When You Feel You Don’t Deserve to Be Happy

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Consciously or unconsciously, our past can undermine our present happiness.

Life, freedom, and pursuing happiness – we all know these words from the Declaration of Independence, but many people gave up this quest long ago. Some may mark the day and time when their vision of life and themselves have changed.

But for many others, the moments are less defined. Instead, the belief that they are not worthy of happiness is present, actively but subtly sabotaging any attempt to be happy. Thus, they struggle with low-level but chronic depression, or never go beyond a first date, or talk about their passions but never pursue them fully. Or they live in a constant state of anxiety, even if they can’t identify the source. Whether their beliefs about them are conscious, the result is the same: an erosion of their lives.

Here are some common sources of self-sabotage:

Past sins

Here, people look back on their lives and see only what they did wrong, the people they hurt. Their lives are a chronicle of destruction and sadness; guilt and regret are their primary emotions. Their unhappiness is a penance that they pay forever.

The survivor’s guilt

Elvis Presley’s twin brother died shortly after his birth, and it is said that Elvis was always haunted by guilt for surviving and his twin brother was not. The guilt of this survivor is also what probably afflicts this Secret Service agent, those who have survived a plane crash when others have not, or the first survivors who think they have not done enough to save a victim. It is guilt often loaded with a high dose of post-traumatic stress.

A trauma

I have met women who were sexually abused as children, who came out of that trauma thinking they were “dirty. “And because they thought they were, they felt unworthy to have their own children.

The trauma of childhood leaves not only emotional scars, it leaves the child with a distorted view of themselves; they live with self-blame, with the fear of reproducing those wounds, with a vision of a world forever dangerous, obscuring all feelings of happiness.

Parents’ anxiety

“A parent never stops worrying about their child. “Many parents feel this way because parenting doesn’t stop at age 18. Their worries, sometimes guilt, and feelings of powerlessness can become a burden on their daily lives.

Poor self-image

Those who are constantly self-critical – those who are perfectionists, determined, come from a critical or abusive childhood and are stuck at the bottom of a well with little or no way out. If happiness is based on who you are, and who you are is based on what you do, and if everything has to be perfect, then your successes are rare. Although you may try for a while to reach the target, over time you may realize that you can’t. All you are left with is that angry voice in your head reminding you always screw up, that you are a loser, that you will never be good enough, a recipe for chronic unhappiness.

Feeling guilty for being happy

“I feel guilty if I laugh about something or if I suddenly feel in a good mood. I’ve been depressed and sad for so long that if I don’t keep going, I’m afraid it will look like I’m lying to myself and my loved ones. »

When your unhappiness has become your new daily life, your view of yourself, and what you present to others, it can confuse and unsettling not to feel this even for short periods of time. You can’t afford to savor or build on those happy moments because you automatically feel guilty and anxious.

Deserving Happiness

What makes you think you don’t deserve happiness are the underlying wounds of the past or present that continue to become infected? Here are some suggestions to heal the past and present, and accepting happiness in your life:

Make amends

If there is regret, guilt, or injury that haunts you and undermines your happiness, you can put an end to it, to get some peace. You can send a letter to someone you know has been hurt, you can apologize for your mistakes, etc. And if the other person is not reachable, write the letter anyway; create a closing ceremony, an act of contrition that acknowledges what happened but also allows you to recognize that it is now over.

Realize that you did the best you could.

Yes, it can be a hard pill to swallow. It’s because you think you haven’t done the best you could – in the past, with your children – that you now feel anxiety. While you can’t directly change what you feel, you can change what you think, and the key here is to think you did the best you could. Your self-criticism comes from your emotional mind looking at the past through the lens of the present. But like all of us, you did the best you could give your age, perhaps, and your more limited experience and coping skills.

Yes, it will take time and hard work. You need to practice thinking and telling yourself that. No, you won’t feel better right away, but in time you can change the story you’ve been telling yourself for so long.

Resolve your trauma

It is time to heal the wound and put an end to these past events. Trauma often manifests itself in layers, and it is helpful to see a therapist who can help you through this healing process without feeling overwhelmed.

Work directly on your self-criticism

Your head always tells you that what you did or didn’t do is the problem, and the only way to solve the problem is to try again. But the real problem is not your repeated “failures”, but the process of self-attack that runs and ruins your life. Here, as with trauma, the help of a therapist can teach you how to rewrite these thought patterns.

Treat your anxiety and/or depression directly

This can be difficult to untangle. If your thoughts about events come and go, explore what triggers those thoughts or memories that day: stress, worry. Here, you use your thoughts about the past as red flags, letting you know that there is something wrong there and that you need to pay attention. If these thoughts and feelings seem to come with a more consistent depressed or anxious mood, it could be a symptom of an underlying disorder. Here you can talk to your doctor and see if your thoughts change as your mood improves.

Learn from your life lessons

What these sources have in common is that they are all stuck – in the past, in the present – in emotions and ways of thinking are just recycling themselves. Deliberately thinking differently, turning the page, and resolving a trauma can all help you reconnect these long-standing brain circuits? But behavioral action can also help.

Here, for example, victims of abuse volunteer or have jobs that help other victims of abuse. This is where people make a commitment to change their values and priorities so that their relationships with themselves and with others are more compassionate. You too can change your actions. You too can change your belief, consciously or unconsciously, that you don’t deserve to be happy.

Happiness is a by-product of a fully lived life, a life based on self-care and forgiveness that can come with new intentions, deliberate action, and support.

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