1. Not being where you thought you’d be at this point in your life.
So you haven’t landed your big break or gotten married or written your bestseller yet. You know who else isn’t where they thought they’d be at this point? Pretty much everybody else. Just ask around – nobody has everything they thought they’d have figured out by this point, figured out.
But chances are, you’ve figured some other things out by now – things you never expected to discover, because your life has taken you places you never expected to go. And you need to give yourself some credit for that. You’re not where you thought you’d be right now, because you’re somewhere else instead. And that somewhere else is probably pretty noteworthy in and of itself.
2. Having failed at something massively important.
Until you’ve failed – and I mean really, massively, unequivocally failed – at something that really mattered to you, you don’t even get to call yourself a passionate person.
Failure is a right of passage, for anyone who wants to go on to do great things. It is a test to see who cares enough to keep going and who just gives up when the going gets tough. Failure isn’t something that you ought to feel guilty about – it’s a challenge that is there for you to rise to. It’s there to wean out the faint at heart.
3. Distancing yourself from toxic people.
The simplest mark of an unhealthy person is someone who tries to make you feel guilty about setting boundaries.
It doesn’t matter how kind, how empathetic and how giving you are as a person – your primary job is to take care of yourself. And if your relationship with someone else is infringing upon your ability to do so, you owe it to yourself to distance yourself from that person. Investing in your own well being is never something you should be made to feel guilty about.
4. Saying ‘No’ to what you know is wrong for you.
The relationship you left, the job you quit, the times you wanted to commit to something in theory but just couldn’t carry it out in actuality – all of these circumstances are ones that you’re absolutely allowed to walk away from.
Intuitively knowing what’s wrong for you is the first step toward knowing what’s right for yourself – and if there’s one thing you should never compromise on, it’s what you know to be right for yourself.
5. Your changing relationships.
As we grow up, our friendships and relationships alter drastically – this is a wholly normal product of shifting circumstances. The friend you used to visit every day is now the friend you catch up with on Skype once a month. The family you used to live down the street from is now a plane ride away and you just cannot keep up with them the way you used to.
As painful as it is to watch the nature of your closest relationships morph, it’s not something you ought to feel guilty about. Life happens, and the people who are closest to you understand that more than anybody.
6. Your changing body.
So you’re suddenly not eighteen years old anymore. You can’t scarf down pizza and drink a six-pack of beer and still look like you just walked off a runway. This is another right of passage – a shitty one albeit, but a normal one.
It takes time to adjust to your changing metabolism, but you will adjust. You’ll learn to manage it. You’ll come to understand how to care for your post-eighteen-year-old body, but in the meantime, forgive yourself for the temporary tightness of your jeans. Your body is changing because you’re a human and that’s just what happens.
7. Your changing priorities.
So your life goal was once to stick it to the man, refuse to ever settle down and travel the world with reckless abandon. And now you’re working a corporate job, paying your bills on time, going to the gym regularly, and you’re… happy?
Your sixteen-year-old self may be disappointed in you, but he/she also thought that Fall Out Boy was music. So maybe take what your past self wanted with a grain of salt, and start listening to what your adult self wants. Your priorities are allowed to change. You’re allowed to stop wanting what you once wanted, and to want something new instead.
8. Choosing your dream over somebody else’s.
There will always be someone out there who is quick to enlist you to work toward their dream – be it your parents, your significant other, your teachers, your bosses, your friends. And these people may genuinely mean well. They may genuinely think that they’re helping you by loading you down with their opinion of what your life should look like. But at the end of the day, you alone know what is going to make you happiest. And you alone need to make a stand for it.
You don’t ever have to feel guilty for choosing what you want over and ahead of what others want for you. At the end of the day, your loved ones just want you to be happy – and if you know how to get yourself there, then everybody wins in the end.
9. Changing your mind about something you never thought you would.
It is okay to feel 100% certain about something at one point in your life, and then feel entirely differently later. As bizarre and emotionally disorienting as this experience is, it’s a natural part of growing up.
You’re allowed to give up on a situation or a dream or a relationship that once made you incredibly happy, if it starts causing you nothing but misery. You’re allowed to change your mind – even about the things you never thought you would. You don’t have to feel guilty over what you couldn’t possibly have seen coming.
10. Being happy when the people around you are struggling.
No matter how deeply you care about your friends, family and loved ones, it is never your responsibility to take on someone else’s pain. There is no clause in the ‘being a good friend or partner’ contract that states you have to crawl down into the dumps every time someone you love finds him or herself there.
If anything, what your loved ones need most when they’re struggling is someone who is doing well – to inspire them to believe in better things for themselves. Instead of sinking to their depths, help your loved ones rise up to your heights – and do it by giving yourself permission to feel happy despite what is going on around you.
11. Asking for help from others.
Most of us are incredibly hesitant to ask for help from others – not wanting to place unnecessary burdens on the people around us. But what we’re quick to forget is that oftentimes, people genuinely like the feeling they get from helping others. Just as it would make you feel happy to know that you contributed to the happiness and well being of someone you love, the people who love you are probably more eager than you think to do the same.
12. Being happy despite your imperfections.
For many of us, there is a nagging sense of guilt that accompanies the periods of time when we allow ourselves to be fully happy – because there’s always something else that we could or should be working on.
But the truth is, if we waited for all of our stars to align and for everything to fall perfectly into place for us before we allowed ourselves to feel content, we’d be waiting for the rest of our lives. So stop feeling guilty for enjoying your life as the imperfect person you are – it’s the only way to enjoy it at all.