Last updated on July 17th, 2023 at 02:54 pm
My big dream to empower women and heal with photography has spanned many years. Even as I write these words, I marvel at my life’s path.
Somewhere in working so hard on my big dream, I forgot to pay attention to myself, and suddenly, I was sick of happy people.
It’s selfish, but I was sick of them. All the happy comments and posts online about effortless motherhood, love-filled marriages and relationships, soul-nurturing easy-to-attain big dreams, and people actively living large made me feel like my life was seriously lacking.
I gained weight. I got married. I moved across the country. I almost died. I had a kid. I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder and subsequently spent much time in bed–very much against my will. I then got divorced and 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 big dream was burning 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 and nice cars, and I had friends that lifted me up. Friends that I would move mountains for. Given my picture-perfect life, you would think 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 dream journey, I battled depression, had highs, and honestly felt I was fairly positive. 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 in my life far more than the good.
Then suddenly, something shifted, and a new feeling crept over me. Instead of feeling blissful happiness on a fleeting basis, I’m in this rather calm state of satisfaction. My dad helped me start reframing the hurt I’d been harboring. Reframing is a powerful tool to bring you into the current moment and see yourself without judgment.
I started making a conscious effort to let all of my pain go.
I started meditating every night. I started journaling five things a day that made me smile. That list has since grown. I reached out to heal the 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 new experiences that made me feel good. I didn’t realize it but was searching for my “happy” recipe that didn’t involve a crazy state of bliss but rather a calm state of feeling that I was fine. 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 calm satisfaction has gotten so noticeable I started to worry that my Facebook posts had become nauseatingly positive. “Oh no!” I thought, “I’ve become 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 your happiness 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 that I’ve caught myself grinning in traffic for no apparent reason.
When I hit a snag or 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 every day (if I can).
- Cuddle my son and make him laugh.
- Connect with my family in person if possible or digitally if they’re far.
- Get a hug from one (bonus for both simultaneously!) of my Maine Coons.
- Play fetch with my dog Bear, 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.
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 Eckhart Tolle’s best-selling book, 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 about 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.
Don’t give yourself crap for feeling low when you hit a snag. Dig into 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 returning 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, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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