For as long as I can remember, I've chosen to walk into the darkness. To feel all there is to feel in the shadows of this life. I've stuck my hand into the fire, just to feel it burn. Sank myself into a depression that left me a shell of a person with zero real emotion. I chased answers to questions as a child that most are afraid to ask at all. Questions about death and meaning and the rough, hard edges of our souls.
I've chosen, time and time again, not to run from all that's hard and bad and heartbreaking. I lean in when others would pull back or try to reframe and gloss over the reality of the situation with a glaze of fabricated positivity. I go there, places where most wouldn't dare.
For the most part, I'm a pretty shiny, happy person.
If you look at me on an average day, you'll likely see an enormous smile or hear a laugh that flows freely and stems from the joyful parts of my heart and soul.
I'm joyful and in love with life, even when it hurts.
I'm passionate and overwhelmed by the beauty, even when it sucks.
I'm positive and trusting, even when things aren't working out.
I've had several conversations in the last few months with people who like to fabricate positivity. To smear a tiny bit of gratitude or appreciation over tons of complaining, frustration, and pain. People who try to bypass the darkness through pretending to be in the light, when really they're just avoiding what's uncomfortable and challenging.
I've had many conversations over the years with people who like to tell me things along the lines of, "What can we do to get you back to how you normally are?" Or, "you're prettier when you smile." Comments to which I've learned to gently and firmly reply, "sometimes I don't smile, sometimes I'm not happy... and that's OK."
Today I'm taking a stand for me, for you... for all of us.
There's nothing wrong with the darkness we experience in the day to day. Nothing at all.
There's nothing wrong with my pain and suffering. There's nothing wrong with your anger or frustration. There's nothing wrong with sadness or stress or feeling a little lost in this life. There's nothing wrong with the tears that come without warning, or the way we sink inside ourselves at times. There's nothing wrong with any of it. There's nothing wrong with you or me or anyone else.
The light, joyful, and playful woman I am today was formed from those spaces. The pockets in life and love and the everyday that are raw and intense and oh so hard. The ones that make you question what the point of it all is, and shows you the pain and suffering we can't outrun.
I embrace it. I absorb it. I feel all there is to feel within it.
And then I move forward and learn from it.
When I'm in that dark, hard, and quiet space, I'm actually growing into happier and more genuinely positive person... even though it doesn't look like it at all.
But the deeper we're stretched into the parts that hurt, the greater our capacity becomes to smile and laugh and play. To love and open and share ourselves more freely and joyfully in our work and relationships.
The thing is... you would never get to experience the shiny, happy person that I am without all the bad, hard parts. Without those moments or days where I shut down completely and it takes everything I have to get through the day. The moments where I cry or feel overwhelmed, or feel all the hard things there are to experience. It's all one and the same.
I'm showing you my darkness when I smile so big my cheeks burn and when I laugh so hard it hurts. When my eyes twinkle and light up from that overjoyed space deep inside my soul. I'm showing you the many wounds and raw spots from struggle, loss, and lies with every ounce of enthusiasm and joy that leaves my body, with every word of love and appreciation.
I'm showing you my light when I cry so hard I nearly stop breathing, crumpled in a ball on the kitchen floor. When I'm too broken and fragile to stand on my own. I'm showing you the love and passion and total gratitude for this life with every deeply exhausted exhale, and every moment I feel like walking away from it all. With every frustrated cell in my body.
There are only two ways we go wrong...
We don't allow ourselves to feel what we feel, or we start to tell ourselves stories about it all, getting ourselves stuck in muddy waters we were simply meant to walk through.
I've learned to lean into the darkness without getting stuck by giving myself permission to be where I am, and not letting anyone else tell me it's wrong. Not letting myself feel less than, simply because I don't have it in me to smile.
Don't avoid the darkness, but don't make it into anything more than what it is: a feeling, one that will pass with a little time and a little tenderness. And when it does, we're going to step back into a light that's brighter than before, because we've stretched our hearts a little further. Life becomes flat and stagnant when we strive to keep things even keeled and "good." When we plaster fabricate positivity over the parts that hurt. Life becomes richer, and a mess of beauty and miracles, when we're willing to walk through the mud from time to time.
We're beautiful when we smile, and we're beautiful when we cry. When we're sad and frustrated. And life is more beautiful when we embrace it all.
Stephenie Zamora is the founder of Stephenie Zamora Media, a full-service, life-purpose development, branding, and online marketing boutique. Here she merges the worlds of personal development, branding, and online marketing to help turn passionate individuals into profitable entrepreneurs.
With over a decade of experience in design, development, and brand/marketing strategy, she's currently helping coaches, solopreneuers, and small businesses create their beautifully branded online presence, without breaking the bank, through her highly regarded Jumpstart Website Design Package.
Stephenie's been featured in The Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, Positively Positive, and Brian Tracy International. Learn more at www.StephenieZamora.com!
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.