Possibly one of the most useful discoveries I have made in the last few months has been that your thoughts are not necessarily true, and if you can really look at them along with your feelings, you might uncover new information about yourself. Taking the time to assess why I do the things I do, and who I really do them for, has been useful in focusing on things that truly bring me happiness.
I think living for the approval of others is pointless, as there will always be things about you that some people don’t like, and that’s okay. It is better to at least try to be happy and if people dislike you for that, at least you are comfortable with yourself. In other cases, you may not be doing things for the benefit of others, but because you are afraid of confronting the reality of a situation. People love to stick with what is familiar, and thought patterns are no different.
What makes you happy?
Acknowledging that just because I behave in a certain way does not mean my true happiness is the driving force behind it, I began to look at areas of my life for behaviours that did not bring about feelings of happiness My music taste, I realised, was partially because of my belief that some people would think it was desperately uncool if I listened to bubble-gum pop music instead of the obscure artists all those my age seemed to listen to. It’s more interesting to others to be the unique person who listens to different music, or so I thought. Except now I have decided it is rather more interesting to be the sort of person who, so long as it harms no-one else, behaves in a way that feels genuine and authentic to them.
Are you doing things for others?
I encourage you all to look at why you do certain things and use some radical honesty with yourself. Do you think if you say no to something, people will think you are mean? Do you think people will respect you more if you study a certain subject? Do you feel genuinely happy with choices you make, or do you feel like you need to convince yourself before you feel satisfied?
Making decisions that are not driven by your true values may cause you to experience some issues with your identity – how can you know who you are if your behaviours are clouded by the views of others? This is not to say that you should ignore the opinions of others, but you should be aware of the role they play. Rather, I’m advocating for living in line with your own values – and if you value kindness or generosity, then you should of course do that.
Living in a way that makes me feel like myself
Now, I get to watch rom-coms, listen to pop music, eat what I want, and focus on skills that interest me without worrying if these somehow command less respect or make me less likeable to others. My goals are actually my own, rather than interim goals that really were only stepping stones to the goal of being liked by others. Nothing brings more happiness than knowing I am living in a way that makes me feel like myself, not who I think others want me to be.