The hardest thing to say out loud in midlife is “I’m Unhappy.”
Hey there Beautiful,
When I used to be a photographer a number of years ago I remember one woman in particular. For the purpose of this story, let’s call her Stacy, by just looking at her, you would assume she had it all.
She was an attractive blue-eyed blond woman who wore perfectly coordinated outfits, with beautiful jewelry and to-die-for-shoes. She was married to a wealthy real estate developer, had a huge house, and an expensive SUV to drive her three beautiful daughters around. Her parents and her sister (also with husband and two daughters) lived nearby and they would take lavash vacations together to Europe.
From the outside looking in, you would believe that Stacy had it all and was happy.
But from working with her, I knew this was not true.
It took extra energy and work to be around her. What I mean is, she constantly berated herself, her husband and her daughters, for not measuring up to the perfection that she had created in her mind.
When I’m around people like that it sucks the positivity right out of me. I feel like I have to build them back up after every put down that she directed at herself or her family, especially her daughters.
I kept thinking that these girls, all under the age of eight, were learning all of their body and self esteem from this woman and I wanted to snatch them away to deprogram them.
I will always counteract the negativity that I sense from other women in the hope that what I say will get through to them and change their beliefs about themselves and the world they created around themselves.
Allow the professionals you hired to do their job without interference.
One time we photographed Stacy’s family at the beach. She directed the entire session of how to sit, how to cross her daughter’s feet, how not to smile, how to smile, and had the nerve to complain about how her hair was blowing in the wind and can that be Photoshopped out?
No lady, we’re at the beach if you wanted your blond helmet of a hairstyle to not move we should have had this session at the studio!
(Side note: if you hire a photographer for their artistic skill and expertise DO NOT tell them what they should or should not be doing! You hired them because you liked their style of photography and they know what they are doing, so let them do it. Okay rant over.)
From past experiences with Stacy, I knew that when she came in to view the images from her session, it was going to be difficult. I was 100% right.
When you're unhappy, you will look and find fault with everything.
From the moment she started looking at the images, Stacy’s critical eye found fault in every photograph on display.
“She has a funny face in that one. What is going on with my hair? Ugh! My smile is way too big and shows off too much of my gums! Is that how big my arms are? Why is the sand a light tan color in this picture but a dark tan in this picture? Can you Photoshop out all the white pieces of shell in this one?”
On and on it went. She constantly critiquing, and me reassuring her that what she said wasn’t true.
“She doesn’t have a funny face in that one she’s holding back a laugh at her sister being silly off camera. Your hair looks carefree on a beach like it should. Your smile is not too big and your gums are just the right amount. Your arms are not huge. The sand is light tan because it is dry and the dark tan is because a wave had just come in. And yes we can Photoshop out all the white pieces of shell if that is what you prefer.”
Even thought from the outside, she looked like she had everything, from the inside she was unhappy.
After she left I was exhausted but I also came to realize something.
For all that she appeared to have, Stacy was unhappy with her life.
She used perfectionism in order to control her life in the hope that it would create her happiness. And that is one of the hardest things to admit to ourselves and say out loud, “I’m unhappy.”
When we’re unhappy we keep it on the inside and refuse to tell anyone for fear that they won’t understand.
We ignore how we’re feeling since we hope it will go away.
Or we push it down inside of us enough so that a deep numbness surrounds it in order for us to plaster a fake smile on our face.
There’s also a dullness in our eyes that tends to help in accepting our unhappiness as that’s the way it is.
When we’re unhappy we will take it out on those around us since they’re safe: our spouse, our kids, our friends, and our co-workers can feel the effect.
The whispers will start from those who love you, trying to either figure out how to help you or how to avoid you since they don’t know when you will lash out next.
The more unhappy you are the more control you try to inflict on your life.
If you’re unhappy you also would like to have absolute control just like Stacy did.
With control you have a say in all that happens around you.
With control you can decide what will be allowed into your life and what will not.
Because if you’re unhappy you didn’t control the situation hard enough. You hope that by controlling the situation you can then control your happiness. You won’t let in things that might make you unhappy.
But as I’ve said before control is an illusion so how can having control make you happy?
Are you unhappy because of something from your past or are you afraid of something that might happen in your future?
Unhappiness can also come from holding onto something. There could be a painful memory that you can’t let go of. You could be stuck in the past and are constantly comparing the future against it. If it happened back then, it could certainly happen again in the future!
Being unhappy could also be due to holding a grudge against someone. If they did it once they could do it again!
Being unhappy can also lead you to say no to something that you want.
If a great opportunity or job comes your way your unhappiness will allow you to think that you don’t deserve it or there’s no way you could get it. So you turn it down.
If you’re unhappy you will look for the evidence that proves you’re unhappy. You will make huge statements based on little evidence.
If a person cuts you off while driving, you will think everyone always cuts me off.
You step on the scale and have gained one pound. See I’ll never lose the weight!
You focus on the wrong things in order to prove to yourself this is why I’m unhappy.
Being unhappy is NOT OK!
Stop saying everything is okay.
It’s not okay if you’re unhappy.
Unhappiness affects your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Your thoughts are ones of doubt and sadness.
You will only see and find the negatives in any situation.
You may feel empty one minute and angry the next.
You may not want to workout and are unmotivated to even try to do something different.
Your unhappiness affects other people directly in your life. They will either ignore it and think you’re fine or they will want to help you which will drive you further away since you assume incorrectly that you have to do it all by yourself.
Being unhappy can keep you from moving forward.
Being unhappy will not get you where you want to go.
Being unhappy can keep you stuck in place.
If you can’t see where you’re going, how can you even take the first step? It's like those connect-the-dot worksheets we did as kids. Those were pretty easy because we could see what the picture was that you were creating even halfway done.
But have you seen the connect-the-dot books for adults? Those are way harder to see what you are creating.
And that’s the whole point. If it was easy to see how all the dots connected, would you go after the end result?
Of course you would!
But once it gets a bit harder, and the connected dots don’t give you a clue as to what you’re drawing, forget it!
Your unhappiness will definitely keep you in place because you will assume if it’s too hard, it’s not worth doing.
The thing is our default setting is happiness.
As a baby we were happy. Yes there were moments that we cried due to being hungry or needing our diaper changed. But at other times we were happy.
As life progressed we chose how to look at everything that happened to us as either good or bad and how those events made us feel, happy or unhappy.
We were also influenced by parents and friends and how those relationships taught us how to feel. If one of our parents had a negative view of the world and how it always seemed to not work out in their favor, you could have picked up on that and incorporated it into your belief system.
The world is an unhappy place and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You have to choose happiness every day.
You have to make the conscious decision that today and everyday thereafter, no matter what happens, I’m going to choose happiness as my way of life.
I’m not going to lie to you.
Yes that’s very hard to do.
Some people do make it look easy. I know that I’m one of them. I was born with the ability to seek out and see the positivity in any situation.
I also know that even when I’m in the middle of something that is hard and I can’t see exactly how it’s going to work out, I know that I will learn something from the experience.
And no, I’m not Ms. Positivity every single day. There are definitely days where my hormones tell me that I’m going to sink to the lower levels of blah for that day and make it a bit more difficult.
But I know that it’s just a day.
I will ride it out and the blah feeling will pass. I still have to choose to be that way on yucky days.
Be present to your happiness.
In addition to choosing to be happy everyday, you also have to choose to be present in what is happening today.
You can’t stew over what happened yesterday and you can’t keep bringing up what happened to you three months ago. What’s in the past needs to stay in the past so don’t keep playing it like song lyrics getting stuck on repeat in your brain over and over again.
You also can’t focus on what might happen two years from now!
Your focus needs to be on TODAY.
How can I be happy today?
Your life will be easier if you choose to be happy.
It is so much easier to accomplish what you want when you feel happy.
You will be able to make better choices when you’re happy.
Isn’t it easier to make healthy eating choices when you feel happy versus when you feel unhappy all you want to do is eat the whole container of Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream for dinner?
Your confidence rises when you’re happy and you feel like you can accomplish anything.
You can tackle new projects or even go look for a new job because you know your happiness will be with you.
You are finally, finally asking for what you want instead of pushing it aside for the happiness of others.
It’s freeing to admit it, that you’re unhappy.
I deserve more.
When you say out loud, “I’m unhappy,” what you are really saying is “I deserve more.”
- I deserve to wake up and smile.
- I deserve to go to work and love what I do.
- I deserve to know that I am enough.
- I deserve to take time and figure out who I want to be.
- I deserve to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.
- I deserve to be able to go after what I want.
- I deserve to take care of myself.
- I deserve to be loved for who I am.
- I deserve to be happy.
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I’ll talk to you later Beautiful!