We are all in search of happiness and for some, it feels more difficult to achieve than others. I’ll admit-I am/was one of those individuals. Throughout most of my life, being happy never came easily or naturally and until recently, I could never understand why. I have since learned happiness looks different on everyone AND that it is a personal choice. I know, this can be a lot to swallow and there are still times that I prefer to “pass the buck” on to someone else but the truth of the matter is, rarely will another care about your happiness as much as you will and rarely will another live up to the expectation of “making you happy” on a regular basis.
Over the next month I am going to provide you with some suggestions on how to help define, create and maintain happiness. Today, my focus is on the one culprit that can be a barrier to our happiness (or at least it was for me) and that is SHAME. Shame is a powerful emotion that can keep us stuck and invoke fear that we aren’t doing or being enough. Brené Brown, a shame researcher, defines it as, “the intensely painful feeling or experiencing of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
So, if you are struggling with unhappiness (or know someone who is), consider saying goodbye to the following three shame triggers:
Trigger #: Playing the Comparison Game
As a kid, I often compared myself to my older sister who has a naturally positive disposition and perspective on life. I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with me and why I didn’t carry the same disposition. Unfortunately, my comparison did not (and at times, still doesn’t) stop there. I would compare myself to my peers or my classmates or my coworkers which resulted in thoughts of “not enough.” The problem with comparison is that, typically, we are comparing our weaknesses or limitations to someone else’s strengths and talents. Let me tell ya’ll right now, you’ll never never never (did I mention NEVER) win that comparison game. And even worse, you will miss out on achieving your true potential and calling in life. YOU are your own unique individual as no one else carries your DNA. Only YOU have your special gifts, unique talents and strengths to offer the world. Please, please, PLEASE stop focusing on what you lack and embrace the gifts that you have been given!
Trigger #2: Using the Word “Should”
A second “shame” trigger I observed was my verbal (and non-verbal) use of the word “should.” I lived in a world of emotional scarcity where I was constantly judging myself on who I “should” be, what I “should” be doing and how I “should” be doing it. In my eyes, it never seemed to be enough and my efforts were never satisfactory as I compared my actual self to an ideal (and unrealistic) self.
An example or two of my “should” thoughts were: “I should be more outgoing and social,” or “I should be married with 3 kids by now” or “I should be more like (insert name).” When having these kinds of thoughts, immediately I would resort to, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I different?” The more I used the word “should,” the more shame I experienced and the worse I felt about myself. Does this feel familiar to you? Do you also sometimes “should” yourself?
Trigger #3: Labeling
I try to be a good human being but I’m not perfect and I make mistakes along the way. I don’t know about you but for me when these situations arise, it can be easy to start labeling myself as “bad” or “not enough.” These thoughts can lead you to feel that there is something intrinsically defective about you and it instills the belief that your worth is influenced by your mistakes or your successes. This my friend, is simply NOT true.
In summary, we have identified three barriers that can get in the way of achieving personal happiness. I know this topic can be a heavy one but I hope you understand my intent is to give you hope and a feeling of empowerment. I want you to recognize that we do have the ability to create change and we can do so by becoming more mindful of what we may be saying about and to ourselves.
Look forward to next week’s email as I will share some tips on what we can START doing, now that we know what to stop doing.
Until next time,