Why Am I Afraid To Be Happy?
Is it possible to have a fear of happiness? It sounds bananas, but many people find it hard to choose happiness.
For middle age women, choosing happiness can often feel painful. Putting our needs first feels like we are hurting our families and those that rely on us.
As a trained Marriage and Family Therapist, I think it’s so important for women to learn how to choose happiness. Being afraid to allow yourself happiness limits your life in so many ways!
You Might Need A Plan To Choose Happiness
If you feel like you are afraid to be happy, I want to help you get over that fear. Being afraid to be happy can be a complex situation, but I have strategies that will help you move forward!
It’s normal for women our age to realize that they might be afraid to choose happiness. Let’s explore some common reasons we can be disconnected from our own emotions and simple ways to change it.
It’s Easy For Us To Help Others Be Happy
In an earlier article, I challenged you with an assignment to do something nice for yourself. A micro decision to buy something for yourself. Not for your daughter, or your sister, or even your amazing bestie who could really- use- a- surprise- because- she has- had- such -a -hard -time- with- her- new puppy- that- she- bought- to avoid- dealing -with- her- feelings- about -her- kids- leaving- home.
Nope, not even her.
I hope you gave yourself permission to carefully think about what would please you, and then you took action to gift yourself something unique and lovely. In short, I asked you to practice choosing happiness.
Where Does The Fear Of Happiness Begin?
Fear of happiness often stems from a deep-seated belief that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
We may think that if we allow ourselves to be truly happy—to let down our guard and believe in the possibility of good things happening—then we might somehow jinx it and make bad things happen! This fear can be hard to shake as it has been reinforced over years or even decades by negative experiences or messages from others.
Being Afraid To Be Happy Is A Learned Behavior
Okay, buckle up, we are headed into the tunnel of love! Self-love that is! Let’s figure out where you learned to deny your feelings and be afraid of happiness. Remember, all feelings are valid, but some feelings are not factual!
Say it with me: Feelings are valid, but they are not facts.
My Story: I Was Super Cranky Until I Remembered This One Thing
Recently, I was feeling taken advantage of and unfulfilled. Convinced that I had to DO ALL THE THINGS or else they WOULDN’T GET DONE (sound familiar?) I was a bit resentful and a whole lot of cranky.
After having a lively discussion with my husband, he reminded me that I had the right to choose to spend our resources on what makes me happy.
Technically I already knew that, but hearing him remind me of the freedom I had to choose my happiness was super helpful and empowering!
We Can Get Stuck In Cycles Of Unhappiness
Sometimes I return to my earlier, unhealthy mindset of needing permission to choose happiness for myself. I get all bunched up and frankly a bit bitchy, as I pile perceived expectations on myself. Truthfully, I do know better, and I am working hard to keep choosing the freedom of happiness.
Freedom Over Fear- Understanding How Fear Of Happiness Begins
Freedom begins when we realize that many of our emotional responses are pre-set or were molded early in our childhood. Once we have identified our thinking patterns, it is much easier to let go of responses that were needed to protect us. Cognitively we know that we are adult women, but some of our responses are still originating from our childhood.
Fear Of Happiness Can Have Many Reasons
It is also important to understand that fear of happiness often masks other fears such as fear of failure, success, or rejection. It can also be a way for us to protect ourselves from getting hurt again; if we don’t get attached to something, then it won’t hurt when it goes away.
The first step in overcoming your fear of happiness is recognizing that you have it in the first place. Once you have identified your fear, take steps to challenge and reframe your thoughts. Ask yourself “What evidence do I have that my worst fears will come true?” This will help you identify any logical fallacies in your thinking and break out of your cycle of worry.
Taking Small Steps Toward Happiness
Next, focus on taking small steps towards being comfortable with happiness instead of avoiding situations where you would feel happy or content.
Start by consciously practicing gratitude for small moments throughout the day—even if they are brief or simple moments like enjoying a cup of coffee or listening to music—and build up from there until you feel more confident about allowing yourself to experience joy for longer periods at a time.
Finally, surround yourself with people who lift you up and provide positive support as much as possible; having a strong support system around you makes facing your fears much easier!
So How Do We Choose Happiness?
Remember, giving yourself permission to be happy is a mindset that you can choose! Negative mindsets often hide behind the voices of other people. You know, the voices in our head that warn us about upsetting our mom or disappointing our partner. Mindset is an odd thing; it is rigid and yet invisible.
But the most important thing to know is that mindset can be changed. You are not doomed to live disconnected from happiness! Desiring to change your mind is easy, making the change is the more difficult part. Why is it so difficult to commit to healthy change?
Maybe You Are Stuck In People Pleasing Due To Fear
There are so many things that can clog up the pipeline to personal change! Truthfully, most of it is based in fear. We have fear of the potential immediate pain and we have projected fear into the future unknown. And for some of us, choosing happiness was not encouraged or allowed in our early emotional education.
What Makes A People Pleaser?
One of the most common motivations behind people-pleasing behavior is a fear of rejection and abandonment. People pleasers want to ensure that they are accepted by others, so they go out of their way to make sure that those around them are happy.
This can manifest in different ways, such as always saying yes when asked for help or going out of their way to make others feel comfortable. The fear of being rejected or abandoned can lead people-pleasers, to prioritize other’s needs above their own in order to avoid potential negative consequences.
At One Point, Fear Was Your Friend
Fear serves us well when we are small children learning about the world. Some of the most important physical boundaries we carry into adulthood are based on an early fear experience. Aggressive dogs, speeding cars, and hot stoves are all lessons based in fear. That is healthy fear, uncomfortable to learn but vital for long-term safety.
But sometimes healthy fear turns into unhealthy fear. Instead of protecting our bodies, fear starts to boss around our thoughts and our dreams. Fear is like a dictator; it will take absolute control of your life if you let it! So often, we are unaware that fear is our operating system, and as a result, we allow our world to narrow.
People Pleasing Can Prevent Your Happiness
So when we feel like we need to people please or self-betray we are letting fear control our lives. At some point in our lives, we have evidence that asserting ourselves resulted in the withdrawal of love, community, or needs going unmet.
The Need for Approval Can Impact Your Happiness
Another factor motivating people pleasers is the need for approval. People pleasers often seek external validation from those around them in order to feel validated and accepted. They may be overly eager to please so that they can receive positive feedback from friends and family members. This desire for approval can also lead people pleasers to put too much emphasis on what others think about them rather than considering their own needs.
Low Self Esteem Can Affect Your Happiness
People-pleasing behaviors are also often driven by low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem often view themselves as inadequate and unsuccessful, leading them to go out of their way in an attempt to gain recognition from those around them.
Those with low self-esteem may also seek reassurance from others in order to boost their confidence, which can lead them down a dangerous path of relying on external validation rather than feeling secure in themselves.
Stop People Pleasing To Increase Your Happiness
When you were a child, you relied on others for comfort, care, and protection. But now you are an adult. And you are safe to ask for what you want. You can get what you need from people, resources, and your inner self.
To be happy, you must act confront fear and break its stronghold on your behavior.
Understanding why we are motivated by people-pleasing behavior is important if we want to learn how to stop it and start taking care of ourselves first.
Choosing Happiness Takes Practice
While it is natural and normal for us all to want acceptance and appreciation from our loved ones, it’s important that these desires don’t become overwhelming or cause us harm in the long run.
It takes practice, but learning how to balance our own needs with the needs of those around us can help us break free from our people-pleasing habits and have healthier relationships with everyone in our lives.
Now That The Fear Is Exposed, What Do I Do Next?
The short answer is to choose what makes you happy. Pretend like you are picking out a gift for someone you love very much. Developing self-love takes time and effort, but giving yourself permission to choose happiness and leave fear behind.
You spend time, money, and energy thinking about the gift, purchasing the gift, and then planning the actual giving of the gift. Use those same skills to identify and take a first step into making yourself happy in a way that is intentional and shame-free.
Give Yourself The Gift Of Happiness
Identify what makes you happy. Put in the effort to buy, schedule or arrange for your happiness. Plan to enjoy your happiness as a regular part of your life. Try writing affirmations to help you choose happiness without feeling guilt or shame for taking care of your emotional needs.
If you are a mom or wife, sometimes we hide behind the needs/demands of family, even when we are trying to encourage ourselves.
I wrote these affirmations to help you step into your needs while acknowledging that you are a nurturer and caregiver for others in your life.
Try These Simple Affirmations To Help You Choose Happiness
- · Just like I love to make other people feel special, I love to make myself feel special. ·
- I have the energy to create happiness for myself.
- · I will choose my happiness as often as I am able.
- · I will allow and expect those close to me to encourage my happiness.
- · I can use my resources (time, money, energy) to create my happiness.
- · We will honor the need for happiness in this house.
- · Happiness is part of a balanced, healthy life.
- · I am committed to modeling happiness for my children.
Finding happiness can be an intimidating challenge, but it is possible. Happiness often lies outside of our comfort zone and we must have the courage to move beyond it to find our deepest joy. As adult women, we know that people pleasing can be a stubborn barrier to choosing happiness, but taking the time to focus on ourselves can help us break through these challenges.
Remember, it’s so important that we stay mindful of healthy boundaries when caring for others. It is up to us to take steps to prioritize our own needs and wants. Let’s not forget that fear of happiness is common but with a little bit of self-awareness, we can solve this problem!
Don’t Give Up On Choosing Happiness
I know that creating and choosing happiness can be a complicated topic for women. Remember, nothing changes until something changes! I am cheering you on as you take micro steps toward your happiness. It is never too late to give yourself permission to live a healthy, whole, and balanced life.
Now it’s your turn – how have you overcome the fear of happiness? Share your story in the comment section below!
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.