Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happiness Series: 8 - To Be Happy: Stop Hating Yourself

Why Do We Dislike Ourselves?

Your dislike for yourself is likely directly proportionate to how much you feel you are the person you want to be.

If you think you are kind, generous, loyal and spendthrift, but in reality you haven’t gone out of your way to do anything kind since you threw a surprise party for someone a year ago, you never buy someone lunch without asking them to pay you back, you gossiped about your best friend yesterday and you spent half your paycheck on a new jacket that doesn’t actually fit very well, then you probably aren’t too fond of yourself.

Again, this comes down to cognitive dissonance. To maintain a positive self identity, you have to lie to yourself about the traits you have. And even though you are steadfast in your belief of the lie, your brain still knows the truth and it causes constant, low level cognitive dissonance.

To relieve it, you either have to admit you aren’t any of those good things you think you are, or actually start embodying the traits you claim to be.

The other reason we find ourselves rather dislikeable, is because we haven’t achieved the things we want to have achieved. Or we have achieved them, and they aren’t as great as we hoped. This come back to comparisons. Either comparisons of what we thought we would have achieved by now, or comparisons between the fantasy and reality of our goals.

Maybe you thought having kids would make you happy, but the reality is much harder and messier than you thought it would be, so you feel like a failure.

Maybe you thought you’d be published by now, but you just have a stack of rejection letters.

Maybe you tell everyone work is great and you love it, but it actually sucks and you hate getting up in the morning. Problem is, if you admit it or not, you hate that you’re lying. No one wants to be a liar. But sometimes we feel like we have to lie, or risk everyone we know thinking we’re a failure.

Most people feel this way, and most people end up disliking themselves because of it.

Have A Vision For Who You Want To Be
What sort of person do you want to be?

I’m not asking what sort of person you think you are. But if you got to choose what sort of person you were, if you could go back and re-write both nature and nurture, if you were tabula rasa (a blank slate) what sort of person would you choose to be?

Its very hard to get somewhere, if you don’t know where you’re going. You could just get in the car and drive and maybe you would find somewhere awesome. Or maybe you would just drive around lost until you got frustrated and went home.

Its not all that different when it comes to personality and who we are. Sure, there are some elements of us that are set in stone. Even if I tried, I don’t think I will ever become a big sports fan. Or a big board game fan. Both of these things bore me.

However when it comes to my interactions with other people, I am in complete control of how I want to be perceived. I can choose to be confident or shy, I can choose to be friendly or reserved. I can choose to put the effort in and look presentable, or I can be a slob.

Attitudes and behavior are more habit than anything else, and habits can be changed with conscious effort. If you want to be more friendly, make yourself be friendlier. Learn to say hello to strangers and introduce yourself. Ask polite questions about people, learn to be a better conversationalist.

If you want to be more confident, take some lessons on acting or toastmasters and learn to use more confident body language. And when someone says something rude, stand up for yourself or other people.

I have a quote in my bujo, but I don’t know where it is from: ‘Be the person you want your soulmate to fall in love with.’

At the very least, have a vision of yourself that is someone YOU would love.

Commit To Kind Honesty

What if you committed to honesty, right now? What if when someone asked you a question you didn’t want to answer, you said: “I don’t want to answer that.” Instead of coming up with a lie?

What if instead of making an excuse for why you can’t go to an event, you tell the truth? You’re exhausted and there is no parking there?

What if instead of telling someone you’re not ready for a relationship, you told them you’re not interested in them? Because you’re just not attracted to them?

Telling the truth can be scary, because we’re afraid we’ll be judged or incite more conflict that we want to avoid. However the opposite is usually true. People trust you more, when they know you will be honest with them. And a painful truth is much healthier for everyone than a pretty lie.

Most importantly, it will make you feel better. You will like yourself more and you will feel more relaxed, more trusting and more content in your own skin.

Accept That Being A Good Person Takes Work

Sometimes, I think we excuse ourselves from certain behaviors because we believe its more effort for us than other people. We think its naturally easy for others to be kind and generous. They were born that way, we weren’t and it would take us five times as much effort as them for the same output.

I’m just not that kind of person, we say. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

I disagree. I think people who are kind and generous got into the habit younger. They were probably taught to be consistent as children or toddlers, so it is easier NOW, but it probably wasn’t when they were learning it. Likewise, it may take some effort for you to learn the habit now, but eventually it will become habit, then it will be effortless. Its just a matter of re-training your brain.

Maybe you think its not worth the effort, but unless you are terminally ill, you have years ahead of you. In ten years, what will you regret you didn’t start now? I’m guessing being a kind and generous person will be on the list (along with saving money, so get on that too).

Moving Forward

Next week, we’re going to talk about priorities and the role they play in happiness. I really hope you’re all still enjoying this series and finding it useful. Don’t be shy about dropping me a line to say you are!

Jake, A Summary

This post comes at a time when I am struggling to find gratitude in every day life. Things are not going my way and I have spent weeks both nauseous and with a frustrating, low grade flu that won’t go away. I’m working hard, and I don’t seem to be making any progress. I also don’t seem to have time for my friends or social commitments. It feels like I am running on a treadmill, wearing myself out, but not getting anywhere.

This is the time it is most important to be grateful. Without gratitude, I could forget all the good things I have going on and focus only on the negative and frustrating. Making the bad seem worse and the good seem insignificant.

When I am feeling least grateful is when I need to show the most gratitude, if only to keep myself afloat.

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