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You are in charge of your own happiness.

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Instagram: @armchairtheologian

I’ve been reading The Gifts of Imperfection (the tiniest book ever) for the last few months, and it has taught me a few things in my journey towards authenticity: resilience is key in wholehearted living, we have to let ourselves feel things (without judgement) in order to move past them, and that hope is learned.

Let me explain further.

Part of being authentic is allowing ourselves to feel our emotions without judgement in order to understand them fully and to see what deeper internal things they illuminate. This is called self awareness, and it’s a necessary tool for resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from hard times, adversity, trauma, life; we all need more resilience. At least I do!

Hope is a vital component of resilience. And did you know that hope is learned? Its true, it is!  Some smart guy (C.R. Snyder) said so; he defines hope as the ability to set realistic goals, achieve them with flexibility and determination, and belief in ourselves. This is something we can learn, and practice, and our emotions will follow as our brains develop this cognitive process.

So what does this all have to do with choosing happiness? Well, from what I’ve learnt in the last few months, you can’t really choose happiness (or make decisions that foster your happiness) without hope, resilience, and the freedom from fear to feel what you feel.

Let me give you two examples from my own life in the last few months.

My husband and I recently left our home church. We left quietly, with a lot of prayer, thought and counsel, and without resentment or bitterness. In the process of leaving (our church, not our faith), we had to practice hope, resilience, and allow ourselves to feel some un-fun feelings.

We had to face feelings that were uncomfortable, and not run away when we faced things we didn’t like, didn’t serve us, or weren’t helpful to us. We didn’t shut down difficult feelings or push away challenging situations. We had to continue to choose hope and eventually, to believe that we can either accept the situation, or make a change. And we chose to make a change. And if we hadn’t been able to stay hopeful, resilient, and feel difficult feelings in order to explore their root and meaning, we wouldn’t have been able to make change, OR, leave that situation with our hearts and relationships in tact.

A note on practicing self awareness for the benefit of our relationships: In areas where there is relational conflict, or potential for relational conflict, I think it’s helpful to ask ‘Am I running away? Is something hurting me and making we want to shut down? Am I afraid to feel these unhappy emotions in this relationship?’ It’s so important to do the hard work of self-reflection and introspection in our relationships, in order to have true intimacy.  And then, when we’ve faced the feelings and understood where they’re from and what they’re showing us internally, ask yourself – what can I change? Can I change or influence this situation so that I can be happier, healthier, and more beneficial to other people? If so, make a change. And if not, make a change!

Another example:

Recently I decided to stop attending a local book club. I love the women in this book club, I love spending time with them, and I had loved being a part of this group for the last few years. But, I realized in the last few months, it wasn’t serving me anymore. As a recreational activity that was primarily for my entertainment and enjoyment, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my time, and it wasn’t something I felt I needed to be a part of anymore. Sure, I had fun, I ate good food, I talked with people I love – but I often left feeling yucky. And, while practicing non-judgment, I started tasking myself ‘why’. ‘Why am I not enjoying this anymore, and why does not going to something all my friends are going to freak me out (FOMO much?)’? This is such a minor example, and didn’t require as much internal work as leaving our church, but it did require believing that if something isn’t making me happy, doesn’t serve me, I can make a change.

Are there things in your life currently the you don’t enjoy? Things that put you in a funky mood, make you feel crappy, don’t add value to your life or challenge you in a positive way? If so, let me ask you – why is that thing in your life??

Caveat: I think our generation, Millennials, have this idea of ‘good vibes only’ and  a ‘if someone is negative in your life, cut it out – you don’t need that!’ mentality.                        I’m not talking about that. That is the immature and undeveloped notion of what I AM talking about; life is hard, relationships can be hard, circumstances sometimes have to be faced and not avoided – we can’t avoid everything negative. What I am talking about, is not being a victim to things we can change, accept, or avoid.

A note on emotional non-judgement: I think a lot of times, we feel yucky feelings (“I don’t like that person”, “I hate going to this event”, “I don’t feel like doing this activity”) and we assume that we’re 1) bad for feelings that way, 2) we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling, 3) and that we should shut those feelings down as soon as possible.  I think a healthier approach, though, is 1) these feelings are neither good nor bad, they’re just feelings, 2) giving ourselves permission to feel what we’re feeling, and 3) taking time and energy to navigate and explore those feelings (which can be very uncomfortable) so that we can move on. Judging our emotions, ourselves, and then shutting down our feelings is a surefire way to be stuck, emotionally, in those feelings. And that’s where we get stuck. That’s where we lose hope and can’t bounce back from difficult circumstances or relationships.

Another caveat: A few things I am not saying. I am not saying we should run away from or shut down all relationships and circumstances that aren’t 100% enjoyable, pleasurable, and what we want all of the time. That’s not possible. I’m also not saying that moving on or stepping back from something is always the answer – it’s not. Sometimes, as Eckhart Tole says, the answer is accepting the situation or changing the situation. What I am saying, is that if we want to be happy, hopeful, and emotionally resilient (being able to bounce back from difficult things and feelings), we need to give ourselves permission to feel difficult emotions, equip ourselves with the tools to work through those emotions, and believe that WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE to further our emotional health and our overall happiness.

And in case no one ever told you, I will: it’s ok to be happy, to want to be happy, to make decisions that benefit your happiness, and to give yourself permission to be happy. 

B.

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A few things to enjoy if you’re on this journey of authenticity, developing hope and resilience:

  • Check out this podcast on Chapter in The Gifts of Imperfection: Cultivating Resilience. That chapter and this podcast has so much good stuff about learned hope, not numbing our emotions, and bouncing back from adversity. This article is also very insightful.

 “So when something difficult happens — a colleague shoots you an awful look at a meeting, a partner breaks up with you, you fail on a project — there’s an emotional response. Before you can articulate why, you have the urge to punch somebody or devour a dozen donuts or hide in bed for a fortnight. And that’s the spot where, Brown says, you need to wade into the discomfort of that reaction. You have to get curious about it, Brown says, and ask what is going on? what am I feeling? what’s driving it? how am I responding to it?”  

  • Be sure to listen to this podcast. This episode from Grit and Glitter is about a woman who was born in the projects and made hard CHOICES to change her life. And if this quote below isn’t a truth bomb, I don’t know what is.

“The things we complain about are the things in our heart we know we can change” – Nakeia Homer

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