When the need took me, I went travelling, I worked abroad or moved jobs. I had great friends, a vibrant social life and I loved working with children wherever I was in the world. My life has always been pretty good, I had enjoyable experiences, I considered myself to be happy. However, I lived with an undercurrent of low self esteem which reared its head in various ways.
For example, I knew I was good at my job but never was confident in who I was. I knew I was a good person, but never truly appreciated me. I found flaws and focussed on them, I compared myself to others. I disliked my body and always felt like I never fitted the image of ‘perfection’. Is that being happy?
I had persuaded myself that I was happy. Actually I was coping, existing and getting through each day by the skin of my teeth. Feeling restless and not where I wanted to be in my life, I embarked on a journey of self discovery. Starting with retraining in therapies, I spent a number of years learning new skills. Exhausted by learning and on my descent into depression, I eventually gave up. Struggling to get through my days yet managing to convince everyone else I was happy. In an attempt to mask my depressed state, I slapped a smile on my face. Whilst trapped inside the toxic environment in my head, I was an expert at hiding my sadness in plain sight.
Have you ever defined happiness and what it means to you? The ‘happiness’ I once knew felt it was defined by social norms, unwritten rules of acceptable behaviour. Although I lived with a lot of sadness, I was experiencing so-called indicators of being happy. Smiles, laughter and fun are considered outward signs of happiness – and I believed it was true for a while. Yet I had come to realise that I was not really happy – instead, I was sad, lonely, anxious and miserable. Any signs of happiness were in my head, lacking warmth, automatic behaviours convincing me that I was happy when my emotions didn’t match up.
Knowing I had to make a change, otherwise I wasn’t sure where my life was headed, I challenged these feelings. I fought, failed, battled on and eventually won these battles three years later. This is where I found true heart happiness, the kind of happiness that resides deep down. It brings a safe feeling, from my core, radiating from the inside out. Heart happy is hard to define and I truly believe the essence of heart happiness lies with improving our self knowledge. Self knowledge is a super power™ – the more you know about yourself, the more in control of your own happiness you are.
Even now, I am constantly learning about what it means and feels to be happy. My heart happiness is always at the foundation of all of my days. When I have a sad day, I know this feeling will return again. Iit inspires me to keep going on my bad days – the difference being that I don’t think I am happy, I know I am happy.
I now do not have to contend with too much negative self talk. I don’t compare or measure myself against others as much as I used to. My life isn’t perfect by any means but this happiness is heartfelt. I’m not perfect but I do appreciate myself – my body, my mind, my heart, my failures, my mistakes and my successes. I embrace my sad, mad and bad days. I regulate any self punishment with rational thinking and have taken control of my emotions.
I’m not alone in this discovery – many clients who work with me have this epiphany as part of their own self discovery journey. They identify where they have been covering up, fitting in, papering over the cracks. Something feels like it doesn’t fit, until they understand their thought patterns and emotions. But once they work it out, they regain their superpower, they can take back control. After all, this is your life. You get to define your version of happiness, your own heart happiness.
What would a true heart happiness look and feel to you?