What defines happiness? Can it be defined by one single accomplishment, person, or thing? The definition is going to be different for each of us. I struggled with finding “happiness” for most of my adult life. I found myself warped into reading some of my old journal entries from my late teens- early 20s and found a common theme in most of my entries. What is happiness? What makes one “happy?” Was it about having the right friends? The right partner? Having absolute perfection in every sector of my life? I used to think happiness was about perfection. I put myself through college thinking that once I graduated and got that first job, I’d be happy. I thought getting a $32,000 salary for my first (corporate) job would contribute to being worry-free, aka. being happy. I had several relationships where I thought I was happy and friendships that I thought were good for me. “If only my parents would get back together, if only my Dad would get better, if only my Mom would move back to Georgia, if only I could get on the deans list, if only I could get that promotion, etc.” So, why am I going through all of this? I’m listing this all out because these were my actual thoughts over the last 15 years of my life (literally HALF of my life). I found myself always climbing, always working towards something that I thought would make me happy. I had trained myself to believe that perfection equaled happiness.
Then, I grew up. I survived lots of heartache, joy, pain, let downs, losses, gains, setbacks, step ups, you name it. I pushed through all of it. I reflected a lot on my journey, questioned the hardships, praised the successes; I pushed through. It has all taught me something; life will always be challenging and unpredictable. I also learned a very valuable lesson- never never NEVER tie personal happiness to a person, place, or thing. Happiness comes from within and life will never be perfect, so embrace it.
However, I do believe that there is a direct correlation between loving yourself and happiness. ” If you don’t love yourself, you’ll be chasing after people who don’t love you either.” – Mandy Hale. And let me clarify- they’ll tell you that they love you (that’s another story for another post at a later time). Rather than tying happiness to a thing that is subject to change involuntarily, tie it to what can always be constant, yourself. You can always rely on you. If you let yourself down, it’s easier to recover because the only person to blame is you. If someone else lets you down (betrays you, disrespects you, hurts you, abandons you) without self-love, it’s harder to recover because you’re left with doubt, shame, pain, etc. Take it from someone who knows. Literally, the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for yourself is love and care for numero uno, YOU!
I read a great book (Good Leaders ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell) that spoke briefly about self-image where the author described how our self-image reflects how we treat ourselves. The exercise was to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1 being lowest and 10 being highest, obviously). Rate yourself earnestly. Depending on the number you chose directly affects your view and valuation of yourself which in turn describes how well or poorly you invest in yourself. Meaning, if an individual held one’s self to a high standard, that person is in good physical health, seeks higher education, takes classes, has healthy relationships with friends, family, peers, you name it. By default, these individuals will be happy. If an individual thinks poorly of one’s self, that person does not carry motivation to succeed, does not seek education for self-improvement, has terrible relationships with others and overall has a poor outlook on life. By default, these individuals will display unhappy behavior/comments. Do you agree?
I would also like to add that even if you’re your number one fan and you have a great self-image, sometimes happiness becomes a choice. We can all have negative thoughts, create self-sabotage, or can just sometimes be in a bad mood. But, even if everything is going well in life, happiness is still a choice. There are plenty of people in the world who have “everything” and are still not happy. This is where my exercise becomes handy- whenever you have those natural emotions/thoughts that come over you, write down the things that are going well in your life, what you are grateful for, etc. We are all human (at least, I hope you are) and being human means making mistakes and/or stumbling across negative thoughts in times of total joy. And that’s okay. But, we have to learn to manage these thoughts and feelings to a degree that’s manageable. We all have things to be grateful for so don’t tell me you can’t think of anything to write down! If you have things that you feel the need to improve, that’s okay! But, write it down. You say you want to make $100,000/year, well write down that you’re grateful to have a job and a paycheck. Get my drift!? This can be a challenging task, but it’s doable. You have to be conscious and prepared that those negative thoughts are going to come and go, we just have to be prepared to control them to maintain a “happiness” status. Never compare yourself to others or to the perception of other’s success/happiness. Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to others. We are all on different paths in life so our journeys do not (and will not) need to be the same.
I believe that this all directly correlates with one’s views and ideas of happiness. Let’s recap: not attaching the idea of happiness to any person, place or thing, self-image controls the foundational level happiness, and reminding ourselves what to be grateful for will always put us down the right path for fulfillment. I will say this- this evaluation is purely for individuals who do not suffer from personality disorders or any major psychological disorders. This is my perception on the basic ideas of how mistakes are made within a utopian standard of everyone’s quest for happiness.