Have you ever experienced the frustration when purchasing a Christmas present for a friend or family member you really do not know that well?
Now think about how well you really know yourself. Do you really know what you need to be happy?
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t buy happiness.” So why do we continually try and gain happiness and acceptance from external things or people? Because it’s easier than the alternative. Who wants to embark on the laborious journey of self-searching and examination? Especially if that means finding something we don’t like about ourselves, and God forbid we have to learn to accept it. Acceptance is crucial yet is one of the hardest parts of self-examination; once we accept something, we’re responsible. And if we’re responsible, we are the ones to blame for our unhappy life.
I don’t know about you, but for the majority of my life I had no idea what I needed to be happy. There was always this nagging feeling that someday I would figure it out. In the meantime, I figured if I just kept my nose to the grindstone and charged ahead I’d eventually find it. I guess in a sense, that day finally came; but it was a painful lesson in finding inner-peace and happiness. Experience is that way; a painful teacher.
Through self-discovery, I learned something important about myself; I want to be liked—a real shocker. In an attempt to be liked, I sometime’s feel responsible for other peoples feelings. I guess my thinking was/is that if I protect the feelings of others, I’m a good person; thus they’ll like me. If people like me, then I can like myself. The reality is, I cannot alter the lens of others in an attempt to manipulate the way they view me as a person. This is still looking outside myself for happiness.
How others view me is not as important as how I view myself. Having a realistic view of myself is key to finding what I need to be happy. The main point here is that I’m not responsible for how others view me; to some extent. Obviously if my actions are unacceptable I’m somewhat responsible. Conversely, if I conduct myself with respect and love for others, I’m more likely to receive these same blessings in return. The benefit of the latter is the genuine aspect of it; I’m not manipulating someone else’s feeling towards me by lying or manipulating the truth about myself.
This all leads up to something amazing I discovered about myself several years ago:
It was summer 2006 and one afternoon I had shown up after an AA meeting to see what was going on and catch up with some friends I’d met in recovery. I was currently working on the 4th Step of the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Anyway, one of “the friends” asked me if I wanted to go to a movie or something… I can’t remember their exact request but I knew I didn’t want to go. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to hang out, after all, I’d stopped by to see what was going on right? I just didn’t want to hang out with this one particular person. Terrible I know. So here’s how my brilliant mind worked in this particular conversation:
Friend: Hey, do you want to go see a movie?
My Mind: Crap, how do I get out of this… I know! I just went to the grocery store and need to get some things I have in my car in the fridge.
Me (responding almost immediately): Ah man, I just went to the store and have some ice cream in the car I need to get home.
Friend: What Kind?
My Mind: Shit, I need a quick second to come up with a flavor
Friend: What kind of ice cream?
Me: Rocky Road
I then left and headed home. On the way home I intended to stop by the grocery store to pick up some Rocky Road to settle my conscience. It was then I had an epiphany. Every conversation I had ever had with people where I lied because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings flashed through my mind. Man, I’m sick, I thought. I called up my sponsor and shared my new found introspection. He officially gave me permission and the right to say no. Moreover, that I could say no without giving excuses and that I am not responsible for other peoples feelings.
Now obviously we must not confuse this reasoning with not caring and intentionally hurting someone; that is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about my feelings about myself; more precisely, the feelings I get about myself from others.
Our goal is to get the feelings about ourselves from ourselves. When we have an internal deficiency of positive, loving, and healthy feelings towards ourselves, we need to make up for that somewhere; so we look externally. These external forces we choose only add a temporary positive deposit and need to be continually maintained to remain balanced. It becomes a constant struggle to stay balanced and honestly it’s freaking exhausting!
What other people think about me is none of my business; what I think of myself is.
Today I officially give YOU permission to say no! Try it out… the next time someone asks you to do something you’d rather not do, just say no. That’s it, shut up after that. You’re not responsible for the reasons they create in their head. You might be surprised at how few people actually ask you why.