How To Stop Being Controlled By Fear & Find Real Happiness
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a routine that actually makes us miserable. We get up every morning and rush to a job that’s not quite fulfilling, put up with relationships that are emotionally draining, and regularly set aside hobbies and activities that would make us infinitely happier (if only we made time for them).
What if we take steps toward what we think will make us happier but still end up disappointed?
Although we spend more time than we’d like to admit daydreaming about how much happier we could be, we rarely make the changes that will get us there because of one looming fear: what if we take steps toward what we think will make us happier but still end up disappointed?
If you’re tired of complaining about how miserable you are but scared of making changes, read on for five ways to get happier and overcome the fear that’s holding you back:
1. Define what happiness means for YOU.
We get mixed messages from our family members, friends, and society at large about what happiness is and how to achieve it. For decades, the so-called American Dream was depicted as a well-paying job, a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog in the yard. But the tide is turning, and different images of happiness are breaking that mold.
In order to be truly happy, we need to know what happiness means for us. If you’re feeling stuck, consider whether the happiness you’re seeking is actually what you want or if it’s merely what you think you should want. Clarifying your happiness goals will make it easier to identify the steps you need to achieve them.
2. Know that you deserve happiness.
You deserve to be happy. Yes, you! To say that we deserve happiness is one thing, but to actually believe those words wholeheartedly is quite another. Maybe childhood experiences or past relationships have made it difficult for you to acknowledge that you deserve happiness every bit as much as anyone else.
Poor self-esteem can hinder us from pursuing our dreams because we ultimately don’t believe that we’re worth the effort or deserve the positive outcome. Remind yourself every day that you’re worthy of the happiness you seek, and keep saying it to yourself until you actually believe it.
3. Make your happiness a priority.
Oftentimes, we’re willing to put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own and place our own happiness on hold. But in order to have the energy to take care of others, whether it’s family, a demanding boss, or a friend in need, we must make our own happiness a priority.
Find ways to create more balance in your life so that you can focus on your own goals in addition to being the rockstar parent, employee, and friend that you already are. In doing so, you’ll be setting healthy boundaries and setting a great example for those around you.
4. Prepare for change.
As creatures of habit, any routine can become a bit too comfortable, even when it consists of constant rants to friends and family about how miserable we are. Although we may spend a huge chunk of the day fantasizing about how much happier we would be if we could only find a more meaningful job, ditch a dysfunctional relationship, or finally take that dream vacation, we tend to stay stagnant because we’re afraid of the uncertainty involved in making a change.
To avoid getting stuck, take time to think about how you would deal with any challenges you might encounter along the way. By doing so, you’ll feel more prepared and capable of handling the uncertainty that comes along with change.
5. Believe in yourself.
How many times have you contemplated change and caught yourself thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never succeed”? Stop listening to that inner critic. When it comes to making important life decisions, we all experience fear and self-doubt.
The only difference between those who stay stuck and those who take action is the ability to notice those thoughts when they do occur, set them aside, and move forward despite them. Remind yourself what your happiness goals are, and believe in your ability to achieve them.
Nathalie C. Theodore, J.D., MSW, LCSW is a lawyer-turned-therapist located in Chicago. She received her J.D. from Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington, and her master's in social work from Loyola University, Chicago.
The focus of her practice is helping women dissatisfied with their careers or personal relationships. During the years she practiced law, Theodore became well-versed in stress, and now enjoys helping women find a healthy work-life balance. She often uses mindfulness-based techniques to help her clients manage chronic stress and anxiety. Theodore started her own remote therapy practice in 2016, and now provides therapy exclusively via phone and video.