We are masters of seeking out information. In this age and time, you can find the answers to anything you want with a couple of keystrokes and the click of your mouse.
Don’t believe me? Go read them. Google them yourself. I’ll wait.
Now, before I get too far into why I would be completely THRILLED to never see an article like this again, know this- I don’t disagree with what these articles are saying. A couple of them are actually written by friends of mine (sorry guys), and they talk about really great stuff.
The point I want to make is not that we don’t benefit from doing some, if not all of the things on these lists. What is making me so exasperated is that we don’t need another list telling us WHAT to do- we need actual, real-life practices and actions we can take that actually allow us to do these things.
In this age of endless information, we substitute reading about things and absorbing information for taking action and experiencing them ourselves.
If you are anything like the way I used to be or the way my clients are, you read these lists and it goes something like this:
It’s cool, just stop worrying! Everything will all work out the way it’s meant to be.
Great. Tell that to my lifelong belief that making money is a struggle and the voice of my mother telling me that no man is going to want me if I look the way I do.
Don’t ever give up!
But what if I’m just a big fat failure and this isn’t working anyway and where’s the ice cream and Netflix?
When things go wrong, you just need to develop healthy coping strategies.
Does this require years and years of therapy? Fuck, this sounds hard.
I know! Why don’t you focus on your health? Go to yoga! Drink a green smoothie!
Yes because going to yoga class with all the perfect yogis and pretending to like swamp juice is going to make all my problems go away.
Honey, you just have to stop chasing what’s not working.
Oh! Of course! All of those things not working in my life! How did I not see it before? Just stop doing them!
and, my personal favorite:
Just do you.
Great. This assumes I a) know who ‘me’ is, I b) know how to ‘do me’ (insert sexy joke here), and c) actually want to and feel safe expressing who ‘me’ is. For most of my life, and for so many I women know, the eternal question is, ‘Well how the fuck do I do that?”
Everyone knows they should have better habits. That’s boring, old news.
And, just between us girls, you and I both know you’re not actually going to start meditating just because another article you clicked to from Facebook tells you it’s going to make you a perfectly balanced serene super queen, right?
You don’t need me to convince you that exercise and green juice will make me feel better- have you ever met a spin instructor? Perky, shiny, happy (and maybe slightly scary with their over the top enthusiasm). (For the record, I taught spin for almost three years. It’s awesome.)
Also, reading about yoga or looking up recipes for green smoothies is (surprise!) not the same thing as moving your body or consuming vegetables.
These articles tell us what to do, but rarely say anything about how to actually become the type of person who does them.
So anyway, why are these articles so popular, if they aren’t actually giving us what we need to make changes?
Because it’s good marketing psychology. It tells us what to do and why to do it, but it doesn’t give us the how- the part we actually need. It’s designed to make us think we are doing something to change when really we are staying exactly where we’ve always been.
Plus, what if you DON’T do all those things?
Truth Talk: If you are seeking answers on the internet for how to be happy or confident or successful, chances are you are seeking some sort of validation for why you either are or aren’t those things.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Validation is a pretty crucial part of how our social structure survives, and how we connect with other humans.
It’s when the need for validation takes over our ability to be vulnerable and create a genuine connection that things start to go downhill.
So… how do I become happy/ confident/ successful?
Here’s the thing. You aren’t going to learn happiness from an internet article.
Happiness is a feeling- a frequency of energy that feels good in our bodies. Some of the things those articles mention- being around people you enjoy, daily exercise, eating healthy- those can definitely contribute to feelings of happiness and confidence, we know that. I’m not interested in that. What I’m interested in is why you aren’t doing them.
Why aren’t you happy, confident, successful?
Because you don’t believe you can be. And I don’t mean in your mind.
I mean literally your body doesn’t believe that happy and confident and successful are good for your survival.
Because your body is so used to the tension of anxiety and the adrenaline release of fear, it doesn’t know how to be okay with feeling happy. Feelings of ease, relaxation, flow- these feel completely foreign when our bodies are addicted to anxiety or have been burdened by worrying every hour of every day. And foreign feelings are generally perceived as threats, as things that should not be there for survival.
Reading thoughts and ideas and scientific evidence about what makes someone happy is great. Know that the only way you are going to embody that happiness is by changing how you are being in a situation- not what you are doing.
Instead of asking what you should DO to be happy, ask yourself “who do I need to be in order to feel happiness /confidence /success?”
Are you being someone who is aware of their fears and tendency to be a victim? Are you being committed to what you desire? Are you taking responsibility for your thoughts or actions?
Whenever you find yourself seeking that validation, or wondering why it all isn’t different yet- ask yourself, “How am I being right now?” and then, “How do I want to be right now?”
The rest is up to you.