Happiness and those damn unicorns

bazaar_medium logoThis month’s bazaar Kuwait is gorgeous. It’s the 200th issue, full of glossy photos and great writing; a lovely window into the Middle East culture I know and love. (I soooooo miss the food in Kuwait. What I wouldn’t give right now for a fresh falafel sandwich from Canary).

Anyway, speaking of “great” writing my article is included (page 50). One and Nothing  Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. (It’s kind of important to this post.)

Self-esteem can be a tricky thing. We humans seem to have difficulty settling in the ‘Happy Middle’ when it comes to how we think about ourselves.

In other words, how I see myself is primarily dependent on how I imagine others see me, and I adjust my appearance, speech, thinking, and behaviour based on this entirely made-up measuring stick. Emotionally, I’m a wreck, because my perception of myself goes up and down like a freaking rollercoaster. As I point out in my article; Compliments and criticism are like perfume and poop – they both smell and you don’t eat either one. Think about that for a moment (if you haven’t read my article yet, you’re missing the big picture) in the context of what it is actually like to live life controlled by what we IMAGINE others think of us. Not a good recipe for happiness. Nooooooo. If we put too much stock in what we believe others think of us, life SUCKS.

The flip side of caring too much about what others think of me is that I put too much stock in what I think of me. This tends to manifest in one of two ways – narcissism (“Check me out! I know I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread and you have to think that, too.”) or nihilism (“Woe is me. I am but a worm, unworthy to exist. Please, poop on my head and add to the weight of my existence.”) Both perspectives are whacked, and having friends, family, or acquaintances with either one is draining.

Ideally, as we mature, we develop a centred sense of our worth as a human being, which is balanced, and independent of the judgment of others. As unique as I truly am, I am also one of 4+billion human beings. Paradoxically, great self-esteem is a healthy combination of an unshakeable conviction about my individual worth (priceless) and a realistic understanding that I am one of many (not very unique). No individual can replace ME (I’m one-of-a-kind), an individual, but I can be replaced in this moment, by anyone with the same skills, training, education, etc., etc.  It is the tension between those two truths that we struggle to manage all our lives. It’s not a “one-and-done” issue, either. My sense of myself requires mindful care; facing the damage to my development as a result of being part of the human race, as brilliant and as flawed as it is.

Scrounging the global information highway yesterday (something we do in real life as a family activity …scrounge along roadways, I mean), I came across this article which addresses Gen Y peeps specifically, but has great application for nearly any individual. It’s long-ish, but worth the time (and also relevant to this post).

Which brings me to those damn unicorns.

If we distilled some lifehacks from all that wordiness, it might read like this…

  1. The distance between ‘unhappy’ and ‘happy’ is as small (or as big) as the gap between my expectations and my reality.
  2. Happiness is directly related to my thinking – the quality of which is completely MY responsibility.
  3. Comparison is the enemy of happiness.
  4. It is possible to “think myself happy.”
  5. Gratitude is a proven vaccine against viral unhappiness.
  6. Divorcing myself from public opinion will be the hardest AND the most rewarding thing I’ll ever do.
  7. Accepting that the ‘highlight reel’ and the ‘blooper reel’ are all part of the same Life movie will put those Facebook posts into perspective (the former does not exist without the latter) .
  8. I will have to work. Rooting out entitlement (I deserve this… or that… simply by virtue of my existence) exponentially ups the happiness factor.
  9. Identifying my generation’s mindset and the myths created by that mindset will increase the range of choices and options for dealing with the reality of NOW.
  10. If there’s a gap between expectations and reality in my life, I need to go Unicorn hunting.

Life is an ebb and flow of good and bad, happy and sad, disappointment and exultation. Happiness is internally moderated. What would life be like if that were true of you?

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