Have you ever had someone say to you ” Make yourself happy”? Usually it is said after a disagreement or some type of conflict. Rarely is it said in a neutral tone, am I right? So, lets talk about making ourselves happy, cause it is a bit more complicated then it should be. ( Note: this is the first post in a two part series about finding happiness for middle age women).
Does it seem hard to make yourself happy? Many of us would answer yes to that question. Let’s go even further back, why is it difficult to allow yourself to be happy? Happiness is uniquely defined by each individual, but for some women, happiness is like catching soap bubbles with a baseball mitt. Awkward and close to impossible.
Do You Know How To Make Yourself Happy?
Question: Why does it seem like women are experts in making everyone happy, except themselves? We are born with a magic happiness wand that we are compelled to wave over our loved ones, our co-workers, the people in our neighborhood… you get the idea. But somehow that happiness wand runs out of fairy dust when we pick it up for ourselves.
As a midlife woman, do you wonder how to make yourself happy? Do you feel like you lost your way to self-fulfillment and joy? Most of my earlier life, I was convinced that happiness was not for me. In fact, I used to say it was more important to be holy than happy.
Somehow, I had taken in the message that I couldn’t be a good person, and a happy person. Making myself happy somehow made me spiritually suspect. I mean, I really had some stuff to sort out, right?
Earlier in my life I was seriously unhappy. And it showed. In my weight, in my attitude and in my finances. Overweight, in debt and simmering with unexpressed anger at my former spouse, my body, mind and thoughts were a thick shit stew. Yup, you read that right, a pot of poop soup! Dark, nasty and a mess that no one wanted to clean up, especially me.
Sacrificing On The Happiness Altar
Circumstances and choices had convinced me that price tag of others happiness was my unhappiness. Their happiness > my happiness. That is some messed up stuff ya’ll! I had backed myself into a tight corner of miserable. When I thought about getting out of that tight corner, I had an automatic default of reasons and excuses to keep me in that space. My mindset was based in fear and regret, not strength and personal power (does this sounds familiar to someone?).
And then, at the edge of a health crisis, I was forced to change. I had to address my physical issues before I ended up in a long-term health battle. The short story is I slowly made changes, first to lose weight, and then I began a long wandering journey toward happiness. And frankly, I had an easier time losing weight than changing my self-defeating emotional mindset!
Are Women Wired to Live Lesser Lives?
At this point in human history, we know about the social conditioning that women undergo as a response to their gender. To be fair, men have social conditioning as well. Most men were raised with the limiting belief that boys don’t cry, and as a result we have generations of men that don’t show emotion. Thankfully, that is slowly changing in our Western culture.
Research show us that women are more influenced by the perceived needs in relationships. Ladies will often take action to keep the peace, provide stability or support their loved ones at the expense of their emotional and physical well-being. Being a connected and supportive mom is a gift to your family, but we tend to deny our needs to serve those around us.
This genetic/conditioned response is super handy when you are raising kids. Studies show the more responsive the parent, the healthier the child. Called Attachment Theory; it can help us understand our emotional responses to security and love. Parental responsiveness and the resulting security of the child is a complex issue. Read this for a basic understanding on attachment theory, it is fascinating stuff!
But Your Kids Are Grown And You Still Don’t Know How To Make Yourself Happy
Although attachment theory is great, and it does help with parenting styles, we need to focus on finding the freedom to make yourself happy. This can be even more difficult if you grew up in a spiritual environment that taught you to put others above yourself.
Often spiritual people can get mixed up when they focus on serving others at the expense of their own preferences. Caught in the sticky bind of biology, gender conditioning and spiritual messaging it is no surprise that our happy tanks are empty.
Okay, the simple psychology lesson is over, how do we begin to take steps to make ourselves happy?
The first step is this: Give yourself permission to be happy.
This is so basic, and yet that is the very reason we struggle with it. As women, we are conditioned to look around us and gauge the level of happy in other people. If we perceive they are lacking happy, we feel compelled to fix it. In the effort to help create their happy, we run out of energy, time and emotions to make ourselves happy.
Do you feel me?
And more importantly, do you see this pattern of self-neglect in your life? There is another potential reason it might be hard to choose to make yourself happy. It is called co-dependency, and it can be an invisible, yet rigid set of behaviors.
Co-dependency Can Affect Your Happiness
Sometimes behavior that is super focused on others is known as co-dependency. Usually a person who struggles with co-dependency has been raised in a home that had secrets, often hidden parental addictions. They learn to please others to stay safe and get their needs met.
Maybe you were raised in an environment where it was required to focus all the emotional attention on a family member who had a mental disorder or was very demanding. As a result, it feels normal to spend all your emotional energy trying to fix other people’s problems. The problem is you have been trained to ignore your own emotional needs.
Okay, Enough Psycho Babble…
It is possible that you are co-dependent. But it is even more likely, as a woman, you have absorbed the message that your highest function is to serve/help/support others. And at times, that is the role of your highest self, to offer time and energy for the betterment of others. When you are in a balanced partnership, there will be seasons of extra giving and greater effort on both spouses. Balance is the key word in a healthy family dynamic
The danger is very real when over functioning becomes your Operating System. On the next blog post we will talk about the inner emotional core of over functioning in women.
Your Homework to Find Happy
Until then, I want you to make a micro decision today. Choose something small to “gift” to yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The most expensive coffee at your favorite drive through
- The pricey, high gloss magazine that is full of your favorite things
- Expensive, cuddly spa socks
- A blow out
- New trendy lip color ( if you are fancy like that)
The price of the item isn’t the point for this exercise, the point to is make a micro move toward self-reward.
Email me or DM me on Instagram and share your micro move with me! Don’t forget to come back to read the second part of this series.
Remember, helping you love your life matters to me.