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July 24, 2016

How Disappointing People Makes us Happier.

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I was cycling home from primary school one day, when I remember making my first life decision: “If I just do what everyone expects of me, then I will be safe.”

I’m an extremely sensitive person. Even at a young age I sort of sensed what people were “like.” I convinced myself that I knew what everyone around me was thinking and acted according to (what I perceived as) their expectations. I always had to excel in everything I did. I had to wow the crowds constantly and keep everyone entertained. This was a pretty exhausting task, but every high grade, every compliment and every applause kept me going.

Until it didn’t anymore, and I collapsed.

I couldn’t do what I had always done to survive. I couldn’t impress people, I couldn’t be wacky, I couldn’t get on stage and show off. I was lost without other people’s approval. I felt like a nobody. I was hollow inside.

Then I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

This took all of my family and friends by surprise. “Sophie has an anxiety disorder?” they’d ask each other. “But she always seemed so unique, so alternative, so cool, so…self-confident,” they’d remark.

I was an actress, on stage and off. I knew exactly what people wanted to see, so I did just that. I had become so good at it that even I believed my own acting.

I tried really hard to keep it up, and failed. Then my systems went haywire. I had to reset completely, take time out, take anti-depressants and, most important of all, get to know myself.

I realized that I had never developed my own self-identity and had no idea what I really wanted. Ever since I was little, I’d looked at my mum to help me decide what my favourite colour was. Then there was my best friend; I got her approval through all the stuff I would steal. Then the approval came from all the men I kissed—Oh, the men! They’ve been so many! After and during that time, it was my professors at Uni who I looked up to. When I found a boyfriend, it was his turn to give me the love I needed so badly. But all of these so-called sources of love and approval I was seeking were outside of me and I never felt satisfied.

It wasn’t until I started reading Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, in the depths of my despair, that things started to change. The very first thing she teaches is to love yourself first. Love yourself, before anything or anyone else. I’d always felt that there was something behind my anxiety disorder that I couldn’t pinpoint. I always knew there was a remedy, but I hadn’t figured it out until then.

I started reading the book and doing all the exercises. The first one was to stand in front of the mirror and say “I love you.” I have to admit, it felt super weird but I knew I was on to something. I kept on going; I didn’t stop and then, all of a sudden something shifted. I realized I was becoming friends with myself. I started considering my own needs because that’s what we do when we start to make friends with ourselves. But then I realized that I was unhappy—really unhappy.

I saw how little was left of my relationship with my partner and how much of my own well-being I had given up for it. This bit of knowledge hit me on the head when I found myself kissing a colleague that was twice my age and had given me more joy than I had received from my partner for the past few years.

Talk about a wake-up call…and when I wake up, I usually move pretty quickly. Our relationship was over a few months later and since I had (literally) gotten a taste of what I really wanted, I just kept on asking myself that same question over and over again:

What do I want? What do I really want?

The answer came to me pretty soon after: I wanted to move to Italy. I knew deep down that going there would fill my heart with so much joy. I knew that there, I would be able to flourish…and I did—oh boy, did I flourish.

Since moving, I’ve gotten off of my anti-depressants and have become the high-value woman I feel I am today. I was able to do this because I decided that I deserved to be happy. I dared to choose my own happiness and I took action.

I am sharing this intimate story with you because I learned the hard way, as most of us do. I have learned that it all starts with self-love. It all starts with self-compassion. It all starts with self-worth and owning that worth. Because once you really care about your happiness and care about yourself, then true happiness is just around the corner. This means putting yourself first and maybe disappointing others. But hey, in the end, it’s your life, right?

 

Relephant: 

 I Choose Myself.

 

Author: Sophie Kruijsdijk

Image: LisaLiza at Pixabay

Apprentice Editor: Cori Carlo; Editor: Emily Bartran

 

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