Guilt Versus Happiness


Some people feel guilt over being happy or feel they don’t deserve to be happy.

Happiness is an experience we all long for and deserve in our lives. We wish for happiness that comes with a much-needed and well deserved vacation or an exciting new love affair. Yet when the actual experience of happiness emerges, we may be overcome with guilt and sap our joy. Sometimes guilt is interfering with our ability to feel joy. Maybe we can find relief by looking at the beliefs we hold about ourselves and what it means for us to be happy.

Guilt about feeling happy can arise for different reasons. Deep down you may believe you don’t deserve to be happy because you hurt someone in the past, had more than others growing up, or maybe you received a mean comment from someone you admired. For me feeling happy after my husband’s suicide was unthinkable. I never fathomed how I’d ever learn, or earn, the ability to smile, laugh and actually survive my guilty feelings in order to be happy again.

For you, perhaps it once seemed that painful experiences always followed happy ones. Now whenever you begin to feel happy, you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Happiness may even just feel uncomfortable because you’ve gotten so used to feeling down. The truth is that when you feel too guilty to let yourself enjoy positive emotions, you are denying a part of yourself that has a right to exist.

But by limiting our life experience to just the negative feelings, we are cutting ourselves off from the fullness of life – which includes all of the positive emotions as well. We all deserve to be happy. Shouldn’t we embrace happiness rather than denying ourselves?

Fortunately, we can begin to shift the way we respond to happiness. After nearly nine months since my husband’s tragic death, I found myself smiling again during my days. Whether it was with girlfriends catching up on their lives, or reading a funny joke, or finally enjoying a comical movie. More recently, I adopted two white female Boxers who are sisters and have made my life, well … happy! I look at my girls’ adorable faces, embrace their unquestioning love and devotion and realize these adoring creatures MAKE me happy!

This is not to say that my evenings are not fraught with sadness or loneliness. I’m saying my girls help me get through it. And because of them, I am healing my heart and recognizing the beginning of happiness again for the first time in nine months.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? Great food, music concerts, plays, watching a sunset, a day trip? By easing ourselves into one of these pleasurable events, we are taking the first step towards being joyful again. Imagine yourself with a beautiful smile, enjoying what you thought you never would again.

From now on, when happiness begins to blossom in your heart, try to accept it, relish in it, ask it to stay. It’s okay to feel happy even if you believe you don’t deserve it. Feeling good is an expression of your wholeness and your connection with life and living life is far better than merely existing. The next time happiness appears for you, try not to feel guilty about it. Instead, welcome your happiness in like a long-awaited friend.


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