In The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin writes, “Erasmus observed, ‘The chief happiness for a man is to be what he is.’”
I’ve always envied people who, from the get-go, are clear on who they are – and what they want to do with their life.
Just last week, I was talking to my cousin-in-law – let’s call him PS – on how we both have many different interests, and how they’ve lead to our varied career paths; and how we’re still not sure where our interests will take us.
On the other hand, PS said his younger brother always knew he wanted to be a doctor – this dream profession of a once starry-eyed 5-year-old is now a reality, and he loves it.
Imagine that. To be so sure of your purpose that you don’t experience the pain and suffering of feeling lost. Your inner compass is aligned, and you’re all set to be on your right, happy path.
If you follow wellbeing and self-development-type social media accounts, you may have seen “Be your authentic self” and “Do what you love” mantras often bandied about.
These mantras, of course, imply that this is what one must do to be happy. However, they really irk me. Because to be Lesh, I find, isn’t always easy as the statements suggest.
For one, there is too much external noise – we are constantly bombarded with what others are doing, saying, being, buying, etc. – thanks to the advent of the internet. While seeing what others do certainly offers ideas of how to go about one’s own life, it can also be mighty confounding. This, in itself, is a great source of misery. You’ve heard the phrase ‘keeping with the Joneses’, right? I need not say more.
Another reason being Lesh isn’t that straightforward is because, at times, I concern myself too much about what others think – more than I care to admit, even to myself – instead of listening to my gut for what it is that I really like, am or want.
In the end, to be myself, to do what I love and, ultimately, be happy, I have realised it’s about these three not-so-easy-to-practice-but-worth-my-while-to-do-so principles.
Take action despite the unknown
Usually, if I’m unsure about something, I get caught in limbo (and overthinking) for the fear of doing something wrong, not liking it or wasting my time. But, as I have learnt, I need to ‘waste time’ in order to learn more about myself and, therefore, do more of ‘what I love’. This takes time. No pun intended. Seriously.
So, this year, I’m using my time to explore being in an office again, albeit part-time, for the first time in seven years and going to Italian classes. And I’m trying not to pay too much attention to the outcome, but, rather, my role in the dynamic of it all, and how I ‘enjoy’ it. There’s sure to be an end-of-year recap. So watch this space.
While I’m ‘taking action despite not knowing the outcome’, it is self-awareness – of my thoughts, feelings and motivations – that will give me self-knowledge.
For example, I love yoga, but I’ve realised, over time, that I love it in small doses, such as going to a class. And, now, I understand my resistance to booking into full blown yoga retreat. And, I’ve finally accepted this fact about myself, as I have my desire for solitude over a raucous party any time (even if I come across as ‘boring’).
I know these realisations may sound trivial, but it goes much deeper – they’re about an inner shift from ‘romanticising’ about who you think you want to be and how you wish to be seen, to purposefully seeking self-knowledge and, importantly, practicing self-acceptance.
I feel this is a biggie for happiness. For example, sometimes I wish I were artier, more creative, more right-brained. I admire anyone who is, and would like to be in that clique. But I’m not. It’s best I take a leaf out of my husband’s book: he makes no apologies or cares if he is judged for his desire for certain material things or his love for commercial TV. In other words, he knows who he is, and, most importantly, he doesn’t question his nature and accepts himself. Denying one’s own nature is one big fat highway to unhappiness.
Do you know who you are? If so, are you happy with who you are? Why/Why not?