Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha.
I finally finished “The Happiness Project” on the flight to California. I had started it several months ago and have been so busy, I hadn’t had a chance to pick it back up until now. It is interesting for me to read because I have already been doing so much of what the author recommends in her book. When I first started it, I was still struggling with criticizing myself and feeling bogged down by guilt and negativity. It was not that long ago, and yet it feels like it’s been years. I have had so much personal growth in the past 2+ years since I left my abuser that I feel like it’s not only been a major turning point in my life- but the greatest single event to date. My life is now divided into 2 parts: before and after abuse. I believe the Hatford Marathon (in just 4 wks!- yikes) will likely be another life altering moment, and I have to admit that it will be a relief to measure my progress from a new, more positive starting point.
I am writing this post not only in my typical theme of reflection, but also as a vehicle to do something I
never rarely do (hold your breath people!)- give myself a little credit. I know- shocking, right? But, it’s true! I want to give myself credit for getting out of a terrible situation; letting go of the guilt and blame that kept me tied to it; for committing to make a happier, healthier life for myself; for starting a blog in the interest of helping others- despite the fact that it meant opening old wounds and making myself vulnerable and open to criticism; for taking my life back; for pushing outside my comfort zone; for embracing other people- including new ones- without fear of betrayal or acceptance; and for accepting myself. Wow that was a mouthful!
The truth is that I am happy- not only happy, but grateful. I have so many wonderful, positive people in my life, and I know that I have been doing something right to attract them. I am learning to balance looking for the good in people with not letting them take advantage of me; and I have made a commitment that I will continue to be a happy person even if it does make me vulnerable.
Even before the abuse, my cheerful disposition made me a target of unhappy people. I suppose there is not much more irritating to a discontented and pessimistic individual than someone who appears to float merrily through life. I would take the snide comments, yelling, and bullying in stride- reminding myself that it wasn’t personal, just a sign of his or her own misery. This worked well until the abuse started, and I no longer had the energy to brush it off. However, now I feel like I do have the strength again; and I refuse to be dragged down by grouchy people looking to pollute others’ moods with their poor attitudes.
I don’t need others’ approval or acceptance because I know who I am and accept myself. I have struggled with anxiety, trauma, and abuse and have emerged an even stronger, more compassionate, and self-aware individual. Most surprisingly- I am happier. I was a happy person before, but I am happier now. I know the depth of my strength and resolve. I value myself now more than I ever did; I appreciate my life more than I ever could have before. Any good day is a terrific victory- and by good I don’t mean exceptional, just free from anxiety. I don’t regret what I’ve been through. I am not angry. I don’t resent my abuser. If anything, I feel pity for him and his family. I feel sorry for anyone who feels the need to drag others down. Making other people miserable only perpetuates your own misery, just as helping and showing others kindeness will increase your happiness.
When others lash out at you, take it for what it is- a sign of unhappiness and low self-esteem. People who go around picking others apart do so because they are unhappy. They are equally critical of themselves. Happy, self-accepting people don’t treat others poorly. Only people who lack self-love put others down.
You can’t control other people, or how they treat you; however, you can control how you react. Sure it’s upsetting when someone takes an undeserved shot at you; but ultimately, it’s not your problem- it’s his or hers. You will go on with your life and continue to be happy and well-adjusted. The bully, meanwhile, will continue to be irritated by everyone and everything. It’s a miserable existence. It’s not a life anyone strives to live- bogged down by anger, self pity, and self loathing. Rather than focus on their attempts to bring you down, instead be grateful for who you are.