“True Happiness is the willingness to embrace and accept sadness and unhappiness.” ~ Suvi Inkinen
I felt the need to sit and write this post after paying attention to how people live their lives.
The way they choose to do breaks my heart.
I’ve been one of those perfection-driven shadow people, and I wish someone told me what I am about to tell you now.
We are living in a world where the quest for happiness is one of the greatest goals in life, but also one of the biggest reasons for anxiety, unhappiness, and depression—so now feels like the perfect time to redefine happiness.
I know, it might sound controversial or like a strange paradox to say happiness is the cause of all those unwanted feelings. But I think it’s true regardless. For those unwanted feelings: are they really something we should shy away from, or something to hold on tight and make friends with?
Over time, our idea of what it means to be happy has changed. We are constantly bombarded by images of “perfectly happy” people who seem to be happy all the time, as if they’ve never had a frown on their perfectly airbrushed faces. The pressure to be like them turned happiness into just another part of the never-ending pursuit of perfection, like happiness is the “espresso martini” of feelings—a trendy thing we should all aspire to have one day. If not, we have failed miserably. In truth, the “butterflies and rainbows” kind of happiness does not even exist. It’s an illusion, much like anything we choose to see as “perfect.”
I believe that there are only variable states of imperfectness. Chasing perfection is like chasing a soap bubble: we run after it because it looks beautiful and shiny; once caught, it burst into nothingness. We feel lost and compelled to find another to chase. Like hamsters running inside a wheel—exhausting ourselves but never arriving to our destination, we keep running until the day we die.
As we do that, we fail to understand that the magnificent, imperfect life—breathtakingly beautiful in its flaws and cracks—is all there is. It’s never going to be perfect. Life is messy, people even more so.
I’m not sorry to break the bubble you’ve been existing in. In fact, I’m quite exhilarated to do so. I’m here to be the perfection buster. To show you the perfectly imperfect way to find your best life, the best you.
So, why do I believe happiness is the cause of anxiety, depression, and unhappiness?
Over time, we have allowed our perfection-driven society to define happiness for us, without ever questioning or challenging it. We have become sheep who believe the lies—hook, line, and sinker.
We have been led to believe that happiness means the absence of all those undesired, “negative” feelings, like sadness, anger, bitterness, desperation, and aggression. We think the “perfect way to be happy” means not feeling those things at all. It means to use our precious energy pretending they do not exist—ever. And if we do happen to feel them, we have failed at happiness.
Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? Trying to be happy all the time?
Let’s get started by clearing up one thing that I’m sure you will agree on: there can not be happiness without sadness, much like there is no light without darkness. One can not be without the other.
If you have never felt desperation or sadness, how do you know happiness is happiness? You are unable to compare it to anything and have not gained enough perspective to do so. You are living in a limited reality.
We need to look at the whole and not just the parts we wish to see—the opposite of what we’ve been told to do in every magazine, and when mindlessly scrolling through shiny Instagram profiles. We are told that all there is is the place where no one ever cries or feels unhappy.
I need you to understand that all feelings are absolutely necessary for a fulfilling and happy life. So, do your future happiness a favour and stop believing that you are a failure if you are not desperately smiling—even as you lose your job or a loved one. You are a human being, not a machine. You are here to feel things, the whole range of emotions, not just the light, bubbly, happy ones.
What do you do with what happens on the other side of happiness?
Feeling our darker emotions is only part of the equation—it also matters what we do with them. Are you judging yourself if you feel bitter or anxious? Are you staying in sadness and accepting that as a way of being? Are you a victim of your unhappiness?
Our negative feelings can be our north stars when it comes to healing, evolving, and growing. And let’s face it—that is why we are here. Without our triggers and discomfort, we cannot change. Negative feelings and events in our lives are the greatest, most valuable gifts from the universe. They’re little gold nuggets, designed just for us, that guide us through life. That show us that something needs to change.
Let’s not call them “negative” feelings anymore, because now we know they are not that. They are merely the flip side of the positive. The soulmate of the happy. They are uncomfortable feelings (for most of us), that’s all.
And instead of ignoring them, denying them, and allowing them to build up within you—because that’s what happens when they have nowhere to go—acknowledge and release them. Without acknowledgement, they will slowly turn into toxicity and begin to affect you emotionally (depression) or even physically (pain) over time. Eventually, you won’t have a choice but to look at them.
How do I know this?
Because I was that person for half of my life. I felt that being grumpy, aggressive, or negative was something that was not allowed. Not if I wanted to be the perfect, lovable nice girl. I learned to smile through all of it and pretend to be what I thought the world wanted from me. I developed a severe eating disorder that lasted for two decades. I internalised the negative feelings I’d chosen to ignore and began hurting myself instead of letting them out. I stuffed those uncomfortable feelings down with food, or I wouldn’t eat all, or I’d exercise until I tasted blood to distract myself from them.
I’d almost decided to end it all because I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t deny those emotions anymore. And by that time, I didn’t have any healthy tools to work through them. I was stuck.
Luckily, some clichés are true. Hitting rock bottom is where you begin to heal. We start to live the day we realise we will die one day and we only have this one life.
It took me a long time to heal, to learn a new gentle and loving way of addressing all those feelings I had kept in for so long. To learn new ways of dealing with uncomfortable emotions.
Learning to be uncomfortable is not a one-time thing.
We often seem to think healing is a straight road, with the destination being a place we are fully healed, happy, and perfect. Where we don’t feel hurt or encounter difficulties. And if we do, which is inevitable, we think we have failed to mend and get better.
But that could not be further from the truth. What I have learned and what I keep teaching others is that viewing our healing like a straight road is detrimental to the process of healing. It crumbles the foundation of self-worth and self-love you are beginning to build.
I would never tell my clients—or myself, for that matter—that I am healed, that I am immune to things you are not. If any coach or healer tells you that, run! That means they have missed a key aspect of healing and human evolution and should not be giving advice.
Healing is a squiggle, not a straight road. We heal, but there are always deeper layers to our healing, ones that can only be reached in steps, through continual healing on the old, tender areas. The day you think you are done, you are either delusional or dead—this is what I believe to be true.
For me, healing means that when I am faced with being hurt or sad, when I previously would have started a destructive pattern to deal with that feeling, I now am aware of the feeling and can take a different approach. I can use the new, constructive, healthy ways I have learned to deal with the feeling. And doing so allows me to observe the feeling on a deeper level, to find new layers to heal and improve within myself.
For example, after a breakup, when you are washed over by feelings of sadness and loss, over time you will notice those feelings are a little lighter, that they stir you less. Because when they do come, you allow those feelings to wash over you. Rather than judging them or yourself for feeling them, you just love yourself through it all. Remember: reliving things does not mean healing has not happened or that you’ve failed at it.
I’ll give you another little example from my own past. I thought I was doing fine with my issues of body image and self-worth, that I was healed. However, if someone brought up weight in any way, or mentioned I had a curvy figure, even if it was said in a positive, flattering way, I immediately got upset and began to tell myself they’d called me fat. I got angry, sad, felt like sh*t, like an unworthy human being—all of those uncomfortable feelings I’ve mentioned before.
Then, I began to understand that those feelings were meant as a loving message for me. A message telling me I still felt unworthy on a deeper level that I hadn’t dug into before, for reasons that had nothing to do with my weight or the size of my jeans. I felt unlovable and less than because of old hurt and old patterns of negative thinking. And I understood that I still needed to heal those areas. And because I knew how, I didn’t spiral into a month-long darkness of self-hatred.
After I had done the work—and no, it doesn’t happen in a blink of an eye; it can take years of giving yourself consistent, gentle love and patience as you are healing—a comment like that didn’t trigger me anymore. I was strong(er) and I loved myself enough not to have outside comments affect me anymore.
Healing is about knowing—it’s about having awareness and the ability to deal with feelings in a different, healthier way. It’s not about becoming Teflon—so that things suddenly stop affecting you. Instead healing comes in waves, and we keep floating back to whatever needs more healing when the winds change, when something happens. And that is how it should be.
So stop kicking yourself for healing multiple times in the same place. You are doing what you should be. Be proud of that.
Sitting with discomfort and difficult feelings is not fun—it’s f*cking horrible sometimes.
Sitting with our shadows is scary and lonely. But without doing so means nothing will shift. We will become prisoners of our unhappiness, victims in our own lives. We will keep getting triggered by the same unnecessary things over and over again. No growth happens. No evolution.
I am not saying that happiness is not something we should all strive for, no. It’s bloody magnificent to feel it when we do. But what I am saying is that happiness does not mean the absence of all the other feelings, the absence of our darkness.
Happiness means to accept those moments, too. To become an unbiased witness of our dark moments.
So be gentle with yourself. When you feel emotions that are not the happy kind, find a way to be grateful for the gifts you’ve been given to help you heal further. Be courageous enough to look at your unhappiness and sit with it. Have a loving conversation with it. French kiss it. Choose not to throw judgement, but instead receive the message it is there to give you. And heal the parts that are now ready to be healed.
You’ve got this my love. Go and claim your birthright for imperfectly perfect happiness.