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I want to be happy all the time. I don’t think I’m alone in this. What I’m noticing lately is whenever I’m scared or anxious I turn into Judgey McJudgerson and tell myself it’s bad to feel what I’m feeling. I make myself feel worse because I tell myself it’s stupid for me to startle at every noise or to have a fear of driving. Mostly I tell myself I shouldn’t feel the way I do.
Even if I don’t explicitly tell myself I shouldn’t feel scared or anxious or unhappy, I do so tacitly whenever I try to change my feelings. When I use affirmations, yoga, meditation, tapping, self-talk, going to my happy place, etc. I’m not saying these are bad tools, they’ve been very helpful, but this week I’ve been trying something new, which is to let myself be. To let the anxiety spring up without judging it, without trying to change it. Just noticing it and seeing what happens.
Ever since I was hit by a car in November, I’ve felt a little panicky every time I cross the street. My heart starts to race and I have to psyche myself up, triple checking where the cars are to ensure my safety. When I’ve tried something different, i.e. neutrality and self-compassion, I’ve noticed my fear of crossing the street has abated.
I don’t know this will work all the time, but it’s a bit of a relief to not try so hard to feel a certain way. To not judge myself and criticize myself for feeling something I don’t perceive everyone else does (i.e. being afraid of crossing the street). When I treat myself with love and self-compassion, the anxiety doesn’t fight back nearly as strongly.
Why am I telling you this? Maybe you can relate. Maybe you try to coerce yourself into being happy all the time or believing that if you’re not it’s your fault. That you’re not thinking the right thoughts, or meditating enough, or affirming enough, or eating the right food. And while those things may be true, what’s also true is that you and I are human. We are made to experience emotions. We are made to experience highs and lows. It’s unrealistic to expect that I’ll be happy all the time, and placing that expectation upon myself only makes when I’m unhappy that much worse.
How much easier would it be if we let our emotions pass like petals floating down a stream? If we didn’t expect that we could control our emotions with such exactitude? If we practiced radical self-acceptance and were kinder and gentler to our internal selves? I, for one, am finding there are a lot of emotions I’ve buried beneath my anxiety, and I wonder if I excavate them and allow myself to feel them, if my anxiety will disappear.
I dream of a world where we don’t try to force ourselves to feel one way or another. A world where we practice neutrality and self-compassion instead of judgment for our inner selves. A world where we let ourselves be.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.