The Art Of Relating

Christine Kniffen, MSW, LCSW

What It Takes To Be Happy

Your “Personal Relationship Coach” is just a click away at www.ChristineKniffen.com

Just about everyone has heard the saying, “No one can make you happy but you”. We hear these sorts of platitudes so often, that they seem to go in one ear and out the other. It’s as if the idea is so simple, that we can’t believe it is really the answer to our struggle and the level of emotional turmoil we feel at times. Well, it is true. Happiness is not found outside. Those seeking it in external places (especially from others) wind up disappointed in life, constantly chasing the one thing that will finally make them happy.

Common thoughts include: “If only I had a great relationship”, “If only I had a better job” or “If only someone else would act differently”. I think most of us can relate those sentiments. When you look at happy people one common denominator stands out. Happy people like themselves. People who are unhappy or suffer discontent usually have three key areas that need to be addressed that are actively keeping them from this seemingly elusive state of mind. These areas involve improving self-esteem, coming to understanding their purpose in life and developing a confidence in their ability to design the life they want.

You don’t hear happy people “beating” themselves up verbally all the time. You just don’t. Happy people both like and accept themselves. They know who they are and what positive qualities they possess. If they feel they have some negative qualities, they more often relay them to others in a light-hearted, joking way. They are comfortable in their own skin. There is an ease about them. They come off genuine and consistent, not having to pretend to be something else, as who they are is perfectly good enough. Happy people do not relentlessly chip away at their self-esteem with unkind negative comments.

Happy people with good self-esteem simply say “Thank You” when complimented, rather than always adding another verbal negative to the mix. I have written many times about levels of self-esteem and the correlation to your relationship happiness. People with higher self-esteem set good personal boundaries. They don’t let others walk on them, treat them unkindly or continue to stay with someone who neglects their feelings. A great relationship doesn’t make you happy, but rather adds to your happiness.

Happy people have also found contentment with their purpose or contribution to the greater good. When we have no sense of purpose we become lost and disconnected from the larger world, all contributing to feelings of isolation and aloneness. Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning and a purpose to their life. This is an individual niche that needs to be filled and decided upon by you and you alone. You are not to constantly compare yourself to others. Everyone is not meant to head to Africa and save the wildlife, develop new ways to get clean drinking water to the masses or spend their life working with the disadvantaged. Your contribution is your contribution. It doesn’t matter what it is, but that it is something that gives meaning and purpose to you. This can be anything from working to be a better parent to volunteering for a cause for which you feel passionate. Start by understanding that your contribution does not need to be earth shattering in scope and dimension. Embark on a journey to find out what gives you meaning in life. It is essential if you want to be happy.

Finally, happy people both possess a confidence that they can design the life they want and do design the life they want. They don’t doubt they can have a great relationship; instead, they just go about continuing to look for what they want rather than settling.
Happy people decide what they want to achieve, set out a proper road map for getting there and then go about the necessary steps to reach that goal. Since their self-esteem is high, they don’t encounter the same roadblocks in the form of a nagging, negative voice getting in their way. Happy people don’t stand in their own way. No, I can’t tell you that people get to have everything they want. I would like to win the lottery too. However, if I want to write a book I do. If I want a radio show I don’t give up until I get it. If I want to be a therapist in private practice, then I build one. If I want a great relationship, I go get one.

Good self-esteem, finding a sense of purpose and having the confidence that you can design your life all sort of work together. It’s a little like the “chicken and egg” thing in terms of what drives the others. However, nothing is possible without the good self-esteem piece. When that is missing it seems to put everything else on hold. I had very poor self-esteem due to family situations and life experiences. I did not have a purpose and lacked confidence in the ability to design my life. Most importantly, I was beating myself up with alcohol and bad relationships. However, I decided to go to therapy (which is how I ultimately became a therapist myself). I worked to change the distorted messages I repeated in my head as to my true worth, actively put forth the effort to stop chipping away at my self-esteem with unkind self-talk and learned to set the proper boundaries to take care of myself while dealing with life. If I can do it, then so can you. If you are unhappy, then decide to do something about it. Happiness begins and ends with you.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Therapist and Relationship Coach. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.