By Marc and Angel Hack
Life is hard sometimes. It’s impossible to live well without encountering struggle, and there are some seasons in our lives that are especially heart wrenching.
For Angel and me, one such season occurred over the course of 15 months when we were in our late-20’s. It was a period of profound loss, beginning when we lost our jobs and our house in the downturn of the economy. It was a scary and financially uncertain time for our family. Worry seeped into everyday life. “Unhappiness” is the simplest word to describe it.
As we were learning to navigate our new reality, we were hit with a devastating loss: the death of a mutual best friend from sudden cardiac arrest. The loss of such a key figure in our lives was intense! And just as we were beginning to get back on our feet, Angel’s brother passed away unexpectedly as well.
With so much loss in quick succession, there were days when getting out of bed was our biggest accomplishment. This is the nature of struggle, but as the days turn into weeks, months, and then years, we learn to press forward. We learn that we are resilient. And we hold a greater appreciation for what we have and the people who are dear to us.
Sitting here now, years later, I can honestly say that Angel and I have learned great lessons from that agonizing time in our lives. We’ve learned how to cope with the hard times, the pain and disappointment, and above all, we’ve learned the vital importance of self-love and self-care ― the magic that makes smiling again (and again) possible.
The truth is, everyone experiences unhappy circumstances on occasion, but there is a big difference between experiencing bouts of unhappiness and living a habitually unhappy life. That’s what chronically unhappy people do. And although many of these people are afraid to admit it, a vast majority of their unhappiness stems from their own self-neglect.
Over the past decade, Angel and I have helped thousands of unhappy people rediscover their smiles, and, in the process, we’ve learned a lot about the negative behaviors that typically hold them back. Self-neglect stands at the very top of this list. Even if you are generally a happy person, self-neglect is something that can easily creep up on you.
The key is to give yourself the extra attention you need and deserve.
Resisting and ignoring your own feelings and emotions does not serve you. It leads to stress, illness, confusion, broken relationships, fits of anger and bouts of deep, dark depression. Anyone who has experienced any of the above knows that these states of mind are horrifically unhealthy… and when you’re in the habit of self-neglect, it’s near impossible to escape.
You have to admit, to a certain extent, you have spent too much of your life trying to shrink yourself. Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less sensitive. Less opinionated. Less needy. Less YOU. Because you felt broken, and you didn’t want to be too much or push people away. You wanted to fit in. You wanted people to like you. You wanted to make a good impression. You wanted to be wanted. So you could feel healed.
So for years, you sacrificed yourself for the sake of making other people happy. And for years, you suffered.
But you’re tired of suffering, and you’re done shrinking. Right? Good!
It’s not your job to change who you are in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being. You are worthwhile. Not because other people think you are, but because you are breathing your own air, and therefore you matter. Your thoughts matter. Your feelings matter. Your voice matters. And with or without anyone’s approval or permission, you must be who you are and live your truth. Even if it makes people turn their heads. Even if it makes them uncomfortable. Even if they choose to leave.
You may have been broken down by adversity, but YOU are not broken. So don’t let others convince you otherwise.
Heal yourself by refusing to shrink.
Choose to take up a lot of space in your own life. Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs. Choose to honor your feelings and emotions. Choose to make self-care a top priority.
Mark and Angel Hack share inspirational advice and practical tips for life on their blog: Topics covered include: productivity, health, love, work, and general self improvement.