Who am I when I’m happy?
It’s a question that had been on my mind a lot.
You see, on the 15th of August 2021, I realised I had pretty much everything I wanted in life. London was being oh so very good to me, I had settled into city life and felt over the moon with my new location and friendships. Work projects were great and lead-gen was consistently picking up again after the Covid-19 pandemic all but destroyed it, and I had an exciting romance on the horizon.
Everything was good.
Yet I felt completely out of my depth and I couldn’t put my finger on why.
I had no complaints. I’d wanted to live in London since 2014 and had finally made it happen. I loved my life and was excited by both my present and my future. Yet it all felt a little too good. Like at any moment things were going to collapse or fall to ruin. I felt anxious and uneasy and as a result, I couldn’t focus. This next sentence is so ridiculous, I can’t believe I’m actually about to write it, let alone publish it on this blog, but here goes… Happiness got so stressful for me, I needed to message my therapist.
I told you, utterly ridiculous.
But I felt so confused by all the feels I knew I needed to contact her. She had seen me at my absolute worst when she helped me navigate the heartbreak of being cheated on after an 11-year relationship, she had coached me through unresolved trauma and helped me reignite my spark—and she was a champion at calling me out on my shit. I hadn’t spoken to her since moving to London as I was in such a great place and on our last call we realised we had nothing to speak about and parted ways with a “You know where I am if you need me.”
And that day, I needed her.
So I sent her a message and the next day, she gave me a call. When I was done filling her in on life post-therapy, how happy I was and how it was turning me into an emotional wreck, she took a moment before saying “Amy, you deserve this.”
Her words broke through the barrier I didn’t know I had and I burst out crying. Like literal ugly sob crying. It’s hilarious to look back on, but at the time it was not so hilarious to feel. However, it was revolutionary, because somewhere along the way of living my life I forgot that I deserved to have good things happen to me. Throughout my 20s I had almost always compromised myself in some way. Some unspoken fear of being deemed selfish and unsupportive of others meant that I put my wants, my needs and my desires second. Which meant that I compromised on the things I wanted in life assuming that they’d happen next. But soon “next” became “someday” and “someday” became “not happening”, and it wasn’t until a solo trip to San Francisco when 4 am jetlag gave me nothing to do but snack and think, I got brave enough to ask myself, who was being selfless and supporting of me? Who was putting me first?
The sad answer is that nobody was, because that’s my job.
But I can only see that now because some serious hours of self-reflection and a good therapist have helped me to become a huge advocate for myself. But back then I wasn’t. Not even close. Back then I had terrible boundaries and, if I’m being completely honest with myself, self-worth. And so after my therapist said those words it shocked me. But it also opened my eyes to what I was going through at that moment. Because it dawned on me that nothing I had wanted in life previously had ever come easy—and my body didn’t know how to cope when it wasn’t struggling for something, because it wasn’t something I’d ever experienced.
I don’t mean for that to come off in a “woe is me, life is so hard” type of way, I know we all have our struggles. But for me, everything I’ve obtained has always required a significant amount of work: whether it was family, friendships, relationships, career, or needs being met. Which meant that having (almost) everything I’d ever wanted come into my life with ease, completely threw me. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I couldn’t trust it without “earning” it and so my body and mind didn’t feel comfortable, it felt like it was in uncharted territory and that triggered my fight or flight response.
I mean how messed up is that? I was so happy with my life that I panicked and my default setting was to try and self-sabotage and run away from the things (that I wanted!) which caused me to feel that way. Yeah… I’m sure you can see why I needed a therapist for this now!
We spent some time working through this and realised that my next area of focus should be figuring out who I am when I’m happy. What do I need when I’m not triggered, or fighting to meet my basic requirements? What do I want next?
I sat there, feeling cathartic after a good conversational cry and the realisation that I wasn’t broken, just triggered and realised I didn’t have a clue how to answer. I didn’t know what came next. At that point I had dedicated a year to myself, acting on my wants, my needs, discovering my weaknesses and my dreams—and I had ticked most of them off and was on top of the world. Albeit emotionally.
But what comes after your immediate checklist is completed?
I had no clue. Because I had the things I wanted. London was being oh so very good to me, I had settled into city life and felt over the moon with my new location and friendships. Work projects were great and lead-gen was consistently picking up again after the Covid-19 pandemic all but destroyed it, and I had an exciting romance on the horizon.
I was content. There wasn’t anything more that I wanted to chase. Which felt so weird because I’d always been chasing something. Whether it was travel, a job, a new career, or a monetary amount so that I could move to the big city. I had always had something to focus on and that something gave me direction. So being still, happy, and content without compromise, was a whole new feeling for me. And if I’m being ridiculously honest, it left me questioning who I was when I had nothing to prove. Because the problem with negativity, no matter how small, is that it’s very motivating.
At least it was for me. Because negativity made me determined to change things. Negative bank balance? You bet I’m going to work hard to change it. Negative work environment? You bet I’m going to leave and find something better. Negative energy? You bet I’m going to switch it up and find higher vibrations. Negativity had always been the catalyst of change for me. With it, I became more focused, determined, ambitious and driven. It was like fuel. Which is the problem. Because when the negative emotions went away, so did the fuel.
Apparently, it’s pretty common. When you’re happy you tend to feel safe, secure and familiar and those signals mean little effort is needed to change things. But sadness? Well, sadness is more like a siren, it’s blaring and loud and makes you sit up and take notice.
So who am I and what do I want when I’m happy?
I’ll be honest, I’m still figuring that part out. But here’s what I’ve learnt in the year and a half that’s passed since that conversation:
Re-learning who you are when you’re happy is SO much fun
Trying new things, saying yes and letting go—trusting the process and embracing whatever comes next is so much easier and more enjoyable when you’re not operating from a place of fear.
You need to take time out to discover what brings you joy
It can feel selfish to take time and learn what you enjoy, especially if you have a lot of commitments and feel like you’re always on the go. But it’s crucial to remind yourself that you deserve good things in life and that it’s okay to prioritise your wants and needs. We all need a little “me” time to show up as our best selves. For me, adventure, community and creativity fuel my joy—and when I embrace them, I’m a much nicer, happier and funnier person to be around.
Self-sabotage is a sneaky little thing
It’s important to recognize when you’re sabotaging yourself, but let’s be real. Sometimes you don’t see it creeping up on you until after the fact. But getting to know yourself deeply (and honestly!) can help you recognise the behaviours and thought patterns that work their way in and try and prevent you from leaving your comfort zone. Which is crucial if you want to level up.
Just because something is easy doesn’t make it less worth it
We’re equipped to believe that good things come to those who earn them. And to a degree, that’s true. But certain things in life just work out. Some call it manifesting, others call it the law of attraction—or if you’re on Tiktok there’s a whole genre dedicated to it under “lucky girl syndrome”. But one thing is for sure: when things start working out in your favour; don’t doubt it. Lean in. Enjoy it. And know that you deserve it!