What is Happiness?

What makes you

HAPPY?

What if I were to tell you the secret to happiness may lie in the one thing society, our parents and sometimes our own innate survival instincts have told us to avoid?

Vulnerability

What really makes us happy?  Is it the new cars, clothes, latest gadgets, maybe its travel or other things that money can buy?  Could happiness be tied to people, places or things?  What does it really mean to be happy? 

It might surprise you to learn that it is in our vulnerability that happiness lies.  How though could being vulnerable be the key to anything but perhaps being taken for granted, used and possibly greatly harmed.  I am not a big fan of being vulnerable and have always felt that it is in our weakness that our enemies can find their greatest strength.  My golden rule is a good offense is the best defense.  I built wall, dug moats and planted landmines around my vulnerable core.  It never occurred to me until recently that it is in accepting my vulnerabilities, imperfections and limitations that I am freed from the threat of external harm. 

It is when we come to terms with our multitude of idiosyncrasies and differences that self-love begins and the influence of external forces diminishes.  If we love ourselves, really love all of us, we are not vulnerable to outside voices.  When we are free to live out loud and show all those characteristics that might not be popular we show others the value of being real.  That’s what vulnerability really is.   It is living REAL.

I had the fortune to trip across an amazing TED TALK by a “Story Telling Researcher” by the name of Brene Brown.  She discusses the three qualities that it takes to live life to the fullest; courage, compassion and our connections.  Also within the video are the strategies we use to avoid being vulnerable and how they are the very things that keep us locked in a vicious cycle of misery, illness and discontentment.

What is Courage?  The word comes from the Latin word “cor” meaning heart.  To have courage means to tell the story of who you are with our whole hearts.  That true courage is the act of accepting oneself as an amazingly imperfect creation.  Letting go of those “IDEALS” that our parents, friends and even ourselves have of what is right and what is wrong.   Many of us believe that being right must mean that happiness will follow, but what is right and what is wrong?  Is there a universal truth?   Maybe in truth, what is right for one is not right for another, and if we follow that logic than there is no wrong either?  Perhaps right and wrong are only ways of making things have certainty and some sort of reassuring consistency.  There is safety in predictability. 

I have wasted many years of my life feeling not good enough, flawed and broken.  I have seen my imperfections as the reason I am unhappy and unhealthy.  I never stopped to think perhaps the only flaw, was my inability to love and accept myself as I am.  To completely accept that I don’t need to lose or gain weight, I don’t need to make more money or have bigger boobs.  I don’t need a diploma to be smart or a man to be complete.  I was made imperfect and will die imperfect, what a shame if I spend every day in between feeling bad about all that I am and am not. 

Each society has its own definition of what are acceptable, desirable and perfect, standards by which those within the society measure themselves as valuable, worthy or of greater purpose.  When we fall short of those standards it can create a vacuum of uncertainty, low self-esteem and fear of rejection by the society we belong.  So we learn how to numb and hide vulnerability.  We play games with ourselves trying to find someone or thing responsible for our unhappiness.  The definition of blame is “a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”  We try to make uncertain things certain.  We put rules and boxes around ideas and say that they need to fit to be right.  Anything that doesn’t fit within our narrow definitions is then classified as wrong.  Many of us take it even further and pretend to be what we wish we were. 

In essence we lie to the world in efforts to get the connections we want but do not feel worthy of.  Who would really want us if they knew the dark horrible truth about our imperfections?  Many times we also tell ourselves that these lies or pretense we live under do not hurt anyone else.  We tell ourselves that being real and authentic would change the way we are viewed.  In truth, being real and allowing our imperfections/vulnerabilities show that we are able to connect with another amazing imperfect vulnerable soul.  It opens an amazing portal for all the other imperfect creations in the world to be in your presence and know that they are accepted for themselves.  Vulnerability is the key that opens many connections.   

The third aspect of happiness is those very connections that we make when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  We send out a loud clear message that we accept imperfections as unique characteristics and not something to be loathed, concealed or denied.   We open up connections that many people fear because they would reject us if they really knew who we were.  Imagine the beauty and contentment of loving yourself as you are and having everyone know all your imperfections and love you for each and every one, for they make you who you are. 

In closing I would like to pass along Brene’s recipe for happiness. 

Live life out loud. 

Let your real authentic self be seen.

Love with your whole heart.

Put aside fear and apprehension and give life all you have.

Practice gratitude every day,

find your joy and move towards it.

And finally,

Believe you are enough just the way you are.