Emily Dickinson wisely said in her poems that we’re unaware of our own stature until we stand up. The strangest thing about all that is that sometimes it’s actually how we were raised. Society at large and the people around us prefer us to be submissive, silent, and obedient.
It was a different time, of course. Obviously, there were other ways of thinking. But complex emotions, insecurities, and a lack of confidence never really ends. It’s like a movie that never stops. One that brings us a magical moment and then lets it go. One that shows us what happiness is and quickly takes it away, leaving us with longing, pain, memories, and regret.
Regret for not aspiring to “something more,” for not fighting, not feeling we deserve that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not gathering up enough courage for that lost love…
You Deserve a Better Life
Ana has started to go to the gym because she wants to live a better life. She goes every day from 7 to 8. And yet, she still smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. Carlos lost his job 9 months ago. He leaves the house to hand out resumes every day, but once he gets home he starts eating compulsively. He eats so much that the change in his body is already very noticeable. Marta broke a terrible relationship off a month ago, and since then, she’s been hooked on online dating. She’s obsessive about finding the “perfect man.”
We can sum up all these examples in one familiar idea. Just as we find balance in one part of our lives, we take alarming steps backwards in other parts. It’s as if we don’t understand that we deserve a better life. As a result we stop taking care of ourselves in a full, healthy way. Why do we do this? Why don’t we start to take real control over our life so that we can be happy and healthy?
We should look for the answer to that question not just in our past, but also in our own inability to take care of ourselves, nourish our soul, and, most of all, process our emotions. In those three examples we’ve seen how each of person took some good action. One goes to the gym. Another looks for a job, and the other has broken off an unhappy, complex relationship.
But the rest of their behaviors give rise to the darkness we all recognize. Anxiety, uncertainty, fear of the future, inability to be alone, substance addiction. We all know we deserve a better life, but we don’t know how to see our actual needs. We can’t see the ones deep down inside.
Believe in Yourself, Because Being Happy Isn’t a Need, it’s a Right
Life will only give us more chances if we put one foot in front of the other and go looking for them. Happiness will knock on our door only if we’re receptive, attentive, prepared, and above all, ready for it.
Because anyone who allows fear and insecurity to take control will end up with missed opportunities. Because anyone who accepts defeat in the face of disappointment will sooner or later choose the same physical and mental cage Emily Dickinson put herself in.
In today’s world where we can find “happiness pills” on Twitter and Facebook in the form of pretty sentences, there’s one thing we shouldn’t lose sight of. It’s something that positive psychology’s detractors pointedly remind us of. We have to learn to accept painful experiences, no matter how hard they might be. A layoff, disappointment, or falling-out is something we should accept, regardless.
After we’ve dived into the chaotic abyss of negative emotions, it will be time to come out. And we’ll be stronger for it.
And, in our complex and demanding daily lives, we should internalize the fact that we don’t just deserve to have happiness and peace. We don’t just deserve to feel satisfied and free. All of these things are actually RIGHTS. Because it doesn’t matter what our story is, where we’re from, or who we are. We all have an absolute right to be happy and decide what that means to us.