Afraid to Be Happy: How I’m Overcoming My Biggest Fear (and Free Wall Art Download!)

My biggest fear is happiness. It sounds absurd, and in no way can I convince you otherwise, but you might have the same problem as I do.

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It seems the monster under my bed from when I was a child—the thing that caused me to never sleep with my feet uncovered—has morphed into a recognizable face. I will admit now, despite my strength of advice in this article, it is still a fear I am trying to overcome. I have yet to kick this monster out of my home, but at the very least, I have convinced them to pay rent.

Perhaps you're like me and have this dilemma: something good—even excellent—happens, and you're plunged into a state of anxiety knowing that the "bad is coming" in the same way winter does in Game of Thrones. It's an impending feeling, knowing this high in your life won't last. Why would it? You look back at your history of events; family, friends, relationships, jobs, and living situations have all changed and endured hardship. Personally, it's the reason I avoid relationships, platonic and romantic, like they’re the plague. I'm going to invest my heart in something, and it's destined to end.

As a child, I had a lot of things turn in the other direction. I experienced a lot of loss in friendships and family, and all in the process of moving geographically. I distinctly remember being at the end of sixth grade; it was summer, and we were all in rejoice about the end of the school year. The smell of barbecue and music played in the courtyard of the school, but I sat on the swing staring at my Crocs instead of playing kickball. Yes, I was that kid. To my happiness and fear, I was moving schools again, and I made a decision, "I'll stay focused on my goal." At the time, my goal was to be the best student I could be and to be kind to everyone. But I wouldn't allow myself close friendship—no birthdays, no sleepovers, not a lot of Gmail message (our form of texting then). I was cut off.

Fast forward to last summer, nineteen years old; my young self seemed to have upheld that goal successfully. I had enough close friends to count on one hand, and I conversed with many older than me, yet avoided the social scenes. My fear of being happy was at an all-time high, after what I had endured in high school and the worsening of my mental health. I walked through life on thin ice and eventually turned to medication as I was consumed in uncertainty.

Free Wall Art! Download printable PDF below.

Free Wall Art! Download printable PDF below.

It turns out I needed to be pushed to my breaking point to realize a few key points. I suddenly understood that free will is our greatest gift, and so is the unknowing. The best states of happiness in my life was derived from the bad; lessons and connections with new people. But here is the super important thing: you need to learn that you will be alright if you're alone. You will continue to live life, push forward, and get through the good, bad, and ugly. Because guess what? There will come a time when your friends may walk away, you leave a community you know, or someone passes in your life. 

I was sitting in the John F. Kennedy airport at five in the morning with white knuckles, gripping my phone and unable to sit still. My mom had an unexpected health scare, and all I could feel was pulsing anxiety for days. I am very fortunate to say my mom is my best friend; I can't imagine a life without her; I don't even want to try. With the phone pressed to my ear, we had a conversation that made me realize the objective of walking alone. I remember saying, "I have to learn how to do this. I don't have to think about it all the time, but I need to trust myself that I'll be able to survive, in the worst of it all. I'll be able to wake up every day and be alright with it just being me for a period of time—because I will lose. I can't change that. But I can promise myself that I will endure the temporary.”

I created this free poster, something you can print, hang, or share wherever you like! It’s the ten steps that I accumulated to live a happier life, day in and day out—how I’m slowly fighting this inner-fear. 

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Written and Graphic Designed by Sarah McKinnon. 2019.

Edited by Brittni Roberts

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