The Happiness Piñata + True Self-Acceptance
"Happiness" is a buzzword these days...
How many times a day are you berated with things like:
FIND YOUR HAPPY! 10 STEPS TO HAPPINESS! ACTIVATE YOUR INNER JOY! WORLD-RENOWN POSITIVE HAPPINESS PSYCHOLOGIST DR. XYZ BRINGS YOU 100 WAYS TO BE HAPPY!
Although there's a slight tone of sarcasm here, I want to be clear that I think the focus on joy and happiness these days is lovely.
It's awesome that people are trying a different approach, looking into positive psychology and using it to fuel their actions. I've done the same! I'm always being told I'm a glass half-full type of person, whatever that means. Some people often see this as delusional. I've always disagreed with that notion because truly, I think we're all delusional - it doesn't matter whether it's positive delusion or negative delusion. You can choose to see a situation from either place and the positive one just feels better for me.
You see, I know that the feeling of happiness toward yourself is a byproduct of doing the mental work that it takes. Before I actually learned a thing or two about psychology, I thought it was important to focus on that feeling of happiness and actively strive for it. To think about how unhappy you are now and that you should aim for finding that feeling based on the way you look. That you should exercise because maybe it'll eventually cause enough change to occur so you can finally feel happy.
Boy, I was wrong. The more people that I coach and interact with, the more my thoughts on this notion are starting to change entirely.
ENTER...The Happiness Piñata
I'm starting to imagine that going after happiness is like trying to aggressively beat a piñata to the pulp and get that sweet candy inside. You're blindfolded, you can't even see what you're trying to hit, yet you're hoping that eventually you'll beat the shit out of it and all the treats will spew out. These treats will bring you all the joy in the world and THEN AHHH! You can finally be happy! You did it! Maybe you'll even share that joy with others.
Isn't this kind of ridiculous when you really think about it? What's stopping you from just being happy with where you are at in the moment and taking action on something because you WANT to and it's the human experience instead of doing it because you assume it'll make you happy. If our thoughts create our feelings, happiness is a feeling and you're blindly searching for this feeling, what's stopping you from feeling like that right now? Your thoughts?...You have control over your thoughts. That's great news.
I'm trying to get in the habit of challenging my own beliefs and thinking through contradicting opinions. I think it's important to differentiate between SEARCHING for happiness, assuming something you're doing will make you happy and just deciding that happiness is a state of being that you can choose to embody. I think it's important to do things because you WANT to and not for the HOPE that it will make you happy. I've been pondering the notion of doing things from an already "happy" place, just accepting your circumstances and taking actions strictly because you want to do something. Maybe it's time to abandon that happiness piñata and trying to beat something to the pulp in order to access that sweetness inside. But how do you get there?
As a fitness coach, it's actually in my line of work to help others seek happiness.
For me, this isn't necessarily on purpose but it ends up being a result based on what I teach. I end up helping people become "happier" with their bodies. Some personal trainers use this as a way to sell their service. They make people momentarily tap into the FEELING they would feel if they changed their appearance entirely and give them a reason to believe they should unhappy in their current state. They make you think you NEED them and their service to feel good about yourself.
If you've fallen for this, you've been duped. It's okay! It happened to me too. In fact, I've been taught to sell this. It never felt right and never resonated with me.
This is how I differ as a coach from the industry standard. It's taken an open mind, quite a bit of learning, and challenging the notions some of the leaders in my industry are feeding us. I've also had to define my "why" very clearly and to continue reminding myself of it on a daily basis. I want people to feel empowered, not depend on outside sources for happiness, and realize everything they are capable of. That's my why.
Sure, I want to help you FEEL at home in your body, but there is also no reason you can't feel that right now. In this very moment. Without changing a thing. You can tap into that feeling and marinate in it all day if you want. It takes practice and a little imagination, but it can be done.
That being said, my philosophy circles around the notion that I am here to help you have the ENERGY to propel you to do other things you are passionate about. To set your body up for success so that lethargy, lack of confidence, and food obsession isn't a major issue for you anymore. It might never fully go away, but we can learn to control it and have it be more of an after thought instead of an obsession.
Yes, I do preach body love, body positivity, and self-acceptance. It shouldn't be up to societal standards to define beauty. You can define your own version of beauty. End of story. Period forever.
Here comes the BUT...
I want you to think about what TRUE self-acceptance means to you. Really ponder it for a second.
To me, true self-acceptance is true freedom. If you are in a body that you don't feel at home in, it's preventing you from taking action toward things you want to pursue, and you're overeating all the time in order to avoid emotions and escape through the food....you're not truly accepting yourself. You're not accepting your emotions. It doesn't mean you're not beautiful. It doesn't mean you're not attractive. It means you're not fully experiencing life.
When you feel lonely, bored, deprived, or upset and you decide you want to EAT to avoid the emotions....you're denying your own self-acceptance. My opinion is that you should be in a body that is comfortable for you to be in. A vessel that feels like home.
Wait...I thought we were talking about food and a piñata ? Where's the candy?
Stay with me here...
In order to experience life as your true self, you have to sit with uncomfortable emotions sometimes instead of just trying to distract yourself with external things. This has been a really hard lesson for me to learn, and it will UNDOUBTEDLY be a constant practice. Notice I called it a practice. The more you practice, the better you get, the easier it becomes.
Think about all the space it takes up in your brain to be obsessing over your body and food. It makes no difference whether you're consuming too much of it or not enough...You're still obsessing. Start to notice how many times a day you think about it instead of applying your energy toward something else that you love doing.
Start to imagine these obsessive thoughts as boxes of junk (you know, like in your parents' garage that they never even put a car in because it's so full of crap). Now, imagine you've hired a professional organizer to help you de-junk your garage (aka your brain) and make room for your dream car. You slowly start to organize the random crap and put it in neatly organized shelves, make room and space for plenty of other fun things. Maybe a musical instrument or a kayak.
Those boxes that were taking up space left leave little room for the mental power it takes to learn a new skill or become better at an existing skill. It leaves little room for giving your loved ones, boss, clients, customers, animals (you name it) your full attention. You might feel like you live a life half-present, never fully committing to the moment because of this obsession. You have the ability to free up that space. You can remove the boxes one by one and then over time it'll add up to an organized space giving you the means to tap into happiness and freedom whenever you want.