Dear Dr. Faizal,

As I grow older, I’m losing the happiness and excitement I once used to feel. Also, I hate feeling stressed out, ever! I have many good things going on in my life right now – great job, great girlfriend, etc. but I haven’t achieved any of the goals I had when I was younger. I used to be so carefree, light and optimistic. I don’t know why I can’t shake the feeling that maybe something is off? Maybe it’s because of the heartbreaks over the years? I just want to go back to the innocence I once had.

– Happy

Dear Happy,

It’s wonderful that you have good memories of your childhood. Most children are carefree – partly because they don’t have real responsibilities.

But you must realize that you are now an adult – with all the responsibilities that come with adulthood. This is natural; we all must grow up. Resisting one’s maturity and wanting to reclaim one’s childhood “happiness and excitement” will undoubtedly lead to resentment and stress. Such stress can be lowered by you accepting the fact that you must live in the present – as an adult.

Stress is also caused by fears. I’m wondering if you have any fears of growing up. Perhaps a fear of no longer being optimistic and innocent? Or, perhaps a fear of getting hurt again if you experience another breakup? Such fears must be overcome for you to enjoy the natural transition into adulthood.

One way to overcome the fear of growing-up is to look at all the positives of becoming an adult and appreciate the lifestyle you have created for yourself as an adult. You say that you have a “great job.” What is it that makes your job so “great?” Is it the people you work with? Is it that this job gives you both material and emotional rewards? What I’d like you to do is write down (on a piece of paper or on your phone) all the reasons you believe you enjoy your job. Make copies of this page and place it everywhere – on your washroom mirror, on the kitchen fridge, hanging from your TV, on your office desk, on your night table, etc.. Now, each time you pass by this list, read it quickly. Each time you read this list, you’d be validating that you actually have a good life, in the present, as an adult.

Similarly, I’d like you now to focus on your “great girlfriend.” Make another list of why you enjoy being with her. Write down all the things you appreciate about her and your relationship with her. Each day, go down your list and send her an appreciation text. Can you imagine how doing this would nurture and validate your relationship – and you, as an adult, within this relationship?

Innocence, whether childhood or adulthood, is about validating oneself. If you’re able to live each day to the fullest without regrets, feelings of guilt, or lament (as children do), you’ll be able to function as an adult while nurturing the child within.

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