I looked in the mirror the other day, and a realization struck me.
Why did I spend the last 19 years of my life pretending like I am not intelligent, fun, or attractive?
That type of mentality colors every thought and action, but perhaps so subtly that we don’t realize it.
It could be something as simple as starting a story off with a negative point, for example:
“We messed up at the beginning of the performance, but nailed the rest of it.” vs. “The crowd loved the show, especially when we nailed the ending.”
Or being unable to relish our accomplishments:
“I got second place in Music at State, but I missed third place in Language/Literature by one question!”
And even accidentally impeding our decisions before we even consider acting:
“That guy is amazing, but everyone likes him. I would never have a shot.”
We can think like this, which is easy but also terribly unsatisfying. Or, we can make the conscious effort to engage in a practice of being happy.
I am going to draw on the lessons from my intro to social psychology class at Rice University, taught by Dr. Sandra Parsons, because I think the touching lesson can truly help us improve our mindset. The lesson goes a bit like this:
1. Be kind to others.
Giving a close friend a surprise care package, or writing a genuine note of appreciation – regardless of the other person’s response – made me happier than buying candy for myself, or writing a journal entry about my day. We have the ability to affect others in beautiful ways, and that is a powerful thing. Never underestimate the impact of a friendly hug or a few sincere words.
2. Think positively.
This goes back to my initial point: our behaviors and emotions reflect our internal dialogue. When we re-frame our thoughts into positive ones, it can make a world of a difference. So next time something doesn’t go according to plan, try changing that “I’m awful” comment into a “Let me try this differently next time” thought. We all have room to grow and improve – why not embrace the opportunity?
3. Set new goals.
I performed two dances in our cultural show this past weekend, and immediately after I didn’t know what to do with myself. No more practices, no more rehearsals, and no more random dance breaks with my partner. It actually made me so sad! But I’ve realized I love dancing, so now that we accomplished our goal of performing, I’ve decided my next goal is to learn a new style, as well as go out social dancing to improve my salsa skills. A sense of purpose is a vital part of keeping us challenged and engaged, and thus happier as we work towards our goals.
4. Practice gratitude.
And finally, perhaps one of the most important activities we can do is to practice gratitude. One way is via a gratitude journal (yes, I know Oprah is a proponent of this, but hear me out!). As this article states, the act of maintaining a gratitude journal “[forces] ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted”. Expressing thanks to those around us is also a form of practicing gratitude (and hearkens back to the “be kind to others” mentality). It’s easier to be happy when we stop and realize the wonderful things happening in our lives.
I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that I am a good person. I’m goofy, shy, humble, intelligent, pretty, and a multitude of other characteristics. But I am good BECAUSE of my personality and my looks, not DESPITE them. And so are you.
You are awesome, and I probably think you’re the bee’s knees. I hope this post helps, because I know I’m tired of being sad, and I think a lot of us go through the same thing. But we aren’t alone, and we do deserve to experience happiness.
Keep being great, my friends! And as always – I’m here for you!