What makes me happy: Gratitude
Comparison is the thief of joy
- Theodore Roosevelt
For most of my early adult life I was convinced that I could figure out how to be thin enough, smart enough, do my hair and make up well enough to figure out the happiness that it seemed women who had achieved that had. Their problems were my dreams: There's TOO many people who want to date you?! You can't decide between which bikini to wear? You only had four job offers after graduation? Ugh, sounds terrible.
As the years went on the complaints myself and many of my peers had shifted to reflect the stages of life we are or were in: Great, another person got engaged *takes large swig of wine* Cool, I'm never fitting into my jeans from college again *takes large swig of wine* Oh, those couples that got married a few years back are now having adorable children that are flooding my facebook/instagram/snapchat constantly and I'm still over here dateless *instals wine refrigerator in living room* or Awesome, Karen just got that huge promotion, somehow is still super mom and I'm trying to figure out how to pay for day care *looks at pictures of Karen's kids on Facebook for 15 minutes* Everyone else seems happy and I cry every night wanting to divorce my husband *insert coping mechanism here*
This is not to say that there is not genuine happiness for friends who hit milestones, or that there isn't appreciation for our own successes, because that is there too! But the underlying current of comparison is always around, lurking. For most people it comes when a failure happens in their life. Being passed over for a promotion that is given to the person who makes your skin crawl at work, going to wedding number twenty with your significant other who can't seem to understand that this is something you want too, seeing a friend who got in rocking bikini shape when you ate your feelings for the last month before summer.
And to a certain extent we are hard wired to do this. It's science. If there is something that has your attention: that significant other you want, the grandparent you just lost that you were close to, that horrible break up you just went though, the inability to pay your next round of bills, you brain WILL point out every damn thing related to what your brain is focused on.
Happy couples appear in front of you around every turn.
Every friend will have a grandparent birthday post about how much they love them.
Your friends will want to plan an expensive vacation and you immediately cringe at how to decline from because there ain't no way you can afford that shit.
Recognizing this allows you to develop the fight back to say, "Thanks brain, but I'll look for other stuff." Taking the power of comparison and instead, turning it into gratitude. The same attention that your brain will use to make you miserable can also be used to make you immensely reliant and happy.
This does not happen overnight so if there are still evenings you feel like a ball of ass, that's nothing to beat yourself up about. When something bad happens, pause. grieve. and figure out what you are really appreciative of that's related to the thing that bummed you out.
I'll give you an example that literally just happened to me while I was writing this:
So, I love making this blog and I really want to build a shared life where I can somehow fuse my love of helping people, cooking, teaching, and building tolerance and I'm on a journey to figure out how to do that.
Some days I feel AWESOME. That recipe rocked! I have 4 new instagram followers! I had engagement with an idea or recipe! My lesson at school killed! A student wrote me an email and I cry every time I read it!
(*That's me, kicking life in the face)
Other days I feel like this: How does the internet even work? How do you get people to read stuff? No one cares about anything I have to say. I suck at writing. My students just failed that test so hard, I can't even teach math. My bank account looks like a high schoolers who has a part time job at Rita's.
Just now I was checking something on my instagram and I noticed that I have 3 less followers than I had yesterday. And the number is seriously not even impressive at this point anyway, lol. I immediately said, "aww f*#k. Did I do a thing wrong? Am I ever going to learn how to do this?"
I had my grieving moment. Now, what its time for my brain to find something else to think about. I made an awesome bruschetta recipe that I know someone will love! I really enjoyed it last night and for breakfast. I just had an awesome walk on my street. I'm so lucky to live somewhere where I can spend so much time outside. I'm really happy I turned my air conditioner on. It feels so nice in here.
There are things you have control over and things you don't. The more time I focus on my appreciation for the positive things that are in my life that I don't have control over and act on improving things I do have control over the happier I am.
I do this over and over and over again. Stop. Grieve. Listen to myself. Focus on what I can do. Appreciate what has been given to me.
Even if I'm the one who caused the issue. I forgive myself and I try again.
Speaking of that. Your personal forgiveness is so important. You cannot grow if you cannot see that you are worth forgiving. And you are always worth forgiving. I recently found my favorite quote about forgiving yourself and I'll share it because it's so important:
"You have screwed up in the past. You will screw up again. Every human is born with the ability to make spectacular mistakes. You are not alone. Screwing up is not your special skill. Get over it. Dragging around the guilt and self-criticism is beyond unhealthy and is utterly pointless, not to mention boring. Get clear on this one truth: guilt, shame, and self-criticism are some of the most destructive forces in your life, which is why forgiving yourself is one of the most powerful"
- Jen Sincero
Be grateful for what you have. Be excited about who you are. In a harsh/not harsh way: no one wants to be around you if you're not, including you. Listening to someone complain about being single is not attractive. Having someone listen while you whine about not having money isn't going to change what's in your bank account.
Did you wake up today on a planet spinning though space and took a breath and opened your eyes and saw an outside that gives life to all the humans, and animals, and teeny tiny plants? COOL! If it's rainy be excited that the earth is drinking in all that water and not bummed because your hair is going to be frizzy. Did you roll over and saw that that hot date never texted you back? They were cute but so are baby giraffes... I'm gonna look at them and get back on my dating app after I've had my fill of cute.
Pay attention to what you focus on and build gratitude. For every dumb little thing in your life; because they are not dumb. They are the awesome, happy, super excited about life life that you have been looking for.