“Why can’t I just be happy?” I find myself asking that question more often than not. We’re told that happiness is something you choose, something you strive for, something you work towards. We’re told that happiness comes from doing, it doesn’t just happen to you. We’re told how doing lots of little things that make you happy, will ultimately lead to a larger feeling of happiness within you - lots of small things add up to one big thing. Shrug. Since I tend to keep an eye towards the negative, perhaps I should examine what makes me unhappy, and hopefully that can give me some insight into what I need to do, change, or embrace, to give me more feelings of happiness.
“My personality is so boring, I wish I was outgoing. I can’t keep a conversation going to save my life.” It’s funny because I always assume whoever I’m talking to wishes someone would come and save them from the conversation they’re in with me. I’m an introvert - quiet, shy, anti-social, more of a listener & thinker - definitely not a Type-A personality. As a wallflower, I’m extremely self-conscious and hate attention, and because I stand 6-foot-3, I tend to be easily noticeable when I go out most places. Walking through a restaurant to a table gives me anxiety because it makes me feel as though everyone is staring at me. The thought of getting up mid-meal to use the bathroom is not even considered.
On the positive side, I embrace the fact that my personality is more cerebral: practical, logical, realistic thinking. I’m happy that even though I don’t initiate conversations very often, I have a pleasant appearance, I come across approachable, and so people still attempt to talk to me. I’m well-spoken, intelligent, and I don’t mind talking to someone when it’s a topic I (a) know about, and (b) like; however, most of the time I “talk” with a group of people and just throw in sarcastic or funny comments for laughs. That’s my contribution. Oh, and forget small talk, I’ll check out the minute the weather is brought up.
“I don’t do anything, I don’t like anything, I wish I could just be like other people.” I admit it, I don’t really have many interests or hobbies. I’m not a huge drinker and because I’m anti-social, the bar scene isn’t really an option for me. Since I don’t have very many friends, I certainly don’t enjoy the thought of drinking alone either. I’m a homebody - with the exception of trips to the store, going out for a walk, run, or hike, and there are even those seemingly rare (at least in my head) opportunities to hang out with the few friends I have. The thing is, when I DO hang out with friends, I have a great time. Be it concerts, parties, cookouts, day-trips with our kids, playing in a cornhole league - basically anything that gets me out of the house and in a social setting. The problem is, I’ll be invited a few weeks to a few days before the event, and I will dread going to it.
“WHY AM I LIKE THIS?!” I know for a fact I will love it and be happy that I went, that I’m hanging out with people I enjoy - people who get me & accept me for the way I am. As far as hobbies go, I think I only really have one - collecting and displaying memorabilia from my favorite baseball team. I am fascinated by the history of the sport, the team, and the players. Math was my favorite subject growing up, so when I collected baseball cards and studied the player’s statistics on the back, it eventually occurred to me that the entire game is surrounded by numbers. I was hooked.
“I have all this love to give the right woman, yet here I am giving it to women who are unable to return it to me. Why can’t I get the love I deserve?” This one - this is a big player in the story of why I lack self-love. Why I have such low self-esteem. Why I feel that I’m unworthy of receiving love from others. We’ve all heard the expression, “You have to love yourself first before you can love somebody else.” Bullshit. Frankly, I don’t believe that applies to me or my situation. I am perfectly capable of loving a woman the way she deserves and giving my all to make her feel like she’s my entire world. From embracing commitment, to being completely open & forthcoming about my thoughts, joys, fears, and feelings. Making anyone I love, but especially my significant other, happy is what makes me happy. Returning those feelings of acceptance, admiration, support, desire, pride - makes me happy. Performing acts of service, surprising them with small gifts & gestures of kindness and appreciation, leaving meaningful notes, letters, or cards - makes me happy. If there’s anything I can do that puts a smile on her face, as well as in her heart, it fills me with joy. The difficulty, and subsequent unhappiness, comes from those occasions when a relationship isn’t quite able to be like a traditional relationship. If there are circumstances that don’t allow for actual dates, seeing each other or spending significant amounts of time together on a regular basis (see, Quarantine), it’s depressing. When you already suffer from depression and have no love for yourself, the feelings of depression are magnified and compounded.
Due to no fault of the other individual, you say things to yourself like, “I’m not worth the effort to them,” or “If they really wanted to spend time together, they’d find a way.” How completely unfair is that way of thinking? I mean, seriously. Placing the onus on them to prove that they aren’t rejecting me when it’s not a matter of decisions they’re making towards me, it’s circumstances out of anyone’s control!
"I'm so unhappy with my job, and I still don't know what I want to do with my life." I don't feel like I have any discernible skills, nothing marketable to employers to make me stand out over others. There isn't really a career that I feel pulled toward, something that I really want to do for the rest of my life. Sure, I've learned & expanded my capabilities over the years from the few jobs I've had, but I feel like that limits my job prospects. My proficient typing skills display both my speed & accuracy, my attention to detail is exceptional, and I'm neat & organized. I possess a Commercial Driver's License, so I'm qualified for several different driving jobs, however, they don't all interest me. Other than those, I fail to recognize that I offer much more to any employer besides an able body.
“I’m always by myself, I have nobody to do anything with.” Well, this one is on me, I admit it. Partially because of my personality, but also due to my depression and the walls I’ve built around myself because of it. Being alone isn’t something that bothers me, most of the time I actually embrace it. Truth be told, I’ve felt alone most of my life, including a majority of my marriage. Moreso, the struggle is primarily with loneliness. There’s a difference between the two, and it’s best explained by Dr. Eglantine Julle-Daniere, GSC Publication Associate at Eli Lilly and company. She notes that, “being alone is 'the physical state of not being with another individual, might it be human or animal,' while loneliness is a 'psychological state characterized by a distressing experience occurring when one’s social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than desired.'” Doing things alone is vastly different than being alone, in my opinion. The lack of a companion, be it a romantic partner or just a friend, makes a world of difference when it comes to activities. Working out, hiking, road trips, watching a movie, chores - they’re all a completely different animal whether you do them by yourself or with someone.
Speaking of animals, “Get a pet,” is often suggested. I could, but when I want to ask how their day was, and tell them about mine, it’s a bit one-sided; it doesn’t quite check all the boxes for me. That’s when I feel my loneliest - at the end of the day, or when something happens that I want to tell someone about. While I may enjoy the solitude being alone brings me, I miss that other soul in the room to hear about it, to react to it, to share in my joy or sorrow, to offer advice, that warmth and presence they bring.
“Can I really find happiness if I’m not happy with myself?” That’s a difficult question to pose oneself and answer definitively. Psychologist and author Charlotte Freeman has stated in part, “Happiness isn’t something you simply wake up with one day. Happiness is something you have to choose, something to strive for, to work towards...So stay true to your idea of happiness and make a point of doing things (no matter how small they may seem) each day to help you achieve it.” There’s that premise of “a lot of small things add up to one big thing” again, which I still don’t necessarily agree with. I’m more in line with the “strive for, work towards” part, by and large, because I know this much about myself: I’m not happy or content with who I am, or where I am in life. I know I need to strive and work towards happiness by way of better friendships & relationships, a better job, a better self.
My personality doesn’t make me happy, so I need to embrace the parts of it I do like as well as those friends that do and find others like them to strengthen & increase the size of my circle. My lack of interests & hobbies doesn’t make me happy, so when my friends invite me to get together with them, I should say “YES” more often than not. I should align my idea of happiness with the fun I know I’ll have doing it, as opposed to the anxiety I experience before anything even takes place; plus with each new experience, I may find something I want to give more of my free time to developing an interest in.
My occasional lackluster love life leaves me unhappy sometimes, so I need to work towards accepting and believing that the way they feel about me, the compliments I receive, & the positive ways they react to me, are genuine, heartfelt, and true. My unhappiness with my job comes from a perceived lack of skills. The only way I can imagine I’ll be happy in that respect, is to find ways to broaden my skill set - whether it’s getting a degree, adapting to the changing job market, or teaching myself skills online to demonstrate my knowledge and value to a potential employer.
It’s my belief that any feelings of loneliness will diminish with the work I put into improving my friendships & relationships, thereby bringing important people closer to me. Whether your happiness comes from experiences vs things, time with friends & family vs time alone, or giving love & gratitude vs receiving love & kindness, it all comes down to choice. What do you value more? It isn’t as simple as right and wrong, nor is it what someone else says you’re better off doing - it’s about choosing to do the things that make you feel your best.
“Why can’t I just be happy?” Apparently, because I’m choosing not to be.