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1. You let yourself be afraid of happiness. Whenever it came near you, whenever you sensed it inside you, you drowned within the strange human tendency to panic over what might ruin your happiness or what would make it go away or what might possibly go wrong now that you were happy – instead of just giving yourself a break. And breathing the goodness in. And letting yourself feel nothing but that sweet happiness, even if it was just for a week or a day or a moment.
2. You became preoccupied with a worthless and arbitrary timeline – a timeline in which you were supposed to be married by this age or the parent of two kids by this age or making the same amount of money that your older sibling made at this age.
3. And the issue is not that you felt stress and pressure from these timelines that are constantly and invisibly emphasized by society – that’s a very normal and human thing to worry about. The problem is that you let this worry consume you; that instead of acknowledging the worry and anxiety and then learning how to keep living your life around it and doing things anyway, you let your brain spend all of its free time and energy focusing on how everyone else your age was specifically doing better than you in every single category possible.
4. You put up with friends who weren’t good friends. Friends who took you for granted and who only talked to you when they needed you and who never tried to be people you could rely on – you continued to put up with them instead of just walking away and saving your energy for those more deserving.
5. You spent time with people who you couldn’t be yourself around, because you thought it was the only polite option.
6. And you forgot that it’s also polite to say “thanks anyway, have fun” and then to go somewhere else to be with weirder people who love you for all of the weird that lives within you.
7. You didn’t ask for help, especially from those people who you knew would have had your back. Because you were embarrassed or prideful or simply because you didn’t want to “burden” them. You swallowed your problems whole and then lived alone inside of them, instead of remembering that those who love us most would drop anything to help us.
8. You treated your body poorly. Too much drinking or smoking or not enough healthy eating or too little exercise or Ubering when you could have walked or not stopping to take care of yourself when you got sick.
9. You looked at your lack of sleep and your constant exhaustion as a measuring tool that proved how dedicated you were to your work, rather than looking at it as a warning sign that your body needed help and rest and care.
10. You blamed yourself or made yourself feel guilty for the things you couldn’t control – anxiety or depression or other people’s bad behavior or anything else that you let consume you with guilt even though it was outside of your control.
11. You looked for temporary distractions, rather than long-term healing solutions, every time you felt unhappy or unfulfilled or inadequate or anxious or worthless.
12. You spent money you didn’t have on expensive drinks you didn’t want just to hang out with people you didn’t like.
13. You let anger linger. Bad drivers, rude people at work, unnecessarily long lines – your initial irritation with these annoyances and these people was always normal and understandable and okay. But clinging to the frustration long after the incident had passed is the thing that always messes with all of us – the anger and self-righteousness that ignite inside us feel intense and good, so we hold onto it, even though that satisfaction always fizzles very quickly, leaving only an ugly simmering heaviness in its wake.
14. You thought only of the past or the future, without ever giving yourself a chance to sit there and think about just how alive you were in that very moment.
15. You swam constantly in the guilt and shame of your past mistakes. And not in the way where you healthily and maturely reflected and analyzed what you would do differently now – you did it in a way where the only point of the process was to make yourself feel miserable and sad, just because your ego was hungry to feast on something anxiety-inducing and you indulged it even though you knew you didn’t want to.
16. You let other people tell you why you could or couldn’t love yourself, forgetting that that permission belongs 100% to you and only you.
17. You only handled social media in extremes. Either you swore it off completely and deactivated your accounts forever (which typically meant a week or month) or you dove fully into the black hole of it all and let yourself be inundated with it 24/7. You went for one extreme even though in reality, sometimes it’s healthiest for us to just acknowledge and confront the addictive and here-to-stay nature of social media, and then to use it as consciously and responsibly as we can – knowing that sometimes we’ll have weeks where we’ll be great at handling it and sometimes we’ll have weeks where we’ll be terrible at handling it and that either way it’s okay as long as we keep trying.
18. You held onto things you didn’t need to hold onto. Grudges, bad choices, exes, past mistakes, clothes you never wore but convinced yourself you needed to keep, hurtful words from others, hurtful words from yourself. You never gave yourself permission to let these things go.
19. You made yourself think about climbing an entire mountain at once instead of taking it bird by bird.
20. You forgot to try, every single day, to be a little bit kinder than the day before. A little bit kinder to everybody else – and also a little bit kinder to yourself.