Are you happy with yourself? When’s the last time you sat down and deeply thought about that question. There are so many variables that makeup one’s happiness. Our happiness level changes from day to day. We define the world differently because we’re all different. So how do you ever really know?
You don’t. But you don’t need to. Working on yourself and learning how to be happy with yourself is a never-ending process. You’re never going to feel totally content, so stop making it a goal. Make the process itself your goal.
These strategies might help.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you move through life with a sense of unease? Something’s bugging you about life but you can’t quite figure out what it is.
A mentor of mine calls this the ‘refrigerator hum’ of anxiety. Your refrigerator makes noise, but you rarely hear it because there are other sounds in your home that drown it out. But when your home is completely silent, you can hear it. This is what that this type of anxiety is like. It’s barely noticeable because you’re so caught up in your day-to-day activities, but every once in a while your mind finds a moment of stillness where it becomes very loud.
That anxiety comes from knowing what you’re supposed to do, but failing to do it. You know you should probably work out more. You know that you should try to execute that business idea. There’s an open-ended list of tasks you’ve been putting off for a long time but you keep procrastinating. The gap between the way you should live and the way you actually live subtly haunts you.
You’ll be happier with yourself when you finally start to do those things you know you’re supposed to do. Imagine how you’d feel if you finally started knocking items off of that list. You’d be more confident. Confidence is nothing more than being at ease with your life. It’s a feeling of certainty. Not certainty that things will work out the way you want them to, but the certainty that you did everything you could to get things to work out.
“But Ayo, how do I get the motivation to start? I think about doing these things all the time, but I can’t bring myself to do them.” Bringing yourself to do something is something I can’t do for you.
Getting the ball rolling is the hardest part. My best piece of advice? Understand that all the challenges come upfront. You only have to get through the initial resistance period to free yourself.
If you want to be happy with yourself, you have to play offense and defense at the same time. You play offense by doing the things you’re supposed to do. This can take a bit of guesswork. But the defensive strategy requires zero guesswork. You play defense by avoiding the things you clearly understand are bad for you and will make your life worse.
Once I started working on my writing and got serious about it, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make my dreams come true if I kept engaging in bad habits. I stopped drinking entirely. Not for moral reasons, but because it took my energy away and made me feel like garbage. I stopped smoking tobacco because it will, you know, kill you. I stopped hanging out with people who I knew were bad for me. In general, I stopped being lazy.
How’d I quit all of the vices so suddenly? To get rid of vices, you have to replace them with something else. I replaced my chemical addictions with an addiction to my creative work. I became obsessed with getting better to the point I didn’t even need the willpower to quit those bad habits. And I used to be one of the laziest most destructive people on planet earth — booze, all sorts of drugs, illegal activities.
Again, there’s no magic recipe. You have to visualize the future you’ll have if you continue to engage in destructive activities. You have to understand the severity of these activities. Many of them will literally kill you. Either that or they’ll create a life where you have to go through a ton of avoidable stress.
If you’ve dug a deep hole, you just have to accept what you’ve already done and stop digging. It’s hard to stop digging because you have this perverse need to continue punishing yourself to confirm a negative identity. You sabotage yourself because it’s strangely easier to deal with than changing your life. Understand that you get a payoff from self-sabotage. Replace it with something better.
So you have the two-pronged approach for the tangible things you have to do to be happy with yourself, but there’s still a deeper element to the process that’s tricky to contend with. See, even though it does help to make tangible changes in your life, you shouldn’t have to do anything to be happy with yourself.
It would occur naturally if you realized how capable you were in the first place. You should know that you’re valuable as a human being by default, but you’re wracked with insecurities. You should be okay with yourself as you are because, on the whole, there’s nothing really wrong with you.
You have some strengths and talents. I’ve yet to meet someone with no blessings in their life. You have some weaknesses — not even weaknesses really, just things you aren’t naturally as good at as other people. There are certain things you define as flaws, but that definition is flawed because other people with the same traits don’t view them as flaws at all. Your view of yourself is highly subjective.
Again, no exact science, but it can help to understand the subjectivity of your own self-perception. You don’t have to feel the way you feel about yourself. You’re choosing to, even if that choice feels so forced that it comes across as objective reality.
It’s paradoxical. You have to fix your life and simultaneously understand that you’re not broken. You make improvements in your life for the sake of making those improvements. Inner work and outer work both matter. You feel better about yourself because you’ve made positive changes, but your self-perception changed, not because of the changes themselves, but because those changes gave you the permission to feel better about yourself that you could’ve given yourself all along.
The last piece of the puzzle is having the humility to start where you are instead of where you wish you could start from. When I was 14 years old, I weighed as much as I do now, but I was chubby and weak whereas now I’m fit and strong. I transformed my body in the course of a single summer when I started training at my new high school for football.
The first time I ever did a bench press, I could only press the 45 pound bar itself. When I did drills and workouts, I’d get crazy tired and be dripping with sweat while the other kids breezed through them. It was a little bit embarrassing to be so out of shape, but I kept showing up to training five days per week. I went from pressing the bar to adding 5 pounds to each side of it. Then 10. By the end of the summer, I had 45-pound plates on each side. Losing weight made the running drills easier over time. I got faster and breezed through those drills by the end of the summer.
The workouts were so hard on me I’d literally go home and lay around all day after them. But, I kept going back every morning. The first day was embarrassing, but over time, I started to look forward to training. As my body changed, my confidence grew. More confidence meant even harder training, which meant more confidence, which meant harder training. When the actual season got underway, I’d stay after practices and do extra drills and weight training on my own.
If you have the humility to start from a humble beginning, you can one day look up to see that your entire life has changed. But you have to start by lifting just the bar. I got my writing career started by writing one article. I had to crack open a book for the first time and read a couple of pages. The entire process started with a single day where I first attempted to live a better life and got slightly less unhappy with myself. You’ll be happy with yourself not when you’ve achieved perfection, but when you finally get the ball rolling.
You can start over as many times as you want to until you die. You can fail 99 times and finally get that ball rolling on try number 100. Your chances increase when you have enough humility to set the bar where it needs to be in the beginning, no matter how low it is. You get credit simply for trying. So try.