Emotional Maturity Does Not Mean Eternal Happiness

When I first realized that I have anxiety, the biggest lesson that I needed to learn was to not fight against it.

I think that fighting against unpleasant emotions is only natural. We don’t want to feel them, so we push them down. We deny that they’re happening. We try to move on, and if we can’t, if we wind up showing that unpleasant emotion in any way, then we feel guilty for it. We feel like we need to apologize.

The problem with that when it comes to anxiety is that it only makes anxiety worse. When a person with anxiety starts to feel stressed and they try to push that stress down – it doesn’t go away. It stays there, in the forefront of your mind, demanding to be heard and getting worse by the second. And the next thing you know, you are stressing yourself out because you know you are getting stressed. It progresses. It might even progress into a panic attack, for which you feel shame and guilt. It exhausts you, and it really puts a damper on your whole day, and it makes everything in life that much harder to do.

The best way to deal with anxiety is to just admit to yourself that you are anxious, and allow yourself to be anxious. Take the time to slow down. Talk to yourself about what you’re feeling. Figure everything out.

When you have anxiety, you have two options: you can push it down and make it really, really difficult to do anything in life. Or you can allow it to happen, and thus make it so that you can do anything you want, you just have to do it at a pace slower than people without anxiety.

Now, why am I saying this right now? Well, I am of the opinion that everyone – even people who don’t deal with anxiety – can apply this to their daily lives.

Let me give an example – the other day, I was feeling extremely frustrated. It had nothing to do with my anxiety, it was just your average, everyday, unpleasant emotion. It made me upset. It made me snap back at people all the time. It made me a general bitch to live with. And all the while, I was trying to tell myself to bury it down. Stop being so annoying to people. Why are you saying that, just shut up and stop feeling this already!

It wasn’t until I actually sat myself down and said, “okay, you’re frustrated for now, and that’s okay. Do whatever you need to do so that you can let it go” that I actually began to feel better. I gave myself permission to feel what I needed to feel, and that made it so much easier for me to stop dwelling in the negative.

And it’s this idea that I want to focus on, this idea of giving yourself permission to feel how you feel that I think is so important.

Because I think that we, as a society, have a very strict notion of how we should all feel.

In order to be stable role models, we need to feel strong, capable, in control, commanding, intelligent, always in the right.

In order to be good yogis, we need to feel peaceful, happy, accepting, optimistic, inspirational.

In order to be good adults, we need to feel as though we know what we are doing.

But the thing is, before we are any of these, we are human beings. And human beings experience the full gambit of emotions – pleasant or unpleasant, at any given time. We dangle this idea of perfect happiness before society’s face, telling society that that is the goal, that is the way to emotional maturity. But perfect happiness doesn’t exist, and trying to demand of ourselves that we feel that way ignores all the other ways that we feel.

Emotional maturity is not feeling happy and stable and pleasant all the time. Emotional maturity is accepting that you will feel any number of ways, and allowing yourself to feel that.

Not wallowing in it. Not pitying yourself for it. Just… allowing it. Let the storm come and pass, and remember that both will happen. There is no avoiding it. There is no reason to believe that it will last forever. And there is nothing wrong with it.

Because when you reject unpleasant emotions, they do not go away. Anger and sadness may not be as incessant or obvious as the symptoms of anxiety are, but they react in much the same way. When you try to push them down, they don’t actually go anywhere. They just stay with you, in the background, affecting everything you do and see and hear. They grow and they spread, and before you know it, the problem is even bigger than it initially was.

If you fight your emotions, then they will fight you right back.

So breathe. Have faith that this will pass, and it will. For now, just think about your situation, work it out, and do whatever you need to do to move beyond this.

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Why I Don’t Like The Word ‘Victim’

The words that we use to describe something matters.

There’s a little joke that I’ve seen passed around on the internet from Tumblr user malkiewicz that I think illustrates this point nicely: “Synonyms are weird because if you invite someone to your cottage in the forest that just sounds nice and cozy, but if I invite you to my cabin in the woods you’re going to die.”

Connotation is everything. The words you use might have the same meaning, dictionary-wise, but the double-meaning that we have prescribed to them as a society also affects the way that we think about the matter at hand.

This is why I do not like the word ‘victim’.

I mean, if you look at the dictionary definition of ‘victim’, it’s a fine enough word, as far as words go: “one that is acted on and usually adversely affected by a force or agent”. Chances are, we’ve all been victims at one point in our lives or another.

But there’s a social definition to the word ‘victim’ that I tend to not like.

When I hear the word ‘victim’, I tend to think of someone who is playing a very passive role in the scenario. And perhaps this isn’t helped by the people who I have heard use the word ‘victim’ in a negative way.

“You’re just playing the victim card.”

“Everyone wants to be a victim.”

Especially in scenarios where someone has been hurt by someone in particular, in an instance of abuse or sexual assault or discrimination, I find that the word ‘victim’ can be extremely limiting.

Because a victim doesn’t fight back. A victim doesn’t create change, or grow from the experience, or really do anything at all. A victim is… a victim. A victim hurts and wallows and needs to be saved.

And some people are victims. Some people do exactly this, all their lives. Some people have a very hard time moving passed or confronting their pain. But in a scenario where someone has been hurt by someone else, when they’ve been abused or harassed or assaulted, I don’t like to call people victims. I would rather think of them as survivors.

A survivor is a different connotation. A survivor is not passive. A survivor does not wallow, though they might hurt. And the difference might be slight, but it is important. Because people who have been hurt need to know that they can fight back.

Being hurt is not the end of our story. When we are hurt, we do not have to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves – we have options. We have a whole journey ahead of ourselves that we can choose to take.

We can fight against the person who has hurt us. And I don’t mean this in a violent or unfairly cruel way – I mean that we can stand up to them and make ourselves heard. We can remove that person from our lives if we have to. We can bring these people to justice, if we can and in whatever way we can.

We can fight for ourselves. Fight for our self-esteem and our ability to see our own worth. Fight for our ability to see our own strength, even when we think that it has been taken away from us. Fight for our self-respect and our mental health and our ease of mind. Fight to learn from what we’ve been through, and take those lessons into other aspects of our life.

We can fight for other people. We can reach out to people who have been through the same thing that we have. We can lend them an ear, or a hand. We can listen to their perspective and we can understand it because we’ve been there. We have the power to make them feel valid and heard and respected, and we can make them understand that they aren’t alone. We can reach out to people who haven’t been through what we’ve been through, and we can help them to understand that this happens, and it needs to be addressed. We can help people understand the issue in a way that would otherwise be very difficult for them, because they haven’t been there before.

There are many, many battles that can be fought by a person who has been hurt, and these battles can’t be fought by a victim. These battles are owned and spearheaded by survivors. And, no, not every person who has been hurt will fight these battles; some people get so lost in their own pain that they simply cannot fight them. But I still think that these battles are important, and I think that people should be encouraged to fight them. And I think that so many people can fight them, so long as they can find the strength. And strength can be found in something as simple as changing the language that we use to describe someone.

We are not victims of sexual assault. We are sexual assault survivors.

We are not victims of abuse. We are abuse survivors.

We are not victims of discrimination. We are survivors.

We are strong. We are capable. We are pro-active, and we have the ability to change the world. All we need to do is fight.

Why We Can’t Only Focus on the Positive

I understand that everyone wants to be happy.

That’s the goal in life, right? To be happy. To feel fulfilled. I mean, as long as we have this, our lives are successful, right?

There are countless ways to reach this end. So many, in fact, that everyone has their own ways – art, love, family, pets, whatever works at the end of the day to make you feel warm and fuzzy. But one method that I hear brought up often is to focus on the positive in life.

I won’t deny that this is a worthwhile method. Not an easy one, but effective if you can teach yourself to do it right. Because we as human beings have this tendency to want to focus on the negative, for whatever reason (it sounds counter-productive to that whole ‘everyone wants to be happy’ theory, doesn’t it?). Before we notice the good in a situation, we’ll fixate on the bad. We obsess about flaws and pain and hardship so much that we sometimes forget to notice the strengths and growth and love, even when it is there.

And I do believe that what you see is what you get. If all you notice is what’s rotten with the world, then you’re not going to have a very high opinion of the world, are you? There might be a whole other side of the story, but to you, that won’t matter; what you focus on becomes your truth.

This is why it’s so important to train your mind to notice the good in the world. Because the good is there; we just need to see it.

And I believe this. Whole-heartedly, I believe this; but then there are the people who take it one step too far.

I have known people who will preach the importance of noticing the good in the world, of creating a more balanced, aware outlook on life. And yet, when someone tries to speak up about real pain and suffering in the world, they will just go silent. They will remove themselves from the conversation until it comes right back around to being about something happier again.

I have known people who will pretend that they have no pain, that everything in their world is just fine, even when that isn’t the case. Even when they are going through serious, life-changing pain, they still can’t bring themselves to complain. They can’t make their concerns heard; they need to focus on the positive in life.

These people bother me.

Because, like I said, I agree with training yourself to notice the good in the world. That is very important. But just because we notice the good in the world, just because we celebrate it and encourage it and hope that it continues, that doesn’t mean that we can’t notice when there is pain and hardship in the world.

We need to notice the good in the world because there is good in the world, and that good is worth fighting for. That good is what gets us through our days, keeps a smile on our face, makes our hearts a little lighter and our world a little brighter. Without the good, we’d all just be broken shells of despair, unenthused and unmotivated to do anything.

But we can’t live solely in the good. Because it might make us temporarily happier, but it won’t erase the fact that other people are still hurting. And, in some ways, it might even make things worse for us in the long run.

Because if we aren’t acknowledging the bad, the pain, the hardship, then we aren’t fighting it. We aren’t standing up for the voiceless, so the voiceless just keep getting beat down. We aren’t standing up for ourselves, so people just keep taking advantage of us and testing how many lines they can cross. We aren’t fighting for anything, and so no battles are won.

When we don’t acknowledge the bad, then we don’t challenge the bad. We become bystanders, and to quote Martin Luther King Jr., “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

The world that we came into was not perfect. And I’m not even sure that there is a way to make it perfect, but I do know that the only way to make it better is to stand up and fight for what matters. Not sit back and ignore the bad because we don’t want to see it.

End of day, all of this simply comes down to balance. We need both, the good and the bad, in order to function in this society. We need to know that the world is flawed. We need to know that pain and hurt happens every single day, and it is an uphill battle trying to stop it. But we need to know that we can stop it; maybe not today or tomorrow or a year from now, but if we keep trying, if we keep fighting, we can make a difference. We need to know that this is a world filled with love, and people who want to make a difference, even if it is also filled with people who don’t care about or even notice the harm that their actions cause. We need to notice both, because both are just as prevalent in our society.

Loving-Kindness for 2018

The new year is almost upon us. And as it approaches, I wish for good things for myself.

I wish for happiness. I wish for ease. I wish for the ability to accept when I have made a mistake, and to allow myself forgiveness when I have not lived up to my own expectations. I wish for a moment where I sit among friends, laughing and at peace, without a care in the world.

I wish for strength. I wish for the resilience to move on when I have been insulted, when I have received bad news, when I have been knocked down a peg. I wish for the ability to keep going, to keep fighting. I wish for bravery and perseverance and ambition.

I wish for love. I wish for passion. I wish for art and heartbreak and inspiration.

I hope that I can find the ability to love myself, inside and out. I hope that I can become comfortable with my silence. I hope that I can feel beautiful with my flaws. I hope that I can really, truly accept that where I am in life is where I am meant to be; rather than simply insisting to myself that it is so without any real belief.

And you, you reading this right now, please tell me: what do you wish for yourself? I have given you the starting place, the platform to jump off of; now, soar.

As the new year approaches, I contemplate those I love.

I wish for 2018 to bring fewer worries to my mother, because she deserves a break. I wish for her to continue finding her place in the world, to continue developing who she is and celebrating the truth of that.

I wish for 2018 to bring my sister all the things that she has worked so hard for; the home that she wants, the education that she strives for. I wish for her to find happiness and peace in the life that she has been building.

I wish for 2018 to bring healing to my friends who found only pain in 2017. I wish for my friends to be able to find who they are and really, truly express themselves. I wish for them to feel comfortable in their skin. I wish for them to speak up and be heard and be loved.

I wish for justice for the ignored, the ones who receive justice so rarely. I wish for more wronged women to feel comfortable saying, “me too”. I wish for more families of the murdered to stand up and shout, “black lives matter”. I wish for further battles for equality, because even if they aren’t won in 2018, they are still worth fighting.

Now, imagine those who you love, my dear reader. What do you hope for for them? What do your friends and family need most from the new year?

As the new year approaches, I contemplate those I do not think of, in one way or another.

I think of those who took time out of their day to compliment me, to tell me that they like my hair or my make-up. I think of them, and I thank them for their small attempts to brighten my day. I hope that they see beauty whenever they look in the mirror.

I think of those who paused, just a moment, to tell me a joke while I was at work, to try to make me smile. I hope that the new year gives them every reason to smile as well.

I think of them, and I hope to take their lead into the new year. I hope to be the one who gives others reason to smile when they have none. I hope to make other people feel beautiful when they don’t. I hope to make other people feel comfortable when they aren’t.

It is difficult to think of parties who we might be neutral to, dear reader. We are so quick to judge everyone as either a positive or negative influence in our lives, and we are so quick to forget the ones who we deem easy to ignore. But as we head into the new year, I implore you; who might you be neutral about? And what do you hope for for them?

As the new year approaches, I contemplate those who have wronged me.

Forgiving is difficult, and forgetting is ill-advised. If we forget, then we bear the risk of repeating our past mistakes, when those mistakes were made so that we can grow and learn, so that we can avoid ever putting ourselves into that situation again.

But for this new year, I hope that those who have wronged me will gain growth and knowledge themselves. I hope that they can find it within themselves to understand what transpired between us – not only from their limited understanding of the situation, but from my perspective as well. I hope they can come to understand that they have wronged me. I hope that they can make peace with that and learn from that, and avoid doing it to anyone else.

But I understand that my power is limited in this new year. I know that I cannot control the actions of others, and I know that I cannot make someone else see what they won’t. So as much as I hope that those who have wronged me will learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating their actions in the future, I will not count on it. In 2018, I will not be putting all my energy into fixing someone else.

Instead, I hope to put my energy into fixing me. I hope for the strength and the compassion to forgive those who have wronged me. I hope for the open-mindedness to see things from their perspective, and accept that I am not always right. I hope for the patience to be able to deal with those who are dismissive of me.

I hope for the ability to learn from my mistakes. I hope for the perceptiveness to know when I have been ill-treated, and I hope for the wisdom to know when to leave a situation that is not constructive to me.

I know that I cannot hope to avoid pain in 2018. But, knowing that, I hope that I will learn from that pain, and become better for it. I hope that I will not be weighed down by the depression and despair that is always coming.

And maybe you, dear reader, are hurting. Maybe you cannot bring yourself to say one nice thing about those who have wronged you, and if that is so, then I understand. I am not here to judge you, or insist that you should feel different; you shouldn’t. How you feel now is how you should be allowed to feel. But that being said, confront the wrong. What do you hope for from it? Are there any kind words that you can speak for anyone involved – for those who have wronged you, or for yourself? The pains of 2017 will still be there in 2018, but that doesn’t mean that 2018 can’t bring healing.

As the new year approaches, we contemplate all beings. This is a time for contemplation, after all, and nothing escapes that. We hope for happiness. We hope for peace. We hope that better times stand ahead of us, that the future is filled with so many possibilities. The important thing is, we hope. And in this time of year, we take a moment to send loving-kindness to everyone.

The Other Me

“Come on, sweetheart; won’t you give me a smile? Is that too much to ask? Just one smile?”

Do I have to?

I know, in life, you’re going to have to say and do a lot of things that aren’t true, just to make other people happy. Words like “I’m fine” will have to escape your lips. “It’s all okay.” “No, I’m totally not on the verge of a breakdown, what are you talking about, this is my regular face.” But it’s just that… I’m so fucking tired of smiling. My face hurts, and I can feel my eye twitching from the strain, but you ask me to smile and I do it because what other choice do I have? I’ll just wait until your back is turned to let it fall. You won’t even realize it left; by the time you turn around again, it’ll be back, and you’ll be just as fooled by it as ever.

“Oh, come now, dear, that isn’t very happy. Cheer up! Tell us a different story! Give us a lesson, a moral, a happy ending so that we can all leave you feeling better about ourselves!”

Why would I? Maybe there is no lesson. Maybe this is just the way it is. Maybe there is no great, big take-away, maybe there is no reason, no rhythm, no rhyme. Maybe the world is just one great, big stinking cesspool, and we’re all trying to force reason into it. Maybe life is nothing more than a constant stream of pain from which we can never fully escape. Maybe I spend all my time waiting for things to get better – just one more year, three more months, another day, things will be fine, I promise – and maybe it’s all just one great lie that I tell to keep myself from giving up.

Do I really believe that? Of course. Of course not. I won’t in an hour, at least, and I don’t even know if I do now, but now it feels like the right thing to say. Right now, whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter; what matters is that it reflects my mood.

I’m not saying it because I want you to believe it. I don’t. The only reason I’m saying it is so that you can see into my mind. So that you can understand why I hesitate when you ask me to smile.

Would you smile if these meaningless thoughts kept returning to your mind?

Stop ignoring me! Stop pretending that she is better than me, because she isn’t! She, the other me, the one who smiles without being told, the one who gives you inspiration that’s fresh and new and meaningful at the drop of a hat. She exists, but so do I. We take turns; sometimes she’s in charge, sometimes I am. And sometimes, she leaves me holding the bag, struggling to fill in for all the things she does, all the jobs she told me she’d be able to handle.

“Smile, dear. The other you does.”

I know. But I’m not her right now.

“Give us a happy story, dear. The other you does.”

I know. But I’m not her right now.

“Well, when will the other you be back? You’re tiresome and annoying; bring her back.”

I can’t. I can’t just summon her from thin air. She needs to return of her own accord. And until then, I’m all you’ve got. I’m sorry that isn’t enough for you, but I’m trying. Believe me, I’m trying so fucking hard, that I literally cannot do any more for you.

And why do I have to be her anyway? Why do I have to pretend for you? Why does every story need to be wrapped up nicely with a happily-ever-after? Why does every face need a smile to be considered polite? She’ll come back eventually, and when she does, you’ll get all of those, but in the meantime, why do I have to lie for you?

I don’t want to pretend. We shouldn’t have to. We should be allowed to feel how we feel, regardless of how we were yesterday. Because sometimes, we’re going to be happy, and sometimes we’re going to be mopey and tired and depressed. Both are perfectly alright. Both are part of being human.

Consistency is overrated; we are ever changing. Be who you are today, whoever that may be. Love who that is, and don’t compare them to who you were. Because fighting ourselves, forcing ourselves to be someone we want, is only going to make those moments of depression longer and harder to deal with.

She, the other me, the other you, will come back. But for now, don’t deny who you are.