You've Already Learned to Be Strong - Now It's Time to Be Happy

Somehow, hard times teach you to be strong. But you shouldn't use that strength to build walls or fences or to forget that now is also the right time to be happy. 
You've Already Learned to Be Strong - Now It's Time to Be Happy
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

In the end, there comes a time when you finally make it: you learn to be strong. Life is full of lessons and some situations help you build a fireproof attitude. Therefore, you tell yourself that you can do anything and that you have the resources to face any hardship… But maybe you’re forgetting about the most important thing: it’s also time to be happy.

Happiness isn’t somewhere else; it’s here, now. A happy person doesn’t postpone their happiness because life happens now and what comes next is uncertain.

However, people who have just gone through a rough time may find it hard to follow this advice. Why? Because when life gets rough, it’s hard for your mind to be in the present moment. Besides, you’ll tend to walk through life on the defensive, being careful so that what happened before doesn’t happen again. You look at the rearview mirror in your mind, going over what you experienced in the past and trying to learn from it to be as prepared as you possibly can in case anything happens. 

If you’ve gone through something awful, complex, or traumatic, don’t obsess over being strong. Instead, you should focus on being flexible. This is because, during these times, it may be very tempting to be defensive or protect yourself from revealing your scars.

“He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty.” 

-Lao Tzu-

A heart-shaped leaf.

You’ve learned to be strong but now it’s time to be happy

Balance can teach you things just like your experiences, relationships, and everything you read and discover do. However, there’s a fact worth exploring: people who have overcome trauma don’t always know how to give themselves the chance of being happy. It’s as if they went out every day with a huge umbrella, even when there’s no rain forecast.

Antisthenes, Greek philosopher and founder of the Cynic school, used to say that our goals must make an impenetrable fortress out of your soul. But what’s the use of becoming a rigid wall? The light barely passes through a stone wall. You can’t see through it and, even worse, its door is closed to those who truly want to meet you.

Therefore, those who obsess over developing a strong personality often become defensive out of fear of being hurt. That isn’t the best strategy because happiness can’t be in harmony with fear nor with someone who uses too many defense mechanisms.

It's time to be happy: A sad man at dusk.

Now you know your most essential priorities

Since Martin Seligman laid the foundations for positive psychology in the 1990s, things haven’t changed much. The world is still witnessing the flourishing publications on self-help matters which teach people how to be happy. Usually, the gurus promise to teach you the key to being a functional individual.

Those who have experienced bad and even traumatic circumstances don’t always get help from those books. Experts on the matter and psychologists Jerome Wakefield from the University of New York and Allan Horwitz from Rutgers University wrote a book titled The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder.  In it, they talk about the issue.

Nowadays, the “obligation” to be happy is excessively pushed on people. In fact, many experts point out that people are distorting and neglecting their emotional repertoire; they look down at anxiety, fear, or sadness. Thus, those who experience trauma keep stressing over their negative emotions. 

Then, how can people be happy? What can these people do for their well-being? Although they may not believe it, they’re at an advantage when it comes to this. People who haven’t gone through hardships often fantasize about happiness in idealistic terms (having the perfect partner, getting the perfect job, or going on an amazing trip.) However, those who have learned to be strong value much more basic aspects such as calmness, balance, love, and well-being.

A woman at a dock in front of the sea. It's time to be happy.

The key to well-being is a combination of many things

Life has made you strong… and now it’s time to be happy. You’ve fought your battles and have undergone changes in your life. But you’re still standing! Tough as a rock.

Now, you must try to learn to be flexible and receptive. Accept changes and work on being open toward life in order to find yourself and discover what makes you happy.

In the middle of that “path”, there’s a key that will allow you to work on your happiness. It’s likely the most important element. Viktor E. Frankl talked about it in his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning.  We’re talking, of course, about finding your purpose in life. 

It’s all about giving your life meaning, a motivating and intrinsic strength that sparks some illusion in you. That should be your fuel to get up in the morning to keep getting better and to set goals based on what’s significant to you.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.