Embracing Our Darkness: We Don’t Always Have to Be Happy

by Jeanine Nicole

Discouragement is usually an unwelcome guest. Every time it comes knocking on my door, I try to shoo it away, or sweep it under the rug.

In fact, many of us want nothing more than for happiness to be our constant state of being, and have a hard time forgiving ourselves when we falter.

It happens: We can get immersed in the thick of discouragement for days, feeling mopey, downtrodden, physically, mentally, and emotionally “burnt out” and all in all “not ourselves.”

“It is better to be whole than to be good.” ~John Middleton Murray

When I am in this state, I avoid the page, others, and even my own feelings, not wanting to face the dark and shadowy sides of my own being.

Though it doesn’t always coincide with the external weather, I can feel rainy inside my own experience and mind from time to time, and I usually struggle against this feeling, only making it worse.

I am so adamant about being a positive person and believe that shining brightly is far preferable to feeling crummy. I think many of us share this tendency toward wanting to hold onto the light—but then, what do we do with our inner storms?

Where do we get this notion that to be our truest and most beautiful selves we have to always be happy, elated, content, and sure of ourselves?

Why do we believe that we must feel confident and inspired, have all the answers, and be buoyant in order to be our best, or at least to “be okay”?

We are only human after all, and nothing in our instruction manuals or in our description before we were born promises that we will always be perfect and shiny. Yet, we carry this unrealistic pressure on ourselves to be so, and often berate ourselves for falling short any time a bad mood strikes.

It’s tempting to only put our best foot forward. For example, on Facebook, we can often share our sunshine-y moments proudly, but may be less apt to proclaim as boldly when we are feeling negative.

If not for wanting to hide our own seemingly fruitless negativity from others and even ourselves, we might also fear spreading the bad mood to others.

We often forget that it actually gives others joy to be able to help, and it is often necessary to reach out, since “joy shared is doubled and grief shared is halved.”

So today, how can you begin to admit or even embrace times when you may feel discouraged?

In my life, I am beginning to acknowledge that it is just as natural to feel insecure, scared, and to want to curl up in bed in the fetal position as it is natural to sometimes feel peaceful, excited, or happy.

I am even on my way to embracing all these states equally, and not trying to change my sadness or force it to be something it’s not.

Sadness needs to be accepted. It needs to be loved, and cuddled, and caressed, and crooned: “It’s okay, sadness, I see you, I love you, I respect and honor you, and I will let you be.”

It almost always feels a bit better just by being given the space to be allowed and received. Sometimes, as soon as I get on the phone with someone who cares, all the tears I didn’t let myself cry start spilling out of me, because in simply being witnessed, it is like the person actually reached out to give me the warmest hug.

It’s important to appreciate ourselves similarly for all our aspects, and to forgive ourselves for even the lowest facets of our self.

Guilt, shame, and self-flagellation—these don’t actually correct the wrongs or make you a better person, they just reinforce the dark emotions even more strongly.

So, instead of beating yourself up, negating or denying your sadness and grief, or trying to “fix” it, simply repeat to yourself the best words anyone ever told me “Be gentle with yourself.”

Give yourself a big strong hug, maybe even a kiss, and tell yourself how much you appreciate you—all of you, now in this moment, and forever.

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