The year that I was twenty years old, I went on a self-destructive rampage.
I’ll spare the specifics of what that spree entailed (Because my mom has the internet. Hi Mom), but the funny part about it was that I couldn’t figure out for the life of me where I was going wrong. From where I was standing, the constant stream of bad choices I was making were entirely circumstantial and largely unavoidable. I wanted to be happy, I just couldn’t get there (by no fault of my own!).
One night, after a particularly bad date with a particularly shitty guy, I found myself drunkenly crying on my best friend’s couch. “When do I get to be happy?” I sobbed at her, like the walking cliche that I was.
And she responded, with brilliant simplicity, “When you’re ready to be.”
It had never occurred to me, before that moment, that there are periods of our lives where we subconsciously don’t want to be happy. Times when our brains are wired towards chaos and self-destruction, because those things are easier to stomach than the realities we’d have to face up to (and move past) in order to get to the other side of pain. There are times when we’re simply not ready to do the hard work that it would take to find contentment in life. And so instead, we throw roadblocks in our own way and claim that they’re the reason we’re not getting anywhere.
Here are a few of the most common roadblocks that we subconsciously entertain when we just aren’t ready to be happy.
1. We chase unavailable people.
We usually chalk our love for unavailable people up to the thrill of the chase. But I suspect that if we’re ready to get brutally honest with ourselves, we mostly chase unavailable people because it gives our self-esteem an easy ‘out’ when things inevitably fall apart.
Chasing someone you know you can’t realistically have means not having to take a chance on a real relationship. One that might bring us actual happiness and fulfillment. Which we, of course, are not ready for.
2. We comfort ourselves with self-destructive habits.
We think that we’re downing the fourth pint glass, reaching the bottom of the ice cream tub or sleeping with that disrespectful asshole because it gives us a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But what if what we’re really doing is choosing these self-destructive habits because they’re very solid road blocks for real happiness?
As long as we keep ourselves moving down an unhealthy path, we’re able to hate ourselves for the choices that we keep (seemingly compulsively) making. And you know who LOVES to hate themselves? People who aren’t ready to be happy.
3. We become obsessed with self-improvement.
I’m not knocking self-improvement – in fact, I self-identify as a self-improvement junkie. It’s just that there’s a healthy and an unhealthy way to go about it.
Telling yourself, “I’m going to work everyday on becoming a better version of myself,” is healthy.
Telling yourself, “I don’t deserve love until I become a better version of myself” is unhealthy. And it’s nothing but a mental roadblock that we throw in our own way when we just aren’t ready to be happy yet.
4. We hate the people who have the lives we wish we had.
When we’re genuinely ready to be happy, we look for routes that will take us to wherever we need to go. We turn to others for guidance, and appreciate the help of those who are in the positions that we want to be in ourselves.
When we want to feel sorry for ourselves, we sit in a pool of our own misery and hate the people who are where we wish we were. We don’t look for stepping stones, we look for road blocks. Because stepping stones might take us to where we want to go. And then we might – gasp – accidentally encounter happiness once we get there.
5. We radically differentiate ourselves from those around us.
When we’re ready to be happy, we seek out connections with others and emphasize the ways in which we’re similar to – rather than different from – the people in our lives. When our minds are set on being unhappy, we find ways to distance ourselves from others at all costs.
We decide that the people around us couldn’t possibly understand us, and therefore we don’t give them the chance to even try. Because if we find out that they DO understand us on some level, we might accidentally form a connection. And be happy.
6. We focus all of our energy on staying strong and guarded.
There’s nothing wrong with emotional resilience. But when we choose it above all other possible emotions, we are blocking happiness out of our lives just as much as we are blocking out pain.
In the words of Brene Brown, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
That is to say, if we want to allow happiness into our lives, we have to also welcome pain, struggle and disappointment. We do not get one without the other – we just have to make the decision, at some point, that the pain and struggle is worth the eventual payoff.