Do you ever feel a sense of obligation to be happy? I realize I do. When people ask me, “So how have you been?” I usually respond with, “Ok.” And then I’d feel guilty about not being able to have responded with, “Everything’s great!” That’s right, I feel guilty for not being happier. Like there’s something wrong about being unhappy.
I once had a friend who, when she felt unhappy with her life, felt guilty because she was so much better off than people who were living in circumstances of war and famine. She did not allow herself to be unhappy either. I used to think I was perceptive to have detected that she repressed or sublimated those emotions she felt was inappropriate for her to have. Well, of late, I’ve been realizing just how similar I am to her.
Guilt is a big part of my life, in fact always has been. Guilt for not performing up to expectations – whether at home or in school. Guilt for needing friends. Guilt for being an emotional person. Guilt for not being sufficiently good, grateful, kind, intelligent… for not being a good sister, daughter, or wife or friend. Guilt for not having drive or a vision of what I want to do. Guilt for being unmotivated and ambivalent about my PhD and yet not daring to really ask myself if it is really what I want to do. Guilt for lacking passion. Guilt for not being happy. Because being unhappy seems to imply that I’m doing something wrong.
I realize, in so many years of living and struggling to be free, I still am not. I don’t really dare to live for myself – to wonder, what would my life be like if I were able to choose to do anything at all it is that I really believe I should do. How can I really try to understand what my mission in life might be when I have set myself so many conditions and limitations? I feel like the proverbial grasshopper that had been kept in a lidded container. Even if the lid was taken off, I’d never jump out of the container because I’ve limited myself to that height.
Who am I, really? It seems I’ve only ever been able to view myself through other people’s eyes. Why am I afraid to be who I am? Why don’t I believe that it is ok to be imperfect me? I know I should be ok with it, and that I should accept myself. But I just realized yesterday that I have never accepted myself. In fact, I don’t know how to.
It’s taken me this long to realize that I need to give myself permission to be unhappy. To tell myself, it’s ok to admit that I don’t know where my life is heading or what I should be doing. It’s ok to realize and admit that I have been trying to live a life that meets what I think others are expecting of me – and that this is the reason why I am getting more unhappy. Because this isn’t the kind of life I was meant to have. I am living an inauthentic life.
By acknowledging it here, I am acknowledging to myself that I don’t have it all together. That after decades of convincing myself and those around me that I know what I am doing, I have decided to stop pretending. I want to get to know the real me, and to be able to love myself.
All my life, I’ve done many good and right things out of obligation – including love. I want to know what it is like to love, not out of obligation, not because it is the right thing to do – but because I love. I want to know what it is like to choose a path, not because it seems the best thing or the right thing to do, but because I believe in it. I want to know what it is like to accept and love myself not because other people accept or love me, but because I know what it is to be loved unconditionally by God. Please, Lord – show me. I want to see myself the way You see me.
The process of inner-healing is turbulent, difficult and painful. But through every step, I feel a growing sense of liberation. Please pray for me and rejoice with me that I finally found enough courage and humility to start this process!