This is my confession of realizing I was sick of happy people and how I tweaked my life to be one of the happy people.
My career to empower women and heal with photography has spanned thirteen years. Even as I write these words I marvel at the path my life has taken. Somewhere along the path of losing myself, I got sick of seeing happy people. It’s selfish, but I did. All the happy comments and posts about effortless motherhood, love filled marriage, soul nurturing careers, and people actively LIVING made me feel like my life was lacking.
You can’t tell from looking at me, but this body of mine has brought me a heck of a ways.
I gained weight. I got married. I moved across the country. (I almost died.) I had a kid. I got diagnosed with an immune disorder and subsequently spent a lot of time lying down very much against my will. I got divorced. I moved BACK across the country. I lost almost 100 pounds in the last five years. I learned that muscle weight is far more precious than pounds lost.
Throughout all this my career lit like fire. I was featured in newspapers, magazines and on television. I met so many amazing women.
We were a family, had a fancy house, nice cars and I had friends that lifted me up. Friends that I would move mountains for.
You would think given my picture perfect life that I would be one of the happy people. I wasn’t.
I tried but couldn’t find it. My happiness was fleeting and based on outside forces. My unhappiness was easily fed by outside negativity.
Throughout my journey I battled depression, had highs, and honestly felt like I was a fairly positive person. But the truth was that I was licking my wounds and holding tightly onto the past and all the pain involved. I identified with the bad far more than the good.
Over the last few months, something shifted and a new feeling has been creeping over me.
Instead of feeling happiness on a fleeting basis, I’m happy most of the time. My dad helped me start reframing the hurt I felt. Reframing is a powerful tool to bring you into the current moment and see yourself without judgement.
I started making a conscious effort to let the pain go. I started meditating every night. I started journaling five things a day that had made me smile. That list has since grown.
I reached out to heal family rifts I had caused in my pain.
After years of saying no to friends because of my health I started saying yes, even if I was tired or scared.
I said yes to dates, to hiking, to exercise, to playing pool, to singing, to dancing, to staying up late, to karaoke, to family visits, to communicating, to letting go, to learning to dress my new smaller body and to all the things I’d avoided for so long. The more I tried, the more I wanted to try. I became addicted to LIVING.
I sought happy people and new experiences that made me feel good. I didn’t realize it but I was searching for my own personal “happy” recipe.
My career is flourishing. My sister and I are starting an exciting business to promote her novels. I’m learning so much about myself. I can’t imagine missing out on the person I’m becoming. I would have missed out on new friendships and deepening relationships with friends and family. My happiness has gotten so noticeable I started to worry that my Facebook posts had become nauseatingly happy. “Oh no!” I thought, “I’m one of those happy people I was so sick of!”
Are you sick of happy people? Is your tank on empty because you’ve given so much of yourself away that you can’t remember what makes you happy?
I don’t mean the happy you feel with your children and loved ones. I mean the happy feeling that makes you totally comfortable to sit in a quiet room alone without your thoughts trying to strangle you. Things have changed so much I’ve caught myself grinning in traffic for no apparent reason.
When I do hit a snag or have to deal with outside negativity I recover much more quickly now.
It’s a constant effort to keep myself from falling back down the “everything sucks” rabbit hole. But it’s worth the effort and gets easier with practice.
To give you some ideas here’s my ever growing list of things that help me be one of the happy people:
- See my sister and her family everyday (if I can).
- Cuddle my kiddo and make him laugh.
- Connect with my family in person if possible or digitally of they’re far.
- Get a hug from one (bonus for both at the same time!) of my Maine Coons.
- Play fetch with Bear and take his toy and run around the house as he chases me.
- Plan a hot date where I get to dress up.
- Meet new people.
- Learn other people’s stories.
- Play tennis.
- Try something new that I was always too scared to try.
- Do something for someone else that I know will make them happy.
- Cook for loved ones.
- Dance around the house.
- Sing along to my favorite songs at the top of my lungs without worrying about being on key.
- Talk to friends near and far.
- Give my energy and time to those who need it.
One good friend (an incredible therapist) told me how helping others is the best therapy she can do. She started this movement. People can join and get prompts of selfless things to do every day for someone else.
I’ve paid for coffee for people in line behind me. I helped a young woman buy a dress for an awards banquet. She was in the dressing room next to me and looked stunning in the dress but couldn’t afford it. I had the employees give her a gift card but really didn’t want them to tell her who have it to her. She was so moved she insisted on knowing who and hugged me several times. I asked her to pay it forward to someone else. And giving to someone else truly did make me happy. It wasn’t selfless at all. My love tank was overflowing.
A recurring theme with happy people is gratefulness for what they have. Helping others puts you directly in touch with this.
It’s the hardest thing in the world to put ourselves first. But when you put yourself first and fill your own tank you empower yourself. My challenge to you is to find your Happy and step into the ranks of happy people.
I’m reading Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and it’s nothing short of mind blowing. Live in the moment. Focus on that versus the NEVER ENDING list of what you don’t have.
Journaling is a wonderful way to start. Make a list of little things that make you happy. Don’t worry how small the list is or how mundane the activity seems. Start with one a day. Then increase until you’re doing five a day. This is extremely personal and is about finding what makes your heart sing. When you hit a snag don’t give yourself crap for feeling low. Dig in to your happy bag of tricks and do something to fill your tank. Happy people do what they need to so they have the mental space to choose to see the bright.
Now that I’m here, I’m not going back to a world of glass half empty without a fight.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, Iman Woods.