Over a decade ago, my love of reading about self-help and body language and things started. It started innocently enough. How to come across well. How to talk to women (still figuring that one out!). How to do work that I loved. How to be happy. This “how-to” stuff gradually became more focused on books around happiness and career change in my early 20s.
Before I knew it, I was reading and listening to as much as I could about people who had quit their jobs to “do their own thing” and thus become happier as a result. I became hooked on these stories and, above all else, reinforced the belief that it was my dissatisfaction in my job which was the reason I was unhappy, and that doing “my own thing” – whatever that was – would be the solution to all of my problems.
And then I struggled and pained myself with *what* that was. With whether I was capable. With how I was supposed to get started. With what my “life’s work” was supposed to be.
So, basically, what I did was tell myself that my happiness depended on my work and my work alone. And so figuring out the work thing became this massive ordeal which a lot rested on an d became really overwhelming, as I made myself believe that there was a single “thing” I was supposed to do and succeed at and become known for.
Looking back, this was really toxic. Unsurprisingly, I got paralysed and overwhelmed by the knowledge and stories and information I was taking in and became increasingly confused and frustrated. The more and more I searched for “the answer”, the more I struggled and turned thoughts over and over in my head.
Ironically, I was making myself unhappier. And then I honed in *even more* on my personal happiness when studying the Masters, and the business I started alongside it, on my own, and left to my own devices and at the the mercy of these self-doubting, negative thoughts.
I became very isolated and very in my head and removed from reality. So much so that I failed to eat and sleep and do fun things and spend time with others and do all of those things which I needed for my sanity and wellbeing.
That’s why I ended up lower than I’ve ever been and going to therapy. I had to dissect all the stuff that was going on inside my head and get back in touch with my feelings and emotions which I’d shut away because I was so stuck in my head any my thoughts. It’s taken my felt experience in the real world to realise just how much contributes to my happiness.
Now and then, I get sucked back into the temptation of deciphering what happiness for me consists of. And then I get overwhelmed with the task of coming up with this perfect formula for happiness which – again – doesn’t exist. Perfectionistic tendencies die hard.
And, in fact, ever time I write an article which alludes to deciphering my happiness, I have t be super-careful not to put pressure on myself to come up with a perfect well-formed set of instructions. I even go so far as put pressure on myself to come up with the “right” advice for the audience online that I’m writing for, as if I’m solely responsible for their happiness and my article is designed to do just that.
And that’s exactly why I try to move away from deciphering my happiness down to a T. The fact that I know the set of ingredients is enough for me. Managing my energy. Forming close connections with a select group of people. Putting focus into my writing and creative projects but trying to ensure I also carve out down-time for myself (self-care Sundays are a thing for me now). Spending time with my family, quality time. Regularly doing yoga, or working out, or otherwise moving in some way. Getting enough sleep. Rarely drinking alcohol or coffee. Really just managing my precious energy resources and my environment such that I stay level and grounded and well. Meaning into my journalling and self-expression, and dipping back into therapy as I need to.
Like a plant that’s well-nourished, I am aware of the ways in which I can support myself and help myself continue to grow and thrive.
And it’s important to acknowledge that I don’t have all of the answers, in fact I never will. And it’s much more important for me to listen to my body and honour my inner energy than it is to decipher a perfectly-mapped out plan of action for me to remain happy.
Because that’s unrealistic, unachievable and even anxiety-inducing. And I definitely don’t need that.
Tuesday, 11th December 2018 | this article first appeared on IntrovertJedi