You have likely heard the phrase, “Happiness is a choice,” before. It is a true statement that speaks to the idea of not settling for anything that does not bring us joy. If work life is unbearable, if you are not getting anywhere with your romantic partner, or if your living situation is the worst, the change from miserable to happy will only occur when you decide to seek better.
However, what I think a lot of people miss in this mantra is that because happiness is a choice, the responsibility for choosing and remaining focused on it lies within ourselves individually.
Navigating this world without being triggered is a challenge. Even if work life is peaceful and home life is equally mild, viral videos of black women being abused while onlookers film the incident with their phones still litter the social media feed. Finding positive portrayals of dark-skinned women in magazines, on television, or elsewhere often means stumbling across a few negatively stereotyped examples first.
Every other week a new headline gets published showcasing the blatant colorism that impacts all dark-skinned women everywhere but flies right over the heads of other people (giving rise to the idea that we make it all up).
If we do not diligently protect our psyches and energy from such negative messages, which can find their way into our line of sight quite easily thanks to the pervasiveness of the internet, we stand to crumble in this world. The immature response is to lash out or be angry, but those will only earn you a place even deeper into the black hole of judgment when observed by those around you.
I know it can seem like the influence of other people and systems is inescapable, but it is not. It just takes some disciplined behavior to establish positive patterns to replace negative ones. And it begins with taking responsibility for bringing light and joy into your own heart and soul. From a behavior standpoint, what this looks like is reaching for a Bible or affirmation book to read first thing after waking up rather than reaching for a smartphone to scroll a newsfeed with.
It is making good choices when it comes to food to stay physically and mentally healthy and sharp. It is also knowing when to take a breather and withdraw for the sake of one’s own sanity and well-being. It is prioritizing yourself first because if you are fatigued, stressed, sad, or even triggered, you are not capable of supporting anyone else effectively.
By the same token, assigning blame to someone else for your lack of happiness is not progress either. The actions of others can be upsetting, but keep in mind that your other emotions are choices, too. When people get under our skin, it is because we have allowed them to. When we supply a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s actions or words, we are not being forced to react, but rather we are choosing to. If you want to find happy, get to the intersection between the messages being sent at you from various sources and your responses to those messages.
You can replace negative reactions with the positivity of knowing that you do not have to let yourself be jolted in the direction someone else is sending you in with their messages. Rather than to just allow yourself to be so vulnerable, protect yourself through honoring your happiness first.
Keep in mind that owning your happiness is a process. Taking responsibility almost always requires a learning curve of some sort. As black women, many of us have personal, internal layers to get through in order to be whole, solid, healthy, and happy. Even with taking responsibility for your happiness, there will still be bad days. But those bad days are not equal to a bad life.
If you are not where you want to be, but have an idea of where you want to go, look into the necessary steps you would need to get to that next level. Your progression onward and upward will most certainly make you happy, as well.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel. '