Why Aren't We Happy?
Life doesn't owe us happiness and there are no guarantees, however our contributions to it, and the actions we take can help us to create the feelings we desire. The focus on immediate gratification and the pursuit of pleasure is an epidemic; the priority on fun and fair, and easy and exciting. Much time and energy is spent trying to avoid discomfort like the plague - trading relief or immediate pleasure, for self-confidence and joy.
There seems to be a social belief that we must feel good all the time, and that it should be easy and readily available for little effort on our part. The irony is, this is exactly why so many are living in a perpetual state of anxiety. Trying to feel good all the time, prevents us from doing what we need to do in order to create true confidence in ourselves, and a more sustainable peace. A peace that's forged from taking on life’s challenges and doing what's necessary.
"You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good." ~ Jerry West
Much of this mind-frame has to do with messages in the media that support instant gratification. Another contributing factor, is the well-meaning but often misguided approach for fostering healthy self-esteem in children. Sometimes, rather than building resilience and hence, internal confidence, the pendulum swings too far, shielding kids from discomfort altogether.
By always finding the positive, always preventing failing and and always protecting them from tough choices and harsh realities, these children are now adults who lack emotional mastery.
Unfamiliar with processing feelings disappointment or failure, or regret or sadness, they interpret these emotions as bad, and to be avoided. This creates stress, fear and ultimately, stagnation. This method of instilling self-confidence, although genuine and sincere, means that many now lack the ability to handle adversity and strife.
“You will find peace not by trying to escape your problems, but by confronting them courageously.” ~ J. Donald Walters
As adults, there's an importance placed on doing a good job, getting things done and being proactive. Bosses don't give out a participation ribbon because we show up at work - thirty minutes late, and we shouldn't receive ongoing praise from a spouse because we took the garbage out – whoopee, you did what needed to be done. Rather than being internally driven, we're externally motivated, and when this reassurance falters, we falter. Our primary way of feeling good and happy and reassured, isn't there. When we're geared this way, we become dependent on the external to fill the happiness and confidence tank. This isn't sustainable and will eventually wain.
“As we get past our superficial wants and instant gratification we connect to a deeper part of ourselves, as well as to others, and the world.” - Judith Wright
Joy and confidence comes from making choices and taking action to honor our values. It isn't born from the approval of others, or from immediate or superficial pleasures, but rather from showing a commitment to ourselves. This is integrity, and as Dr. Brené Brown says, "integrity is choosing courage over comfort."
You know what you want; the kind of life, the legacy, the relationships and the feelings, and to make it happen, you must choose to do what feels uncomfortable, initially confusing and hard. This is where confidence is born; from facing what's difficult and doing what you didn't think you could do; from feeling uncomfortable and plunging ahead. Do and modify. Do and modify, and through this process you'll begin to trust and believe in yourself, no longer relying on the recognition from others, or instant gratification to feel happy. You'll live a life you value, confident in your skill to handle what comes and to relish in what you create.
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