People always say happy is something you must learn how to be. As teenagers and young adults, most feel that happiness is attainable. But it is difficult to grasp.
What is happiness? A peaceful drive, a great song, a pet, a friend? Happiness is none of those things and all of them simultaneously. Our surroundings may be awesome, but we still have to learn to be happy with ourselves.
I’m not perfect. I can be insecure, angry, sad and lonely even when surrounded by loved ones. I sometimes offend people or treat them badly. Frequently, I don’t care about anyone but myself, and occasionally I loathe myself. A day where my hair doesn’t look right, moments when I want something I don’t have, when I hurt someone I love or they hurt me.
In a recent conversation, a friend made a shrewd comment about insecurity. We were discussing how pointless a feeling it is, since insecurity only affects the person feeling it, and once you feel that way, you doubt your worth whether you’re right or wrong, good or bad. My friend laughed and said, “Sometimes you gotta stick to your guns, even if they’re pointed at your feet.”
Hilariously, this resonated with me, a person who doubts herself constantly and often would benefit from being comfortable with the possibility of making a mistake. Too much self-doubt and caution can be detrimental and sometimes worse than shooting yourself in the foot. A self-inflicted wound to your personal infrastructure leaves you with no doubt how it happened and how to avoid it in the future. This can be contrasted with insecurity, which breeds uncertainty and confusion, emotions that make it hard for someone to be happy.
Sometimes we pretend that our happiness is someone else’s responsibility. That is never true. The act of feeling hurt must be separated from the actions of others. Someone cannot force you to feel insecure or keep you from feeling sad. Even if someone is mean or selfish, we can rise above the feelings that spring from their words and actions. When we realize our strength and happiness can sometimes coexist with insecurity, we allow ourselves to be whole.
Many people quote Marilyn Monroe when pondering their self-worth. She said, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
While Monroe was correct in that people we trust must be able to look past our flaws, a fundamental understanding of insecurity must be coupled with the belief that we must all be responsible for our own feelings in order to deal with them. Although Monroe’s quote certainly epitomizes what a lot of people have felt in their lives, I prefer the following two.
Erich Fromm said, “The task that we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to tolerate insecurity.”
And Howard Thurman said, “Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one’s own situation so as not to be overcome by them.”
We can’t fully live if we aren’t happy, and we can’t be happy if we let insecurities rule us. We live in middle Tennessee, where the landscape is beautiful. We can drive down almost any road and lay eyes on miles of green trees in the summer, draw breath at the tops or bottoms of rolling hills, and encounter people that are intelligent and hilarious. I, for one, don’t want to spend my days doting on myself.