For the past few years, I've been working to create a life I don't want to escape from. A huge part of that journey has been dedicated to doing more of the things that make me happy and accepting that I'm worthy of a life I love. I had become accustomed to accepting what life threw at me and learning to be grateful for it. But, I wasn't happy, nor was I fulfilled.
I often found myself forcing gratitude out of fear of seeming ungrateful. Forcing myself to always focus on what was going great in my situation or telling myself it could be worse stopped me from addressing the lack of joy I was experiencing daily. It also prevented me from seeking opportunities that aligned with the vision I had for my life.
I was in community with a few people at the time who knew they weren't happy with their lives, and we were deciding to settle. When I would ask them about good things happening in their lives, some would only be able to reference events from high school or college, but 10 years had passed since then. Some people experienced tragic or unplanned things that derailed their goals and became stuck in a cycle of thinking about what could have been. They were in their late twenties and early thirties and already felt like their best days were behind them.
Well, the average person lives to be 72 years old and I eventually found myself wondering what they would do for the rest of their days while allowing their past to define their reality. I knew I didn't want that for myself and became determined to do something different. If you can relate to these feelings, keep reading to learn what I did to keep the spark going when I didn't feel excited about life.
1. "Lean into the discomfort."
When I was a resident advisor, my team leader would end each meeting by reminding us to “lean into the discomfort” because it was the only way we would grow. I thought it was a cool reminder, but as I've gotten older, it's become integral to how I move through life. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is one of the first steps in the growth process.
Sometimes we'll shy away from being uncomfortable because we assume we're in danger. We may perceive that we're at risk of failing or embarrassing ourselves. These concerns are valid because when we're operating outside of our comfort zone, we're vulnerable. We may be hyper-aware of how others see us and may even be uncomfortable adjusting to the changes we see within ourselves. But, two things can be true at the same time. This period of discomfort could be one of the scariest and most exciting times of our lives!
We also don't have to throw ourselves out into the unknown unprotected. During times of transition, we must practice self-care and self-soothing activities. Taking risks exposes us to rejection, judgment, anxiety, and hearing the word "no" more often. We won't succeed or get the outcome we were hoping for each time, and that's okay. Finding support systems and engaging in stress relief activities can help us navigate the challenges.
Over time, doing things that scare us can help build our capacity to tolerate uncertainty and increase our self-confidence when we realize we can do hard things.
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2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Social media is a great tool to connect with people and be exposed to new things, but it can also leave you feeling defeated if you aren't careful. Social media has made it easy for us to participate in the 'Comparison Olympics.' We watch the highlight reel of someone's life and question why we don't have what they have or couldn't navigate a similar hardship the way we did.
We could receive news we're hoping or praying for and might not allow ourselves the space to be excited because we saw that someone share what we perceive to be more significant news on Instagram. We could be getting ready to take a much-needed vacation and become sad that we can't travel to the locations we see on travel pages.
We may even become upset that more people aren't more forthcoming about their negative life experiences. Sometimes we want to know that other people are struggling because we don't want to feel alone in our situation. But the truth is, we don't need to know every single detail of someone else's life to feel better about our own. It isn't healthy, and most times, it isn't our business.
No one on the earth is without worry or hardship. People are allowed to remember and display their lives the way they want. Focusing on what you can see about others takes the focus of what matters most and what you actually have power over: your life.
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3. Find things to look forward to.
Sometimes we are afraid to look forward to things because we're afraid to be disappointed. The past two years have been rough. People had big plans for 2020, but the pandemic caused a lot of social shifts and grief. It seemed like we were always anticipating the next tragedy. But grief and joy can coexist.
Grief and happiness are both important parts of the human experience—you can't have one without the other. Give yourself the space to feel how you feel and process your feelings. But also give yourself permission to move on. Ruminating over what could have been or obsessing over what could be, makes us feel powerful because it gives us the illusion of being in control. But none of that is real, and we end up stuck.
If we're going to incorporate more joy into our lives, we must remember that we only have the present moment and we have to let the present be enough. We may not know what will happen next year or next week, but we can still schedule a time to do the things that make us happy.
4. Learn something new.
I attempt to learn something new whenever I'm stressed to shift my focus. I thought I lacked discipline and the ability to concentrate (which can be true lol), but then I read that learning something new helps ease stress and increases your self-worth. I also learned that learning also makes you happier and increases your self-confidence.
Learning doesn't have to be structured or confined to the classroom. You can learn through meeting new people and hearing their life experiences. You can also take dance, writing, or drawing classes from YouTube University. It also makes you open to trying new experiences because you'll be confident in your ability to take on new challenges.
Learning can also help you realize that you're never stuck. You'll be confident in your ability to take on new challenges because you'll know you can develop the skills to succeed. As long as you're willing to learn something new and put yourself out there, you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and change your life.
So, get out of your own way. Your best life is waiting for you.
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