longer call myself stupid. I couldn’t berate myself, thinking that my introverted nature or my “flightiness” would be my downfall. More so than that, part of me did want to acknowledge that rite of passage.
But deep down, I felt that in doing so, I could somehow hurt other people. That I might cause jealousy or feelings of inadequacy in those I love. That I might be taking attention away from others who needed it far more than me. I could quietly sit in my happiness and enjoy it but others might never get such a chance. Knowing that, how could I not hold back?