I’m often asked why I’m smiling so much. It’s an ironically funny thing questioning the meaning of a smile. Who would want to question a natural sign of happiness? But at one point in my life happiness was not natural to me at all. In fact, I often questioned if I would ever feel it again or if I ever had. I would unconsciously force myself to smile because someone else was watching, as if I thought the pretence of being happy on the outside would fool another that I felt the same inside (apparently I thought wrong).
A smile was the easiest way to convince someone that I felt happy when I wasn’t. At times I did feel sad, however my main problem was not feeling sad but feeling nothing at all. I was desperate to experience any glimpse of emotion. It was as if I had already died and was wandering through life as a ghost; unable to feel and becoming invisible to those around me. On darker days, death even seemed preferable to what I made myself suffer. Somewhere inside I knew this was wrong but I continued to deny myself the ability to realise I was my own worst enemy.
For years I did not participate in anything which involved effort or other people. I preferred my emotionless state and frankly did not know what to say to other people because I could not comprehend what they felt. I even started to resent others for feeling emotions normally. I could not live in the moment because I wasn’t there. I had given up on myself. I will never forget how I let myself down and wasted my potential through years of apathy, making me forget completely who I was as a person. I knew nothing about myself but all I needed was someone to recognise something was wrong when I couldn’t see it myself. For me this was achieved through a fake smile. I began to realise just how much time I had wasted convincing others I was happy when I needed to make sure I was making that happen myself.
Throwing myself into activities I had once loved made me start to forget the habit of emotionlessness I had created since I began to know myself again. Finding meaning in my life became easier when I actually wanted to have it. Knowing I had the support of the people I loved gave me something to depend on and more importantly something to live for. Learning how to live again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. What I realise now is that, just like everyone else, I have a right to be here on this earth. A right to happiness and indeed other emotions along the way. I’ve come to find that the happiest moments I experience are always shared with other people. Going to your first events may be a daunting task, especially on your own, but it actually becomes far easier when you realise most people are in the same situation. Since being at university, I have found people have always greeted me with acceptance. Even if this was not the case, life is too short to waste on people who may judge you for who you are or even to pretend to be somebody else. Although it may be scary to bare myself to another person at first, if it creates the foundation for friendship and happiness I’m willing to face my fear.
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