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Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are

Woman peeking through blinds

Interviews with people on their deathbeds regarding regrets not surprisingly show that people wish they’d let themselves live as their full, true selves. They wish they’d been less what people expected of them and more who they really wanted to be. They wish they hadn’t worked so hard, expressed their feelings more, kept in touch with friends, and had let themselves be happier.

Presumably, this means that at the end of their lives they realized they had more choices than they thought they had. They realized they’d chosen to act the way they thought they were supposed to act, and regretted not being who they truly wanted to be.

We can use this as guidance and inspiration to live our lives with the maximum happiness we can achieve. Adding happiness doesn’t necessarily prevent or cure depression, but some depression is affected by how much happiness we create and allow in our lives.

Why wouldn’t people allow happiness into their lives, you wonder? It seems counterintuitive. If people can have happiness, why wouldn’t anyone embrace it? I can imagine people blocking opportunities to be happy for various reasons, such as:

  • They don’t think they deserve it.
  • No one in their family of origin was happy, so they don’t recognize it or feel comfortable with it—they may even be suspicious or afraid of it.
  • They think being happy makes them a target for people who would envy them, so they don’t feel safe being happy.
  • They are afraid that if they’re happy, it’ll be more shocking when something bad happens because they’ll have more to lose, so they protect themselves from a big fall by not feeling too good.
  • They’ve always been unhappy and they wouldn’t know who they are if they were happy.
  • They think they are too smart, cynical, and analytical to be happy—that only stupid people are happy.

There may be many reasons we don’t do or be what we really want, and it’s useful to look at what might be getting in the way. Let’s see if we can tease out what we are holding ourselves back from; the reasons why may appear in the process.

Think about how you would view your life if you knew you were dying soon. What would you regret right now? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Not doing something creative more—playing music, making art, performing, etc.
  • Not getting out of a relationship.
  • Not getting into a relationship.
  • Not having kids.
  • Having kids, and not doing other things with the time, money, and responsibility.
  • Not telling people how you really feel about them.
  • Not standing up for yourself.
  • Not finding a new job/career.
  • Not loving more.
  • Not telling the truth more.
  • Not traveling more.
  • Not giving more.
  • Not facing your fears more.
  • Not getting past an addiction.
  • Not playing more.
  • Not taking more time off from work.
  • Not enjoying your body more.
  • Not accepting yourself.
  • Not forgiving.
  • Not taking a risk.

What is it for you? How could you be happier? What could you do differently? What do you long to do? Who do you long to be? What do you long to change? What will you regret not doing? What one thing do you want to change so you don’t have regrets on your deathbed?

It’s time to come out as you!

© Copyright 2012 by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California. All Rights Reserved.

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  • gena December 11th, 2012 at 5:24 PM #1

    I would really hate to think that it would take me being on my deathbed to be honest with not only myself but also my friends and loved ones. I hope that I able to live a life of openness and honesty even when I know that this is a difficult thing to do. I think that hiding your true self only makes life more miserable and not half the fun and enjoyment that it could be. I would hope that there are others out there reading this who feel exactly the same way. Life is simply too precious to spend it trying to hide your real thoughts and feelings. Those who love you will do so because of all of that, and there are the people who will never leave your side.

  • Camille December 12th, 2012 at 3:58 AM #2

    I am with Gena. I don’t want to spend my time dying full of regrets- I would instead want to focus on all of the good things that happened to me over the course of my lifetime.

  • Rosie December 12th, 2012 at 7:26 AM #3

    I agree with both of you and I commend you for having such a positive outlook. But please understand that for some people it is not always a choice as to whether they live with openness or not. Some of us have hidden ourselves for our entire lives. There are all different reasons for that, and some of us grow up knowing no other way and don’t realize that we are hiding. It takes someone like Cynthia to help us see that, and then it takes a monumental amount of hard work to change. Fear is such a strong emotion, but there is hope for anyone who truly wants to increase the joy in their lives. We can’t pretend that the bad things didn’t happen, we just need to find a way to resolve them in our hearts, so we can move forward.

  • jesse December 13th, 2012 at 12:34 AM #4

    the point about family of origin not being happy plays heavily on me.none of my family members were ever truly happy due to a variety of reasons and now when I am just even having a good time I kind of feel guilty that they didn’t get to do and see the things I do and maybe I don’t deserve it either.I don’t know guess I need to stop thinking like that…

  • Meredith December 13th, 2012 at 4:04 AM #5

    I can see feeling stifled. I am so busy trying to be what others want me to be that I think I have actually forgotten who I am and the things that I love. I know this will be me when I die, finally realizing what I was supposed to be and then seeing that there is no time life to fulfill it.

  • Anonymous May 12th, 2013 at 5:35 PM #6

    It’s called being responsible, accountable, & mature. It’s called knowng that your feelings shouldn’t control your steering wheel. It’s called being dependable. It’s called you can’t get everything you want. It’s called paying the mortage and being someone who doesn’t fall apart when a fire claims the house. It’s called going to war, fighting fires, solving crimes, collecting the trash, and working in pediatric oncology. It’s called growing up and knowing that work most definitely comes before play and you can’t clock out of work early just because it’s a beautiful day outside. It’s called working overtime to help put your kids through college. It’s called you can’t be who you are because it’s not in the family budget. It’s called you listen to your spouse before you automatically grab a frisbee. It’s called being a grown-up, because a life spent in kindergarden isn’t financially possible.

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