(I know those two words probably don’t quite go together for some, but it’s International Happiness Day, after all.)
In one of my previous posts, Self-Doubt Made Me Do It, I shared with you that my teen years were filled with episodes of changing many things about myself, to fit in at school. Did I mention that it even continued into my years at university?
Whether it was choosing to dye strands of my hair with bleach (yes, you read that right! Clorox!) so I could have light-brown highlights, wearing shoes that I looked silly in (but I was convinced looked cute, because, well, everybody else had them too), refusing to read aloud in English Lit class, or no longer writing my own poetry (I stopped writing for years), changing the things that made me ME, seemed like the only way to change things. Changing things about myself felt like the only way to be liked, or at least not to be disliked and teased, and ultimately to be content.
But how did I ultimately get to a place of being authentically myself, and totally at peace with it?
Why, years of stress and ‘trying-too-hard-ness’, of course!
See, the brown highlights were cute for a while. Until the bleach started breaking off my hair. Those cute shoes were trendy but they fell apart in no time flat. When I stopped writing poetry I had time for all the other things girls around me were doing but it stifled my creativity, and I had absolutely no outlet for expressing myself. I even stopped writing when I was by myself. You’d think that since I was trying to hide those sides of myself from others, I would be doing it whenever I was alone, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. I’d spent so much time doing everything but writing, that it no longer came natural to me (Remember, you snooze you lose).
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
With everything that I tried doing to look, sound, be like everyone else, you’d think that I’d be walking on cloud nine everyday, right? It never happened. I still wasn’t accepted in the circles I was trying to be in. Crazy thing is, the people who were my true friends, were not trying in any way to fit in.
The Lightbulb Moment
So when it finally dawned on me that I was losing the ‘me’ I knew, loved and was most comfortable with, some layers had to be shed. I went back to doing what I enjoyed, went back to places I felt most comfortable, and with that came a contentment I hadn’t experienced in a long time. With more time to do what I loved, I was comfortable and content being myself.
When I got back to writing and other small creative things I was naturally good at, with time I began to be rewarded for just that. I entered (and won!) several essay competitions, and even got a partial scholarship for a poetry program in Scotland. This didn’t happen overnight, though. It took weeks, months even, to get back into the flow of writing, and writing about anything and everything that came to mind.
Find The Time
When you’re truly happy, your time isn’t spent:
Worrying about whether or not people will like things about you;
Trying to find ways to be just like another person or persons;
Trying to find ways to downplay or deny your personal quirks.
But instead you can:
‘Free yourself’ to engage with a world of people who are just like you (and they are out there). With social media platforms being what they are, the options are almost endless when it comes to forming or joining a community of people around a common interest, or hobby. When I first moved to England, the website and app Meetup.com was a great way for me to meet new people (outside of uni) in a big city like Bristol. I was able to meet other writers, poetry-lovers, craft-addicts, even other young women my age who were new to the city!*
Put your all into the things you enjoy and are naturally good at. Even if you can’t find other people around you that like the same things, keep at it!
Is photography your thing? Take some time to go outside each day, observe even the little things surrounding you, and take some pictures!
Are you a bookworm, like me? Take a half hour (or more, if you can spare) each night before bed to read something. If paper-based books aren’t your thing, Audible or Kindle can be your best friends.
I know lots of people who find painting therapeutic. And there’s absolutely nothing you can’t paint. You can paint plain white mugs. Paint canvases. If paints aren’t your speed, colouring books are a dime a dozen!
Do what you love, even in small ways, and with time, the rewards will overflow. The biggest reward though, is your peace and contentment. It sure beats the alternative: stressed, frustrated, possibly even broke, falling over backwards to do things that aren’t for you, and aren’t you.
When was the last time you did something that’s so you, for you?! Let’s chat below!
Wishing you a fabulous Monday and International Day of Happiness!!
* Disclaimer: Never meet with people for the first time in a non-public place. If you are unsure about a particular event, take a friend with you.