Friday, July 6, 2012

The Right Stuff

This weekend, I had some really good, deep talk with a couple of friends. One was a friend that, despite a long history and being quite close, we haven't gotten to talk as much lately. It was nice to be reminded that in a pinch, we are there for each other. An added bonus to the conversations.

During these talks, I revealed quite a bit about myself, to myself. I know it seems like I'm constantly discovering more about myself - I must seem like I was one confused individual before! Well, in part, that's accurate. In part, I think we're all a little confused. We all things that we do that we don't fully understand. It might be a pet peeve, or something that makes us smile or a fear or any other feeling that we can't quite place. Truthfully, I love learning about myself. It's like unwrapping a gift that's covered with fifteen layers of wrapping paper. The closer you get to the actual present, the more excited you get, and if you're like me, the unwrapping process is part of the fun - it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if you just walked in the house and it was sitting unwrapped on the kitchen table, right? Part of the excitement is that you know there's something great waiting for you underneath the layers of wrapping, and that's how I feel about discovering myself. And yes, I realize to some people I sound like I'm writing a hallmark made for TV movie, but it's how I feel - I can't change that, and quite frankly, I don't want to.

Throughout the conversations this week, the overriding theme was happiness and more specifically, attaining and maintaining it. I told my friend that ultimately, my goal in life is simply to be happy. She responded "yes, but what is it that makes you happy?" What a wonderful response and incredibly important question. So, I started making a list of the things that would make me happy in the long run, and I came to a fascinating conclusion. In the end, they all boil down to two things: to be loved and accepted by myself, and that my loved ones are happy. I always understood, but never really understood, when people would say things like "to love someone else, you have to love yourself first" or "no one else can make you happy, it comes from inside".  That changed when I started making this list and realized that, other than my loved ones' happiness, everything tied back to loving myself. Let me demonstrate. Below are a points that were originally on my list as things that makes me happy. Next to each is how it ties back to being loved and accepted by myself.

1. Being loved and accepted by others: this makes me happy because it boosts my self confidence and self esteem. When these are high, it's easier to love and accept myself. It verifies my positive thoughts about myself and in turn, helps me interact with others.

2. Being successful in my career: I love what I do for a living. However, if I break it down, once again, having a successful career, especially in something in which you help others, helps increase your self confidence. That probably rises exponentially when you own your own business, because you've not only managed a successful career, you've managed to run a company too. That makes me feel pretty damn good about myself.

3. Working on mood disorder awareness: I think this is a tricky one to relate and I want to be very clear on one point - I in no way do the mood disorder awareness work as a self serving measure. I truly love help people and raise awareness. I think though, that this is linked in that I want to help others with the same self love and acceptance that I'm seeking. So while it's not necessarily my own self love, it is self love none the less. In addition, one of the reasons I was so excited to start this, was that it made me realize a positive "purpose" for my condition, and that was to help others. That part of it certainly relates to self acceptance and love - it helps me accept my cyclothymia and even give a positive spin to it.

4.  Being physically health and fit: I think this is kind of a no-brainer in the linkage department. It makes me feel better about myself and boosts my confidence.

I could keep going. The point is, that in the end, what I need to strive for is self love and acceptance. That ultimately makes me happy. These items that I used to think made me happy are really part of that process. Of course, these aren't black and white. There are pieces along each path that help me reach the end result. For instance, I like being social - it's fun to be out doing fun activities with others. I don't solely hang out with people to work on my ultimate goal of self-love, I truly enjoy their company. Same thing with running my business. Unlike many people, I like the day to day work of my job. I like interacting with others about their mood disorders and discuss the successes and struggles along the way. I like learning from them as much as helping. I sometimes like to go to the gym. I can't add an "every day" to that statements - sometimes that one truly is a means to an end.

My point in this blog, which might not be super clear at the moment, is that there is an ultimate goal but it's often not what we focus on. When you get caught up in the details, ask yourself - how will this affect my happiness in the long run. I have had to do this even with big things, like relationship breakups. I've had to say to myself - what I want, in the end, is to be happy. If this person is not going to make me happy, or is not happy with me, why am I fighting so hard for this? What I tend to forget is that my goal shouldn't "to be in a relationship with 'Bob Smith' (I know no one named Bob Smith and if you are, this wasn't aimed at you, you may be a lovely gentleman, but it's a generic choice of name).  Same for every day things. Instead of getting bogged down in minute details, I need to look at how it will affect my overall goal of happiness.

What it boils down to is that I need to focus on the right things. That's it. I just took a page and a half blog to say that, I realize. Sometimes though, things seem so simple that you have to write them out a bit, explain, give them context. So there you have it. Ask yourself - am I focusing on the right things. Make a list, like I did, if you have to. Your "right things" may well not be the same as mine. But whatever they are, keep them in your sights, every day.

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