The sad thing happens if we ever lose that one thing, we feel like we’re nothing. We don’t know where to start, and we turn into that headless chicken that first inspired the phrase. That’s why the first thing to do is to have multiple identities so if one of your identities isn’t working out for you, then another one takes over. Let’s say your job is the only thing your life revolves around, losing it becomes disastrous. Whereas if there are other identities and roles you play – maybe you’re a good son/daughter, or you volunteer in your community or you have a good social support – the blow from losing that job lessens.
The second thing to do is to make sure our self-worth is a function of internal strengths, and I’ve personally come to learn this the hard way. I come from a small tight-knit town and one thing we have that I haven’t experienced in other places is the very strong influence society has on people’s personal choices. It’s like a magnet that keeps the iron filings — or people — in line.
If you’re one of us, chances are, the phrase “What will people say?” always plays somewhere at the back of your mind, and it’s difficult to break the habit even if you’re trying to break away.
So you walk around defining your self-worth as a function of society-approved thing; for men it’s a corporate job, and for women it’s a husband and kids. So if nothing about your life has society’s seal of approval, you’ll probably hear your fair share of talk about being abnormal, inadequate, and unworthy. The nice people say it in front of your face, and the not-so-nice ones say it behind your back.
And everyday you’re going to have to remind yourself of your worthiness, not because you have something, but because you are. It doesn’t matter what job you’re holding or whether or not you have a ring around your finger a kid tagging along by your side. Remind yourself you’re worthy because you are. Remind yourself of your personal values, and take concrete steps to live by them day in day out. Remind yourself to treat people with respect, and to add value to the lives of those around you. Remind yourself to engage fully with the world, to feel the sand tickling your feet, to watch the silver supermoon melt into dark, choppy waters, to close your eyes and feel the wind against your face, because life is beautiful and you get to be here…
Most importantly, remind yourself it’s a battle you’ll keep on fighting every single day…
simply because you are.
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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.
In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha writes how when he was blogging, he kept on setting more and more ambitious goals and hitting it. He finally realized, “No matter how many external goals I achieved, I just kept setting more. I started realizing that external goals didn’t help me become a better person. Only internal goals did.”
How many times do we find ourselves in the same situation? We reach a goal and suddenly, we’re not satisfied with what we have, and we end up wanting more. That’s practically the definition of ambition, and it’s a good trait…except when it’s not. Like when a person back stabs a friend to get ahead or when that hunger causes them to sell their family…
You were willing to sell your family for pizza?
I actually read something close to that once, and found it funny…
The Let-It-Go approach
I’ve seen people suffer because they hung their hopes on one job, one person, one thing…and when they don’t get it, or when they get it and end up losing it, they spend far too much time whining over it. So the let-it-go approach is simple, especially when it’s something or someone (I guess I’ve seen more scenarios where that thing was a person) that’s making you unhealthily obsessive…just let it go. Cut all connections with them. No FB friendships, no twitter following, no blog following….just let them go. And I would like to tell you that with time they might come around, but chances are, they won’t but you’ll be happier without them in your life anyway.
I mean, so many times I’ve seen people trying to force a narrative in their life; two people who come from sparring claiming to fall in love just because they want to stage a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of story even though they’re totally incompatible….and every time people try to force such narratives, things become so complicated that eventually it breaks apart.
So let them go. Write their name on a paper and burn it. Find reasons to hate them if it’s possible. Freeze your heart whenever you hear their name, and scowl. Do whatever it takes for your peace of mind.
So let it go. And don’t follow.
Background image via pixabay.com
A while back, somebody started the #100happydays project that asked the question, ,”Can you be happy 100 days in a row?”
The idea is quite interesting as it made people appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Soon social media sites were filled with pictures of coffee and books and cats and of course…selfies.
But if you really think about it, it’s quite an unrealistic expectation; staying happy for a 100 days in a row?
Life goes in cycles. There’ll be good days, not-so-good days and outright horrible days you wish you can forget and delete from your memory. There’ll be days when the alarm will go off and all you’ll want to do is throw it across the room; when no matter how much coffee you have you can’t seem to stay awake; when you just need everyone to go away and leave you alone. And when they do, you sit and brood about why you’re so alone…
My point is, there’ll always be ups and downs. It’s not really about having a 100 happy days in a row, but rather about having a repository of little things to help buffer you from the radioactive effects of the not-so-happy days. I say radioactive because sometimes one bad incident can have a long lasting effect on you; it causes a sort of mental tumor so you don’t think the same about something anymore.
Let’s take an example. I’ve always been used to seeing bodies of water wherever I go. It could be a lake or a river or an ocean…For the longest time, the Indian Ocean was the basis of one of my anxiety-reducing techniques. I would go into details about the technique but not today. Anyhow, come 2004, and the videos of the Tsunami spread around the media….and it took me a very long time to get over these mental images. Sitting down on the fence right outside of Fort Jesus in Mombasa was no longer something I enjoyed doing. It just made me anxious to leave.
It took a while to get over it.
So I guess the take-home lesson is to focus on the happy moments more than the unhappy ones, but don’t pretend the unhappy ones don’t exist because that’s just another way of numbing your emotions and as a great writer once said, “Pain demands to be felt.“
It’s easy to find yourself in a downward spiral when every time your aunties see you they quack about how you need to get married, or when your work colleague rudely mentions about your biological clock (which by the way, is NONE of their business!) or when getting your facebook friends show off their honeymoon, anniversary and first/second/third baby pictures. But here’s the thing:
1) Nobody’s going to save you. The problem happens when people sit and think that someone out there is going to somehow save them and make them happy but that’s just seeking happiness from an external source, which could – or could not – work out. Why give an external factor that much power? Such an attitude leads to anxiety and insecurity. The best way to counter that is to practice self-love and understand that you are enough as you are, with or without someone.
2) A lot of times, people think that the solution for everything at your age is to get married. For instance, a guy has spending problems…get him married (because according to their logic, if he settles he will learn to be more responsible). Instead of solving this guy’s financial problems head-on, the marriage obviously compounded his financial woes since having a family is not exactly cheap. While marriage might solve a few problems like keeping those quacking aunties quiet for a change, it could also open more doors to trouble; the sort you always hear about but never imagine could happen to you. So as the Arabic saying goes, “Close the door that brings in the wind and relax.”
الباب الذي يأتي منه الريح أغلقه واستريح
3) Get rid of emotional triggers. What drives people to sit and pout about how they’re so lonely and miserable is all the emotional triggers around; in the malls, on the road, on TV, on Facebook. As the quote says, alone people don’t like to hear about the together people. That doesn’t mean to avoid the together people altogether but to avoid those who can’t stop talking about how their spouse did this or that or “Oh My God! Doesn’t that show he’s so adorable!”
“No, it only shows you’re pretty annoying.”
4) Reach out to friends [those who can actually have a conversation about something other than their spouses]. It’s very easy for lonely people to withdraw into themselves thinking they don’t have anybody out there. Again, nobody’s going to save you. You’ve got to do all the legwork yourself. And just because you’re single doens’t mean you don’t have friends, work colleagues, knitting club members, or even old neighborhood grandmothers you can call and visit [those last ones are the best because they appreciate the calls and visits the most + visiting them always comes with the added bonus of free food].
5) Loneliness resulting from a downward spiral is an emotion triggered by a mental thought process. It has been shown that getting some exercise helps with the symptoms of the clinically depressed. Exercise is known to release the happy chemicals endorphins. And if that doesn’t work, have a banana (bananas are known to work great for mood elevation).
In the end remember that we do live in a lonely world nowadays. With too many screens and information overload, maybe technology has helped increase the number of relationships but it didn’t do much about improving the depth and quality of those relationships. And also, there are people who happen to be married and yet still feel lonelier than you probably would on your own. So enjoy your solitude.
And have a great week!