The Secret to My Happiness

comments 2
the post-God side

In my journey, I’ve lived through high-stress major-life challenges, as many of us have.  Some learn to cope better with others, but like many, anxiety ramped up in my late twenties – now 30- and became the go-to reaction that I’ve been learning to navigate and combat in these last few years.

Some key tools for calming anxiety and finding happiness are: 1. Mindfulness (noticing the details around you, engaging your senses, and then appreciating them).  2. Self-awareness in difficult moments (What narrative is this pain or anxiety coming from?  What are you saying to yourself in those moments, what story are you living? Is that narrative based on past trauma or old relationships?  Think through and work through it).

But I’ve come to a breakthrough beyond those tools, or perhaps because of my practicing those tools, in discovering this very, very important truth:

Successes and victories are not found in numbers, but in that which brings the most love, joy, and peace.

Let’s talk numbers for a second.  They’re SO goddamn easy to calculate and compare, to use to measure yourself (and others), to notice when progress or specific achievement has been made.  Examples: GPA’s and test scores, Social Media friends/followers and likes, weight/ inches/ pant size, number of minutes spent in _____, cost of your car, square-footage of your home and/or yard, yearly salary, revenue, number of bags of tea sold 😉 (etc. etc. etc.).

But this is why they are SO dangerous: They’re so easy to use to measure yourself and others.  If numbers are that which you find your worth, you’ve completely missed the point.  WHY do we work so hard “on our numbers?”  Is it not to have greater love, joy, and peace?  In the end, isn’t that what really matters and the reason we do those things in the first place?  Of course, sacrificing joy or peace in the immediate in order to have more later makes sense.  It’s why I work so hard instead of just spending all of my days playing with my girls.  But.  BUT.  I ONLY work hard so that in the end, my joy, love, and peace have increased.   I must remember that.

Once I have a meter, a gauge, the numbers by which I pass or fail or judge others as passing or failing, I’ve entered into a dangerous realm.  One that exists on the wretched, weak pedestals of anxiety, unhappiness, and depression.

We are so desperate for someone to tell us we are okay.  We are worth it.  We are enough.  So desperate that our attention turns to the numbers, because they are an easy validation point.  But in looking for them to validate us, they will just as easily torture us.  Because numbers are infinite.  Why 6, not 7?  Why 1,200, not 1,400?  Numbers, by definition, never have an end point.  There will always be a number greater and lesser than what you have.

Until we let go of our obsession with defining ourselves by our numbers, we will never be happy.

What would the world look like if we sacrificed our numbers more often in order to have greater love, joy and peace, instead of gravitating to the addiction-like tendencies to do the opposite?

Happiness (for me) can only be found in the increasing of love, joy, and peace in my life, and that can be found at any time, at any place, regardless of any of the numbers by which the world (or myself) wants to measure me.

You are okay.  You are worth it.  You are enough.  Now, go spend some time believing that!

The Author

I'm a closet atheist christian missionary. Paradigm shifts happen frequently for those who allow themselves to think critically about currently held beliefs and openly about new ones. I’ve developed the skill, or perhaps addiction, for change but the community around me is slow to catch up -- and would damn me if they knew where I stood.

2 Comments

  1. I love this. Focusing on love, joy and peace seems a much broader and healthier perspective than narrowing in on numbers.

    I’ve been thinking lately about what makes us feel happy, and how that relates to respect. I don’t mean “admiration” or “great esteem.” I mean a basic, human love and respect that, in an ideal world, would be universal among all humans.

    When someone doesn’t respect us – especially someone who we feel close to, such as a family member or a spouse – to different degrees, we’re being told, “you’re not important, you’re not valuable.” We learn to forgive and forget the small infractions. After all, we, too, are guilty of those. But an absence of respect on a regular basis, or the occasional acute violation, especially by someone we love, can cut deep. Some are resilient, some lock it away, some heal. But to fully heal, I think it’s helpful to recognize the source of the cut.
    Identify your pain – you are hurting because someone’s actions are telling you you’re not valuable. In identifying your pain, you can think rationally – there is no reason to feel less valuable. The offender made the mistake. Because you are valuable. You should be treated with respect.

    If the “crime” is too big to brush off, in healthy relationships, we can talk to the offender and let him know how we feel. Hopefully, he/she will show us that we are valuable to him/her.

    Smaller “crimes” are easily forgiven and forgotten – after all, we make those mistakes daily, because we don’t perfectly love and respect everyone 100% of the time.

    In the case of rape, spousal abuse, molestation by a parent, etc, especially in a relationship that’s supposed to be built on trust, the message can be much more confusing. Anytime you are sent mixed signals, especially from someone you love, it can seriously mess with your self worth. They love me, but they don’t care about me, I’m worthless, but they love me. I must not be worth anything.

    But these thoughts are usually only feelings – you must process them with words to fully acknowledge them, to begin the healing process.

    Hurt
    Identify it
    Let it go

    We have no control over the hurt. It happens.

    Some are never able to identify the hurt, and so the mistreatment eats away at their self worth.

    Some get lost in identifying the hurt, never moving on.

    But when we let it go, we can find peace. Once we’ve gone through the process, we won’t intentionally revisit the trauma. Because revisiting it may require another painful progression through the healing process. So just say good night, and move on. Life’s too busy to relive some things.

    Thinking about respect, and how I feel when I’m respected by others, has helped me appreciate how I need to better respect others. Because I can have a truly positive or negative impact on their lives. By respecting others, I can show them that they’re valuable, that they’re worth something. Even the absence of respect, with no abuse, can leave some people feeling empty – if no one at all smiles at them, no one asks them about themselves, no one takes the time to listen to them. These are just quiet signals, and most of us are resilient from these sorts of slumps, but usually it’s because we know, at our core, that someone loves us. We are secure and resilient because someone has shown us with consistency that we are valued. But there are some that lack the foundation of self worth who may benefit the most from a smile or any simple sign of respect. Recognizing that my self esteem has benefited from respect, I hope to bring more value to others’ lives by showing more friends and strangers genuine respect.

    Like

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