Love, Life Stories

I used to think something was wrong with me for feeling this way – until the day everything changed

I used to spend so much time thinking I was the victim of my own life decisions.

A couple of months ago, I was going through a phase of pretty gloomy and down emotions. I just couldn’t put my finger on what was the cause.

So one day, as I was sitting outside the library, I had an urge to go walk over to a bookstore and start reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson. I had heard great things about this book so I decided to trust my intuition and go check it out. I was already feeling like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, so thought I might as well give it a chance.

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As soon as I began reading, I felt this huge sense of relief. I started having little epiphanies. The first wake up call I received was this:

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Woah.

This was the reason I was having so much anxiety and discontentment! Because I was anxious about being anxious which made me even more anxious. I had unknowingly been trying so hard to be happy that I ended up making myself miserable in the process.

As I continued reading, it hit me that the majority of my negative feelings were completely valid.

I was about to start a new chapter in my life (grad school), so any person in my situation would be at least a little bit nervous. I had also just gotten back from Pakistan, where I was constantly surrounded by family, so being back in America made me feel very lonely.

I realized that most of the time when I feel nervous, sad, or afraid, it’s not because there’s something wrong with me; I have legitimate reasons for those feelings. It’s easy to forget though, as society tells you to slap a smile on your face no matter what you’re going through. But that just causes more issues than actually acknowledging where you’re at, to begin with.

Another realization I had was how much time I used to wallow in self-pity. Boo hoo, poor me has to deal with all this stuff, nobody understands what I feel etc.

For instance, last December, my whole family reunited in Pakistan last year, and I was the only one missing. I didn’t go because I wanted to work on my grad school applications and personal statements.

I felt extreme FOMO. I would see Snapchat stories of people having a blast while I was struggling to work on my work. However, now I am so glad that I prioritized my future goals over short term pleasure.

Mark reminded me that there is really no need to feel sorry for myself.

Who decided to go to grad school? Me. Who wants to become a super skillful counselor and help students? Me. Who decided to apply for this Editorial Fellowship and write five articles a week? That’s right—Me! So there’s really no need to complain and be so whiny. There’s a difference between acknowledging your stress and simply wallowing in it.

Here’s the truth: Nobody forced me to make any of my decisions.

So now, whenever I find myself in victim mode in the story I’ve made up in my head, I remind myself that I am the boss of me. I can quit anytime I want to. But I won’t because I want to live according to my values.

No matter what I do, the ball is always in my court.

It’s empowering when you remember that you’re in charge of your life. There comes a point when you just have to quit blaming your circumstances for your unhappiness.

It’s time to take ownership of the only thing I do have control over in life: myself.