It turns out the story we’ve been sold our entire lives is a lie
Did you grow up feeling like the purpose of your life was to find happiness? If you did you’re not alone. Most of us are led to believe that if we can just find the right job, the right relationship, the right home, and the right friends, we’ll be happy.
We spend our lives playing the ‘I’ll be happy when’ game.
- I’ll be happy when I’ve finished school and can move out of home
- I’ll be happy when I’ve landed my dream job
- I’ll be happy when I have that car that I want
- I’ll be happy when I’m able to afford those clothes and gadgets that I love
- I’ll be happy when I meet and marry my soulmate
- I’ll be happy when we buy our first house
- I’ll be happy when we have children
- I’ll be happy when I get promoted
- I’ll be happy when I get a divorce
- I’ll be happy when the kids have grown up and left home
- I’ll be happy when I retire
When we finally reach those milestones and acquire the things we’ve longed for there’s a moment of excitement and happiness and then just as quickly it’s gone.
Because we’re always looking for happiness outside of ourselves and even when we get the things we think are going to make us happy we don’t pause for long enough to enjoy them. Our minds are immediately thinking ‘okay cool, what next?’
Very few of us stop to take in each moment. We spend our lives ten steps ahead of ourselves constantly thinking about the future and what we want to achieve and accomplish next.
We move on quickly believing that our happiness lies around the next bend. That when we get there we’ll finally feel a fullness in the void we’ve been carrying around inside of us since as long as we can remember.
This is the trap society wants us to fall into because the last thing it wants is for us to be happy. Being happy would mean the death of consumerism.
And if that weren’t enough our ego doesn’t want us to be happy either. Being happy would mean death to the stories we’ve carried around with us from childhood. The stories that tell us we’re not good enough, that we need to achieve to make our parents proud, that more equals success, that money equals status. Our ego wants us to hang onto these stories because they represent safety and it wants us to chase happiness because it knows permanent happiness will always elude us and that means the ego will always have a full-time job trying to solve the problems we continually create for ourselves.
The reason so many people are living unfulfilled lives that make them miserable is because they’re chasing the wrong thing. Happiness, like all emotions, comes and goes. It is transient and impermanent. So to anchor your idea of a good life in a consistent state of happiness is to spend your days chasing something that you’ll never be able to attain.
Instead of focusing all of our attention on seeking to feel happy 24/7 we must realise that the pursuit of happiness is not the purpose of our existence.
. . . . . .
We’re Not Here to Feel Happy. We’re here to Feel Fully.
“Why are we here? We exist not to pursue happiness, which is fleeting, or outer accomplishment, which can always be bettered. We are here to nourish the self.” – Deepak Chopra
When I found this quote it got me thinking about what it means to nourish the self.
On the surface, it appears to be about self-love and in a way it absolutely is. But what exactly is self-love? We often think of it as being about bubble baths and face-masks. We picture meditation retreats and long walks on the beach. And all of those can be forms of self-love.
But what if self-love is deeper than that? What if nourishing the self is all about feeling fully?
Our obsessive quest for life-long happiness would suggest that we believe happiness is what we’re here to feel. Yet what if the actual purpose of our existence is not just to feel happy but to feel it all?
To embrace our anger, our sadness, our boredom, our restlessness, our anxiety, our joy, our pain, our peace, our contentment. What if our purpose is to feel the full spectrum of human emotions? Is that not perhaps the best definition of a well-lived life?
And yet we avoid so much of what bubbles up inside of us.
Because we’re terrified of what our feelings are trying to tell us.
. . . . . .
If we, and those around us, aren’t happy then we don’t want to know about it. We don’t want to sit for months with the grief of our relationship ending. We don’t want to process the pain of our loved one’s death. We don’t want to deal with that restless feeling inside of us that tells us we’re not on the path we’re meant to be on.
And so we numb ourselves. Sometimes that numbing comes in more extreme forms like drug and alcohol addictions or eating disorders but often we numb quietly with endless nights sat binge-watching TV or weekends spent shopping for things we don’t need.
All of this to avoid what’s truly going on inside of us. Instead of facing what we need to face we choose avoidance and continue our search for happiness without realising that we are the source of our unhappiness and until we face what we need to face our search to feel anything other than numb will be futile.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions. Numb the dark and you numb the light.” – Brene Brown
Truer words were never spoken.
Our emotional ineptness is not our fault. It’s been passed down through the generations and society continues to reinforce the message that unless our lives are all sunshine and roses then we’d do best to keep things to ourselves. Society has taught us to fear anything that isn’t classified as being a positive emotion.
Why though, can sadness and pain not also sit alongside joy and happiness as positive emotions? Don’t we, in fact, learn and grow a lot more through our trials and challenges than we do through the happy times? Surely any emotion that teaches us to expand as human beings is to be celebrated not feared?
It’s time we stopped running. Our pain is only scary because we’ve never been taught how to deal with it. What if instead of hiding from it we invited it to dinner? What if we sat across the table from our pain and listened to what it had to say?
Our wisdom is not born in times of peace, it is born in times of struggle but it can only integrate itself into who we are if we allow it to do so.
Release the pressure that’s been placed on you to always be living in pursuit of happiness and instead consider the possibility that the best lives are led by people who allow themselves to feel and experience fully.
Give yourself permission to feel it all.