“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

I arrived 15 minutes late for the Saturday morning conference call, right as Kate said she was about done with announcements and we would be doing check ins next. Kate being the instructor in my life coach-training program, the conference call being one of the training calls the 15 of us in the program dialed in to from all over the world.

As Kate went on to say that this week our check in would be “If you really knew me…” —I kinda started to panic. What that meant was that we were all to answer the question as openly and honestly as we could and share how we were really feeling, the feelings below the surface, not the, “I’m fine or everything is good” level that we  tend to live at with acquaintances and colleagues every day.

I guess I was feeling a bit out of practice with that level of vulnerability—we’d been on summer hiatus for more than a month and I’d been focused on my new clients, was dipping a toe into blogging and developing an e-course—“If you really knew me” would mean sharing the wide range of conflicted feelings related to all this new stuff.

As much as I wanted to just hang up the phone and get back to my day of errands, I went ahead and hit star 6 and waited my turn to speak. Listening to the others, my anxiety about sharing began to slip away.  I found myself leaning into their stories, reminded that everyone’s lives are complicated; confliction is everywhere.

Once my turn came up the anxiety had dissipated and I immediately felt the energy of my tribe—I knew I had 14 peers, Kate, and two other coach instructors on the line supporting me however I needed it.

And with that, out of my mouth fell the words:

If you really knew me, you’d know that I’m actually doing pretty good right now. I’m happy….

…And it’s weird.

I’m not used to it. I’m just not used to feeling …happy.”

It’s safe to say that these were not the words I would have expected to come out. I didn’t plan what I was going to say—but still…  Where was all that confliction? Where was all that discomfort and awkwardness of the last month?

With a little distance I can now see that those feelings of confliction, discomfort and awkwardness—while they are very real and true feelings—they also just come along with the territory of trying new things. That deeper down “I’m happy” feeling—that’s my core.

At my core I’m happier now than I can remember feeling in, if I’m really honest here, at least a decade. Confliction, disappointment, heartbreak and the weight of great responsibility—these were feelings I’d become a lot more familiar with.

After more than a decade of not feeling so happy, this turn didn’t happen overnight; but no matter how long it takes, change really only happens when you let it. Change happens when you stop fighting it off and allow yourself to make choices that can help you get to a better place—dare I say, a happier one.

I found the happiness I know today not by some overly simplistic choice to “be happy”—but by choosing experiences that helped me to open up my heart, by making a choice to let go of long held beliefs about myself that were holding me back, in order to make space for new parts, by choosing to feel whatever difficult things I needed to feel, and then finding myself moving past them.

While it had been rearing it’s head for a few years, change for me really started a year ago with taking a few classes in Positive Psychology and life coaching at a local college. After 20 years away from school, a marriage, a child, a career and a divorce–I found that the coursework gave me a new, fresh lens for seeing myself.  I didn’t need to be defined by that difficult marriage, the many disappointments, and the great burden of responsibility—instead I started to take back responsibility for making my life what I wanted it to be.

Six months later, more choices came along—I did not choose to listen to the fearful voice inside that urged me to just “appreciate my salaried job already” and instead I listened to the quietly encouraging voice inside that said something like “Keep at this. Keep trying it out. There’s something here for you.”  And with that I boldly applied up for the inaugural class of the Courageous Coach Training Program—an experience that has ended up being truly life altering.  I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned and for where I am today, but it has also been intensely hard work, the work of tackling my own emotional terrain so I can in turn, coach others through theirs.

I’ve learned and grown so much.  I’ve opened my heart to so many new concepts, people and experiences.  I’ve learned to see that that’s where the magic is—in the zone just outside your comfort.

I’ve learned to allow myself be vulnerable even when I didn’t really want to be; knowing I was always safe and supported allowed me to go where I needed to go.

I’ve allowed myself to face beliefs I had held about myself my entire life. And more importantly, I allowed myself to see the truth and believe I could let go of what wasn’t.

I’ve learned to trust myself—and how to recognize and work with those often opposing voices inside me.

I’ve learned that feeling the hardest stuff is the definition of bravery.  And coming out the end of it, the definition of rewarding.

And after all this openhearted hard work and vulnerable stretching way past my comfort zone—what exactly have I found for myself? Well what I’ve found inside myself is Me. Sometimes conflicted, often awkward, far from perfect, but below all that—a quite happy Me.

Photo by Roberto Taddeo

Vanessa Soto

As a certified life coach, Vanessa Soto works with super capable women who are juggling everything that comes their way, but are yearning for more… more connection to themselves, more connection to what really matters. In her practice, Vanessa helps women break free of self expectations and worries about what others will think so they can start living the life they want. Learn more about Vanessa on her website where you can sign up for her new e-course It’s Your Year — a free course to help you make the most of the coming new year.

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