Our culture often falls prey to the "happiness craze," in search of instant gratification, rather than exerting patience. Psychologist and social critic, John Schumaker (in "In Search of Happiness: Understanding an Endangered State of Mind") put it best: "Clinicians and coaches have become merchants of happiness, promising people the moon: instant transformation, success, and happiness. They mass market their happiness prescriptions like any other feel-good commercial product. Such prescriptions are more misleading than enlightening, more 'feel better' than 'do better.'"
Well, I can assure you (and many can attest) that I am not that type of clinician. I cannot, nor do I try, to offer anyone a quick and easy route to happiness and fulfillment. For one, I am too much a realist. Secondly, helping others learn to discover and embrace their true selves often means looking deeply and realistically at the fears that keep them from optimal healthiness and authenticity.
This is not usually "happy" work but necessary to get to consistent happiness and inner peace, as well as our true nature. Martin Luther King, Jr. (in "Strength to Love") stated, "We shall never be cured of fear by escapism or repression, for the more we attempt to ignore and repress our fears, the more we multiply our inner conflicts."
The more we are conflicted internally, the more unhealthy, worn out, and ragged we feel and act. In short, we and all of our stuff manifests as raggedy. Now, this does not mean that we, in our true nature, are raggedy. It means that, through our conflicted self-concept the true essence of our nature cannot flourish, jeopardizing our physical and mental/emotional health, as well as our relations with others.
There are several things you can do to keep from sinking into the quicksand of "raggedness," including, but not limited to, the following four things:
- Increase your self-awareness. Take some time to consider and become aware of your goals, motivations, influences, alternatives, and personal goals. The greater your awareness, the greater your possibilities and the more we increase our capacity to live fully.
- Assume responsibility. We are entirely responsible for our lives, actions, and failures to take action. If there is change to be made, assuming responsibility is a basic condition for change.
- Develop a support system. Pretty self-explanatory, huh? Not always. A support system will not sit and watch you do things that are self-destructive or take joy (even if you do) in watching you make hazardous choices. To develop a strong, stable support system, one has to first know what support is needed (hence, the importance of self-awareness) and articulate the need to others. Seek out those individuals who can support you fostering and nurturing your goals, any change you want to facilitate, and you, based on who you know your healthy, authentic self to be. Keep in mind that this support might be found outside of your family and current social circle.
- Take time for self. Take time for you to nurture yourself. We often get so bogged down in the demands of our daily responsibilities in the home, work, relationships, etc., that we forget to take time for ourselves. It is okay to help nurture others (actually, you should give nurture to others), but you cannot nurture anyone (e.g., children, partner, siblings, friends, parents, etc.,) if you are depleted. Remember, if your stuff is raggedy, so are you. And if your me is raggedy, so will be your we, as your "raggedness" will pour over into your relationships with others.
Just as you show others in your life that they matter, take some time to nurture yourself. Show yourself that you matter to you and that you are worth the expense of time, energy, effort, or money. Make a list of things that recharge and rejuvenate you and commit to at least one per week. Understand that doing these things may require time, patience, and practice, particularly if you have not been used to doing them.
They are not a quick-fix, but rather a fool-proof plan for implementing long-lasting inner peace, healthiness, and harmony between your relationship with you and others. For some, you may require assistance in learning how to implement these ideas. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for assistance. You really are worth it!
This story was provided by our content partner, YourTango, a digital media company dedicated to love and relationships. No matter what love stage our users are in — single, taken, engaged, married, starting over, or complicated — we help them live their best love lives. Written by Dr. Dionne Bates.