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Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

As emotional beings, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately define a feeling. So much can get lost in translation and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason that so many people have trouble achieving happiness. At times it just seems so elusive and complex. I mean, what is happiness really? Are you only truly happy if you only experience that emotion, and that one alone?

Definition of happiness by different philosophers share the same theory.

There are many ideologies with their own philosophies on how to achieve happiness. For example, the Buddhists believe that happiness can only be achieved when you have rejected all need for material goods, reaching what they call Nirvana.[1] Taoists attain happiness by living simple, uncomplicated lives; appreciating what is, and accepting what is not.[2]

What these two theories have in common is the rejection of longing. You can’t be truly happy when you focus on what you do not have.

But what we believe is true about happiness has been hindering us from pursuing true happiness.

Myth 1: Happiness is a constant state.

If you think that you need to be happy 24/7 to be a happy person, that just simply isn’t true. Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets angry. We are capable of an array of emotions for a reason, to feel them. To be a happy individual, you have to know how to reel yourself back and not allow the other emotions to consume you. Take the Taoist approach here: appreciate what is, and accept what is not.

Myth 2: Money can buy happiness.

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Before I get all preachy again, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of shop therapy. Getting something new and exciting, and fulfilling for the moment can be nearly euphoric. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been pining over, worked for, and are finally able to make that purchase and make it yours. But more likely than not, that new exciting object will become an old, forgotten thing of the past. Like a temporary high, it will cease to satisfy you. Here I am going to ask you to take the Buddhist approach: do not rely on material objects to bring you happiness.

Myth 3: Destination: Happiness.

“I’ll be happy when___”, “Things will get better when____”, does this sound like you? Happiness is not a destination. A new place, a new job, a new hobby will not completely alter your life, filling your soul with rainbows and sunshine. I mean, it certainly can help, and changing your circumstance is the first step towards achieving happiness. As it was once so eloquently stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer and philosopher, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Happiness lies within yourself. Changing your circumstance isn’t enough, you must change yourself as well.

Success and happiness don’t need to be enemies.

To some, happiness is an idealistic fantasy; a hindering roadblock for a successful life. Well, hey now, what is success? When do you feel truly successful? Couldn’t success be defined as achieving your desired lifestyle and therefore achieving happiness? For some yes, for others it is a resounding no.

Many business tycoons have put happiness on the back-burner, sacrificing everything that gives their life meaning in order to grow their business, their empire, and most importantly, their bank account. The need to succeed monopolizes every other aspect of life with soul crushing force, leaving little room for luxuries like joy and bliss.

Although this isn’t the case for all workaholics. For them, working endlessly, building their dream, and growing their net worth is exactly what gives their life meaning. The key is finding a balance and learning how to prioritize the little things that make their heart sing, and including them into their daily routines.

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Start with your smallest lifestyle change, and prioritize happiness.

Yes, that’s all you need to do!

There is a new trend in the workforce where primarily millennials are finding ways to pursue their passions, and building their empires by nurturing their interests. Many baby boomers sneer at this lifestyle, mostly out of resentment for not having the same opportunities; or the courage to do so.

Some people, specifically myself, cannot trudge through life mindlessly doing what is expected to fulfill my obligations. What is expected? Accept your life for the monotonous conveyor of: heinous commute, work at a job you hate, pay for the house in the town you want to leave, fantasize about the life you wish you had, cry yourself to sleep, wake up, repeat. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic but too many people have accepted this way of life, and I’ll tell you what, they are not happy.

They’re leaving out one very important ingredient, themselves. They let the light die out in their soul, they’ve forgotten their passions. They’ve let go of those important elements of life that make them think “THIS is the reason I’m alive!” When very simply, if they included one little ritual daily, or even weekly, setting aside time for what interests them, they can find that oasis of contentment and happiness that has been missing.

This is where things can get tricky. Because pursuing happiness can be exhausting when approached too forcefully.[3] People tend to overwhelm themselves by taking on a bunch of new hobbies, or launching a side project for the dream business they’ve always wanted. Usually they take all of these tasks on at once and ultimately burn themselves out. This leaves them defeated, feeling as if happiness is as they say, just not in the cards.

Integrating happiness, and ultimately prioritizing it is a bit like a diet. If you take on too much at once, you’re bound to crash and give up. The key is small lifestyle changes that eventually become a part of your daily routine.

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Now is the time to start prioritizing your happiness, and here’s how.

Create a list

Write down everything in your life that doesn’t satisfy you. Fold a sheet of paper down the middle and on one side label it: “What Needs to Change.” Perhaps it’s a bad habit that you can’t seem to kick, the fact that you feel bored, tired, sore, you don’t feel attractive, or you feel like your life doesn’t have any passion or meaning. Just write it all down and get it all out. Now on the other side of the paper, I want you to label it as, “Solutions.” List 3 solutions to each issue, even if they are a bit of a stretch. The idea here is that you’re searching for answers instead of ignoring the problem. If you can’t think of three solutions that’s more than okay. As long as you can come up with at least one you’re making progress.

For example: Let’s say that you wish you had more friends, or the courage to talk to people. Three possible solutions would be:

1. Say hello and start a conversation with a stranger 2 times a week.

2. Join a group or a class, surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar interests.

3. Ask someone you think is cool on a friend date. Invite them to that class you just joined. Chances are they’ll take you up on the offer, and now you have a new acquaintance and possible friend to hang with.

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Designated “Me” Time

Set aside time for yourself at least 20 minutes a day, whether it’s before or after work, or maybe on the weekend. Take this time to take a bath, meditate, go for a hike, pick up a new hobby such as watercolor or knitting.

I know you’re busy, we all are. But busy people are the best at making time for their top priorities, and you should always be number one. Give yourself a chance to replenish and recharge. Otherwise you’re just pouring from an empty cup, and it’s going to run you dry.

Volunteer/Get involved

Reach deep down and think of an issue that concerns you. Women’s rights, food activism, animal activism, preserving nature, homelessness, etc. Whatever it is, there is a group fighting for the advancement of the cause and they need your help.

Contact them, see what you can do. It could be something as small as passing out flyers, or getting out there and giving fruit to the destitute.

You will become full with a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that you did something to help. You’re now a part of the solution, and you’re awesome!

Reference

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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