By Marley Cameron
For as long as I can remember, I had a rather specific life plan that I believed would ultimately lead me to happiness. As is often the case after receiving a major health diagnosis, my life began to veer further and further away from the plan I once had, and suddenly I found myself living in a way that I found not to be true to myself and my own happiness.
I easily adopted a “fake it until I make it” lifestyle and rather than addressing the areas of my life I found were not serving me in the way I believed they should, I pasted a smile on my face for others to see and began to overcompensate with self-care activities that I thought would pick up the slack along the way.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the province I live in, I could no longer rely on the self care activities I once had, nor could I rely on my family and friends for the same in-person serotonin boost that I often desperately needed. Over the last 18 months, I have been forced to take inventory of my life and really decide what brings me happiness and what my ideal life would look like. It has not been an easy journey, and I have certainly hit a few bumps along the road, but here are seven things that happened when I chose happiness.
I put myself FIRST.
I spent the first 27 years of my life believing that it was more important for me to put the happiness of those around me above my own. While I still believe it is important to take the feelings of others into consideration, I can also now recognize that my own happiness needs to take precedence and sometimes that means making others unhappy along the way.
I had to accept that I simply cannot be everything to everyone all of the time. Shifting the focus from others onto myself felt unnatural in the beginning, but once I understood that being personally happy would allow me to better serve those around me, I began to find ways to put myself first.
Setting boundaries and saying “no” more often allowed me to reduce my overall stress and left more time for me to focus on activities that bring joy to my life. Once my stress was reduced and I was finding happiness while doing more of the things I loved, I found that I had more energy to put back into the relationships that meant the most to me. Saying “yes” to me makes it easier to say “yes” to others while still maintaining a healthy balance and energy level.
I had to make hard decisions.
By far the hardest part of this journey to happiness has been having to make difficult decisions in regards to the people I choose to allow into my life. It never feels good to tell someone you love that they are hindering your growth rather than supporting it. Feelings get hurt, relationships become strained and there often comes a point where you need to walk away for your own wellbeing. When this happens with people you love it can be incredibly difficult to justify being happy.
But the thing is, you shouldn’t have to justify yourself to anyone. Reduce your stress, maintain your healthy boundaries, put YOU first. If others can’t see that this is a sign of growth, they don’t deserve to be a part of your life.
People showed their true colours.
Unfortunately, setting boundaries with people in your life can often carry both positive and negative consequences. I have always carried with me the idea that I never want the people I surround myself with to question their place within my life. I would do whatever I needed to do to make others happy and this often had a negative impact on my own wellbeing. When I made a conscious effort to set and maintain boundaries, it became apparent rather quickly which of my friends and family members were happy to take my help when they needed it, but were less happy to offer me the same. To some, saying “no” meant that I no longer cared (which was not the case) and meant that they found less value in my friendship when their expectations could not be met.
This was — and continues to be — a difficult realization for me as it made it abundantly clear which of the people in my life cared more about what I could do for them than who I am as a person.
For as many people as I have lost throughout the last few months, I have rekindled and strengthened just as many relationships. My true friends and family have stepped up and recognized the importance of my happiness and have been supportive every step of the way, regardless of how it may or may not impact their own lives. This uplifting and supportive energy has helped me find peace and confidence within myself that I didn’t know existed.
My self-confidence increased.
The more energy I poured into myself, the better I began to feel overall. My mental health improved drastically, and along with it came a newfound sense of self confidence. Doing things that I loved while surrounding myself with people who had a positive impact on my life allowed me to find a value within myself that I had been struggling to see for so many years.
As my mind healed, I began to find beauty in the flaws I had picked apart for so long, and the happiness I was experiencing began to shine through for others to see as well. I have begun to feel far less concerned with how others view my body and instead, focus more on how I feel within. This confidence and happiness has allowed me to explore clothing options that I had previously thought were out of bounds for someone with my body type and let me tell you, it feels amazing. To think that I was too afraid to wear a two-piece swimsuit for the last 27 years is baffling to me; I think I look great in a bikini and if you don’t, too bad. It’s a #healedgirlsummer and I am here for it!
Other people noticed the changes.
“What are you doing differently?” “You look healthy!” “Something seems different about you,” and “it feels like the old Marley is back.” These are all phrases that I have heard over the last few months and truly, the only thing that has really changed is that I am taking care of ME first. When my heart is full of joy and happiness I project that energy back out into the universe and the people around me can feel it too.
Good things began to happen to me.
We have all heard of the concept of “manifestation” and putting positive energy out into the world when we want to receive it back. I was never a huge fan of the idea that I needed to prove I was worthy of good things happening to me, in fact, I really resented it, but I may have been wrong.
Focusing on my happiness has left me more open to receiving good things in my life. My confidence allowed me to apply for a job I spent years thinking I wasn’t good enough for — and guess what? I got the job. I nailed the interviews, I let my personality speak for itself, and I got the damn job.
I opened my heart to allow more space for forgiveness and love and rekindled friendships I had previously thought were lost causes. Now they are some of the greatest friends I have.
When I started valuing myself for all that I am worth, the world did, too. I can see more possibilities than ever before and know that being happy and confident are the two most important pieces to achieving what I dream.
I was no longer afraid of the unknown.
The part of life that has always scared me the most was the unknown. I avoided making big life decisions for fear of what I couldn’t see on the other side. The only question I ever asked myself was “what if this is the wrong choice?” I should have been asking myself is “what if this is the right choice?”
Replacing that one word opens up the idea of so many possibilities and makes it feel more comfortable to take that leap into whatever it is you are considering. Letting go of the idea that I need to have every answer all of the time has been incredibly freeing.
I found that embracing spontaneity and allowing myself less time to overanalyze every decision has really helped me to jump forward into life with less fear and trepidation. Holding space for my happiness and light has allowed those possibilities to be far more exciting than they are scary and I find myself fearing the unknown less and less as time goes on.