What is happiness? Is it a sustainable state? I have read about others describing a deep, inner joy that is similar to nirvana. I see others smile, laugh, hug, be joyous, and succeed at work...my whole life I have looked at these people and wondered what they had figured out that I hadn’t.
It was never self-evident to me that I must first look inwards to find that joy I saw in others. I thought...If I run a marathon I’ll be happy. If I get accepted into my college I’ll be happy. If that amazing girl loves me I’ll be happy. If that other person is happy I’ll be happy. If I have more sex I’ll be happy. If I didn’t have to worry about money I’d be happy. If I become a parent I’ll be happy. If my football team wins this weekend I’ll be happy. If I earn this new certification and get a raise I’ll be happy. If my child had a brother or sister I’d be happy. This is basically a never ending list that served as a symptom of my own inner existential crisis and lack of understanding of self.
I would think...I wish I was an artist. I wish I was CEO. I wish I had the perfect family. I wish I drove that sweet car my neighbor has. I wish I had a million dollars. I wish I had those ripped abs my fitness coach has. I wish I had that smile and charm that Jimmy Fallon has. I wish I lived in that neighborhood on Main Street. If I had those things I would be happy.
Right. That’s the lie we all tell ourselves. “If I had what he had, THEN I’d be happy.” This is your ego swelling up with envy and drowning out the real you inside.
All of these wishes represent the search for happiness outside of yourself. By observing the acceptance, praise, and social elevation that others receive for their talents, we trick ourselves into believing that if only we could be like them then we could achieve the same happiness they experience.
The reality is you can never be them. And even if you could, it wouldn’t make you happy. There are no steps you can follow to achieve the success and happiness you see in others. You can never replicate their story, their personality, or their innate qualities. By looking outside ourselves for happiness, acceptance, validation and meaning, we immediately throw away every ounce of creative potential that is inside of us.
There are people whose entire life is dominated by these types of thoughts. They wonder why they are not satisfied by life, looking towards other people who appear to have it all, and trying to be like them. Sometimes they let envy or resentment about the unfair nature of life be the lense through which their entire life experience is viewed.
Or are these naturally unhappy people? Do they enjoy being unhappy? Certainly that can’t be possible...right?
Well, the answer to that question is obviously NO! Nobody enjoys being unhappy! But some people have built such a prison of walls around themselves, which provide protection against repeated emotional wounds from the past. Even though no light of the world can penetrate their shell, at least they are safe and comfortable inside that mental jail. People can become comfortable in their unhappiness because it means they are safe. The idea that this website embodies and intends to explore deeply is how you can never find true, deep happiness if you stay hidden away inside your own shell. The world desperately wants to see more authenticity, i.e. more of the real you!
In learning to accept yourself, you have to stop evaluating other people’s happiness or success as a bar to compare yourself to. When you try to emulate the success that others have achieved, you start doing things backwards. Enough effort can make it look like you have the all-american family. Enough money and time can make you look like a rock star. Enough confidence can make you look like a successful entrepreneur. But you don’t want to just look like something. You want to manifestly be something.
Most people are putting up their own facades anyway. The former President of ESPN, John Skipper, just recently admitted that he had a cocaine addiction and a coke dealer extorting him causing him to resign. On the surface, he had it all and probably seemed very happy. You just never know what’s underneath someone else’s shell and public facade, which is why you must compare yourself to no one but yourself. It’s like golf...you versus the course (of life), not you versus the other players.
Ask yourself, how aligned are your thoughts and actions with what’s really important to you? Don’t align your thoughts and actions with what’s really important to your parents, your friends, your employer, or even your spouse....start with what’s important to you. Your personal sense of self has to be the foundation upon which everything else stands, else everything in your life will be a house of cards built atop a fragile, insecure, and insatiable ego.
So find the courage to look inward at yourself, start feeling around in the dark for those walls, and start chipping away at them. You have so much genuine love inside you screaming for approval and acceptance, but you’ll never get that from anyone else until you accept yourself first. Once you accept yourself, the magic trick that happens is you no longer need the acceptance of others to be happy.
Andy is a curious soul with INFJ-T personality who likes to examine life closely and lives for those moments of deep revelation and spiritual connection.