Why Valuing Your Own Happiness Earns You More Respect
authenticity happiness self-respect
Being Authentic in the Real World
Of course, the world isn't perfect. We don't get to do what we want all the time, or even most of the time, but if we make absolutely no effort to align ourselves with what makes us happy, we burn out.
Life is short. Always remember this. You don’t have to go base jumping or travel the world if that’s not your thing, but you should try to spend at least a little time each day in the things that make your days worthwhile.
I learned this lesson from my girlfriend, who always makes time in her life to see the people she loves, isn't ashamed to spend money on things that make her happy (even if totally useless), and who insists on being herself even when it is inconvenient because she knows the alternative is ultimately futile.
Value What Makes You Happy
I was raised in an achievement-oriented environment, which led me to push aside all the things that made me happy. I loved to write fiction, but as the years went on, I put it off more and more because it wasn't associated with academic or financial success. I neglected my friendships because they weren't going to get me good grades or a good job. Way back in middle school, I felt like I was putting off my life and my happiness.
But all those things I loved doing were the things that made me who I am. Without respect for them, I had no clarity of self, nothing to live for, and nothing to represent to others. I merely went after whatever the next achievement was to check it off.
Dedicating yourself to your own happiness is isn't just about feeling good; it's about living with integrity and being authentic, qualities that are essential for living a full life and for being of service to others.
“Do what you love” is a trite saying; not all of us have the luxury of making a job out of what we enjoy, and not all of us want to. (For more on that, read this thought-provoking article. It will change how you think of work and passion).
What I'm saying here is to figure out how you can go to bed each night thinking, “I did good today.”
Make Space to be Yourself
For my parents, a good day was one in which they spent time with my sister and me. My dad had a good summer when he took us camping. I have a good day when I write something, and I have a great day when I write something that gets published.
You don't have to be out 'living the dream' every single moment of every single day. That is unrealistic. But you should have a time and a place where you can just express your personal version of happiness.
The important thing is to make an effort to be around the things you love, to build them into your days, and to appreciate them when they are there. It's important that you make sure your voice, your vision, your particular way of being is expressed in the way you live and interact.
I don’t need anything fancy, but here are some examples of me doing what I love:
- Write something. Just putting pen to paper or seeing beautiful font scroll across the screen feels wonderful.
- Reading fiction.
- Running. Feeling the wind in my face, chasing the sun and seeing my shadow stretched across a country road are some of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever experienced.
- Playing with a child, reinforcing the value of their dreams and particular conception of the world.
- Wearing my worn leather jacket and fedora.
- Shaving with my shiny safety razor and my old-school soap that smells like pine tar.
Little things matter, but because they are little, it’s so easy to let them slide. When I get busy, I don’t write, and I tend to give educational non-fiction priority over the stories I love because the stories seem trivial.
But then, I get into bed feeling like I’ve lost a small bit of focus, that I’ve let my spirit go soft to more easily conform with the pressures of the day.
Being authentic doesn't mean I'm always happy. Often, it means I am tired, frustrated, or outright angry. But I at least feel valued in my own estimation.
Ultimately, we don’t believe in ourselves because it gets things done or helps us realize our truth. We believe in ourselves because we need to feel coherent, we need to live with integrity. And if the way we conduct our lives is too far away from our truths, then it becomes impossible to believe in our validity. We must make use of our lives--by filling them with the things we personally ascribe value to--or else admit that our lives are really useless.
So, to be authentic, give consideration to your needs, principles, and unique worldview. Just as you would protect the passions of a child and provide time to explore them, learn what matters to you and create space for yourself to do the things that make your days wonderful.
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What little things make you happy? Do you give them the priority they deserve?
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr