Do you find that no matter the relationship you are in, the career you have, or the money you make, nothing is making you happy?
I have been there myself. For me, it was a mix of being with the wrong person, not pursuing my passion as a career, but most of all, not being happy or content with myself.
I can promise you, no relationship, career, or money in this world will provide you with long-term contentment. If you were to take all of that away, only left with the bare necessities and good health, could you honestly tell me you would still be happy?
If the answer is yes, honestly yes, then congratulations! You are one of few who have found true contentment and happiness within yourself.
You Can't Buy Happiness
What?! You're telling me that buying a brand new gadget, the latest designer bag, or a shiny new car or home isn't going to make me happy?! It may for a short period of time, but it is only temporary. When I was having a terrible, no good, very bad day, I remember going out to the mall, getting my nails done, or visiting the salon. It just put a spark of happiness in an otherwise dismal day. Some people may take it a level further and run to the car lot to splurge on the dream car they have been eyeing for a year; others might binge on their favorite food. What ever our fancy may be, the thing that stays the same is our immediate high, and soon to follow low.
Why Does it Feel Good to Buy New Things, and Why Does the Good Feeling Wear Off?
1) Our culture promotes materialism:
24/7 we are bombarded with advertisements and commercialism. We're conditioned to believe if we don't buy in to the latest and greatest, we are socially unacceptable. We are instead considered by society "lame", "unsuccessful", "poor", "unworthy", all of which are the furthest from the truth. Because this is marketed as the norm, we fall right into the trap of materialism which typically goes hand in hand with debt.
2) It makes us feel in control:
In the moments of turmoil and despair, feeling as if control of our lives have been ripped from our grasp, we tend to find something else to grasp onto and take control of. Impulsive spending temporarily gives us the feeling we are back in control. This soon after wears off and we are now back to feeling unsatisfied and potentially worse, especially if your purchase(s) put you into debt.
You Don't Need Someone Else to Make YOU Whole
Having a special someone in your life is a great feeling. However, if you feel unwhole without them, you may want to re-evaluate your personal contentment. We've all heard the term(s) "my better half", "my other half", "they complete me". Although these statements may make others gush with awww, they are highly over romanticized. It should not take another person to "complete" you. What you are telling yourself and others when you use these terms is, "I am nothing without them".
Relying on The Acceptance and Love of Someone Else is Dangerous
First let's make sure we are on the same page. I said RELYING ON is what is dangerous, not the act of being accepted or loved by another in itself.
I used to be the girl who sat by the phone waiting for the boyfriend to call; feeling anxious when my calls or messages were ignored. I would repeatedly blowup his phone with calls, check in on his location by calling/texting his friends, and sometimes show up where I knew he was suppose to allegedly be. Yes, I was the CRAZY girlfriend. I would change my appearance to suit his preference, whether that meant wearing different clothes, changing my hair color/style, or gaining/losing weight. I also began to adopt his hobbies and hang out with his friends, ditching the few friends I had. How I viewed my self-worth was in direct correlation with how he saw me. This is the first time I have wrote this down. Seeing it for the first time, it angers me how much I undervalued myself.
Relying on the acceptance and love of someone else is dangerous because once you lose them, you feel as if you have lost yourself. I don't clearly remember the turning point for when I woke up and realized I was destroying myself and relinquishing my potential. It wasn't quite a "flip of a switch", a distinct on/off, but more of a gradual enlightenment.
Follow Your Passion! Don't Settle for Less.
Too often, we follow a career path based on the almighty dollar or to appease the ones who brought us into this world or paid for our education. The Washington Post claims only 27 percent of us have careers related to our major. Although your passion may not make you a millionaire, it can grant you happiness and purpose. I can almost guarantee you, if you were to put in the work, truly hard work, you could make a decent living doing almost anything.
I have always had a passion for helping others and education. My primary passion was psychology. However, my dad talked me out of making psychology my major. He said a B.S in Psychology didn't make money; that I would have to have a Masters or Doctorate to make a living. Given my grades at the time, I could understand why he thought I wouldn't make it past a B.S. After spending 3 years obtaining a degree in Education (which wouldn't make me any better off (financially) than a B.S in Psychology) I decided to take my life into my own hands and pursue a degree in my passion, psychology.
My degree in Psychology, along with my innate drive and passion to help others, has brought me to where I am today. Continuing education is extremely important to me. I plan on obtaining my PhD in Psychology no later than 2026, so stay tuned.
Steps to Creating Contentment and Happiness Within
Be true to yourself:
Don't feel the need to be someone you're not. We have the tendency to idolize others who are in the spot light and seem to have everything. If you were to view their lives from behind the scenes, I'm sure their life isn't as glamorous as it appears to be. I am proud to say I have never bought a designer bag or the latest and greatest thing because it was "in". I would much rather put that money towards an experience or traveling. Don't allow society to pressure you into conformity. Be different, be true to YOURSELF!
Stop comparing yourself to others:
None of us are perfect or will ever be. Some of us are more privileged than others. Some of us were born with a fast metabolism, or features that society considers unattractive/attractive. And some of us were born with disabilities that may make life more challenging. The sooner we accept who WE are and what WE have to offer, the sooner we can start to harness our unique abilities and do great things. The alternative... sit and wallow in your self pity, watching as the world and those around you progress day by day, year by year, until you are at the end of your existence, having nothing to account for but a life of bitterness and envy. Which path will you choose?
Find meaning and purpose:
Some people believe we were put here on this Earth for a purpose. I believe we create meaning and purpose in our lives. I know too many people who squandered their life away. When you find a purpose for your life and you choose to share that with others, it naturally gives you a sense of meaning and satisfaction.
I couldn't put it better than Kimberly Yam did in her article "10 Facts That Prove Helping Others Is A Key To Achieving Happiness" Kimberly states "Giving back has an effect on your body. Studies show that when people donated to charity, the mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, was triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.”" To read her entire article please click here
Continue to push yourself:
No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, every step forward is a step towards improvement and reaching your goal. Don't beat yourself up when you don't see major change at once. Successful people weren't born in a day. It took years of unnoticed hard work for them to be where they are today. Appreciate and value the small victories in your life. Push yourself out of you comfort zone and you'll be amazed by what you can accomplish. Remember being progressive is better than doing nothing at all. Celebrate your small efforts! Remember the 1% rule: 1.01^365 = 37.8 (this represents increasing your productivity by only 1% a day for a year), .99^365 = .03 (this represents decreasing your productivity by 1% a day for a year).
Pursue your passion:
Do what you love and you will love what you do. When you engage in your passion, do you notice time is irrelevant? Your mind becomes so engrossed with what you are doing, you can work for hours on end without exhaustion. You step away satisfied, content, energized, and vivacious! Psychologist call this state of mind Flow. To learn more about Flow click here.
Enjoy the simple pleasures of life:
I am not ashamed to admit I am an old soul. I take pleasure in some of life's most simple gifts. To me, true contentment is being able to sit in the grass on a beautiful warm day, enjoying the feel of the earth beneath my feet, the breeze on my face, and the sound of nature. I love the smell of coffee in the morning, the flicker of a flame, and the warm embrace of a blanket. Find appreciation for the little things in life that bring you joy.