How I Find Happiness: Managing Self-Doubt, Anxiety & Life’s Uncertainties

“Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.” – Audre Lorde

Since my return to Canada, one year ago, I’ve been working through a number of challenges as I re-establish myself after several years out of the country and off from work. The full-time job of finding a job can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, and the part that causes me the most anxiety is the unknowns. The pieces that haven’t quite come together and the uncertain outcome of it all. You meet people, write countless cover letters and resumes, interview if you get lucky and then…radio silence. Needless to say, job hunting sucks! On the bright side, I’m learning how to hone my cover letter and resume writing skills with each one I put out, and with every interview, I gain more confidence in presenting myself and conveying my skills and competence to hiring teams.

Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for me to find a balance while I navigate the treacherous and super competitive job landscape. I haven’t been as disciplined with my workouts and my writing is still not as consistent as I’d like it to be. It’s almost as if I have tunnel vision and haven’t figured out a way to prioritize the other things in my life that benefit my health and well being. Needless to say, this has led to frustration and feelings of failure. I’m human. It happens.

Despite this, I haven’t allowed these negative emotions to define or rule over me. I give myself permission to feel them but I don’t let myself marinate in them. If this were me ten years ago I would have been in a perpetual puddle of sad and distraught – But the way my personal growth is set-up, I truly am in a space where my ability to persevere and keep moving forward is at an all-time high. If that ain’t a glow-up I don’t know what is!

Below are the things I try to mindfully practice in order to work through my weaker moments when I’m feeling anxious, doubtful and like I’m not enough:

Let Go Of  Perfection

Letting go of what I think perfection should be or look like has really helped me through the process of finding work and purpose outside of motherhood. Oftentimes, we envision scenarios in our heads playing out a certain way and when it doesn’t happen the way it does in our minds it can throw us for a loop. I’m certainly guilty of this and it’s something I will likely always have to work on in most areas of my life. What I know for sure is that every outcome I’ve experienced has happened that way for a reason and as long as I trust the real-life process and not the fantasy in my head, I’ll be just fine.

In the words of the writer, author, professor, feminist, and best friend in my head – Roxane Gay:

Perfection isn’t the goal. Excellence is – and excellence can be imperfect. There is no quantifiable measure. 

Be In The Moment

Living in the moment has also been huge for me. The other day I went to a concert to see one of my favourite vocalists, Jill Scott perform – and in that space of time I was not thinking about my lack of a job and having to start my career from scratch, or how I was having a crap ‘Mom day’ at home with my daughter- I was thinking about how grateful I was to have the opportunity to see one of my fave singers perform live. I let myself enjoy the moment and it really offered me perspective on everything else going on. Life is still good despite the other challenges.

When I actively choose to be in the moment I’m living my life to it’s fullest. The present moments are the ones that matter most. I can’t do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. I only know about right now. And at that moment I chose to let go and enjoy what there was to enjoy.

Monitor Social Media Use

There are gazillion articles on the negative effects social media can have on our psyches and mental well-being due to the information overload and the perfectly edited lives of our friends, family, and celebrities. I’m sure my life on Instagram and Facebook appears to be pretty ideal to outsiders too. Afterall, I’m not sharing pictures of my 3-year-olds meltdown or my own meltdown at the end of a stressful day. I’m sharing the happy moments. The moments that include good angles, a cute outfit, and makeup. And that’s all well and good but it sure as hell ain’t the ENTIRE picture.

Nobody’s life is idyllic no matter how we curate it for social media. I think most of us understand that from an intellectual standpoint but we’re still guilty of buying into the illusions because we’re human. It can be even harder not to look at the lives of others online with envy when we’re going through our own challenges.

Over the years I’ve started intentionally following people and brands that make me feel good about being me. I also intentionally unfollow “friends”, celebrities, and brands that don’t fit with my outlook on life. The same way we curate and edit the images we let people see of ourselves on social media is the same way we can curate and edit what and who we expose ourselves to online as well.

Life is too short to pretend we don’t see an old university or high school friend’s racist or homophobic comments. I have zero tolerance for willful ignorance, and after years of turning the other cheek, because I didn’t want to come off as the overly sensitive Black girl, I’ve started removing ignorant people from my online spaces with a swiftness. In cases where I don’t want to unfriend or delete someone, I’ve simply removed them from my newsfeed. Sometimes it’s like that yo!

I also follow celebrities, writers, brands etc., that feed my soul and make me want to do better. My social media feed is a reflection of my passionate stance on social justice, my passionate love of life-affirming quotes and my passionate love of makeup and fashion.

I’ve also gone on Social Media “fasts”  logging off for several weeks at a time. It’s great to unplug and re-set once in a while. My brain gets a break from the non-stop information and images and my creativity tends to skyrocket.

Social Media can be overwhelming, but being more aware of its negative effects and ensuring that you monitor your use of it can go a long way in preserving your peace of mind and by extension allowing more happiness into your life.

Volunteer

I started volunteering at a non-profit several months ago and it has truly been a great source of happiness for me. Not only has it given me a sense of purpose, it has also allowed me to explore various interests in programming offered to vulnerable members of the community. I have an amazing supervisor who has encouraged me to utilize my existing skills and learn some new ones under her guidance.

Being able to help support my community through volunteer efforts has several benefits:

For a few days a week I can pull my head out of my own ass and focus on something and someone else other than myself.

I am exposed to the things going on in my community that I otherwise wouldn’t know about because I’m privileged enough not to have to deal with the day to day struggles of those that are underserved and marginalized in ways that I am not.

I have the opportunity to expand my skill set and work at keeping the skills I do have up to date. This is helpful when applying for paid positions.

I get to meet and talk to new people all the time.

I honestly believe that a lot of us could benefit from giving of ourselves more in ways that I can’t fully articulate in this post. Satisfaction and achievement in life don’t always need to come with a fancy title, popularity, or a paycheque attached to it. How we give of ourselves and can be of service to others when nobody is watching or praising us, is one of the keys to a life of absolute happiness. You can fight me on that.

Give Thanks

I have also been making more of a concerted effort to give thanks for any and every possible person and/or thing that brings light to my life and helps me get through my moments of uncertainty and self-doubt. I even give thanks for the obstacles because they strengthen, condition, and offer me lessons. Giving thanks has by far been the most transformative tool I’ve used in my life. Whenever I’m starting to get pulled into a negative mind state I know that I’m not saying Thank You enough.

How do you find your happiness during times of struggle?

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