On Choosing Happiness

Last Monday night, as I was on my way home, I realized that I felt happy. Really happy. Full of joy and full of love – and I realized that it had been so long that I had forgotten what it felt like. I have walked through years of my life bogged down by worry and anxiety and shame, often about things that were not even my doing, but I am finally breaking through this plateau. There are growing pains, for sure, but now I know without a doubt that I will get to the other side.

My friend Arman did a periscope broadcast this morning about not letting anyone (including yourself) negate your happiness. Periscope broadcasts only remain available for 24 hours, so here’s a transcript of the pertinent part of his broadcast, quoted with permission: “Sometimes when you’re in a really good mood, either purposefully or not on purpose, whatever, people will try to crap on your mood and will try to make you upset to bring you down to their level, or to burst your bubble for whatever reason. What happens, whenever a person decides to say or do that thing, at that point you have a choice, and that choice is, do I let what they said get under my skin, or do I choose to be happy anyway? Do I choose to stay pleasant anyway? Do I choose to stay positive anyway? Sometimes it’s really difficult because the person who has this impact on us, the people who say these things to us, are the people who are closest to us and it’s very hard not to take the word of somebody that’s close to you to heart and actually not listen to what they’re saying about you. You have to choose, though. It’s a choice…you can choose whether or not to let this person influence your mood or your happiness.”

So here’s the deal. I have been in the position, relatively recently, where other people have said similar stuff to me and I have totally thought that it was oversimplified and kinda preachy. Even now, if the difficulty of that choice had not been acknowledged, I would likely have been somewhat offended if I didn’t know the speaker, because it is still a sore spot. And yes, it is overly simple for someone who has traumatic life events in their past.

It is extraordinarily difficult to put aside the baggage of childhood neglect and emotional abuse and to grow beyond that. Extraordinarily difficult to learn to see yourself with a new set of eyes, rather than to see yourself through the eyes of those who ground you down and made you believe that you have no value. Damaged people raise damaged people, and so you continue to see yourself in this light, believing with all your heart that it’s true. BUT THE WAY THEY SAW YOU WAS WRONG. They saw you with flawed vision. You are perfectly imperfect.

So when Arman goes on to say that sometimes that person who is pulling you down is you, and how you, as a human, are allowed to make mistakes and should not beat yourself up for it – that you should not be your own worst enemy, he is right.

The struggle to rid myself of those wrong-colored glasses has been so worth the fight. I know that being in that place today does not mean that I will never again slip into the old habits that feel like home, allowing those lenses to sit once again on the bridge of my nose. But next time it happens, I will be able to remember that I have taken those glasses off before, and that I can do it again.