My teenage years were, unsurprisingly, not particularly good. I was still figuring out my gender identity and sexual orientation, grappling with my faith, as well as the usual teenage stuff. My body was changing, I felt misunderstood and lonely, and everything was new and scary.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably gone through it yourself, and don’t need me to tell you about it.
Still, through all that nonsense I was able to learn a lot both about myself and other people. I started to accept my lack of religious belief, and opened up to the possibility of not being a man. Apart from the transgender stuff though, the most important thing I learned in those years can be summarised in one sentence:
You are responsible for your own happiness
Let me expound on that a bit.
I like to think the sentence gathers more meaning, all of it very important, depending on which part of the sentence you focus on.
For example, reading it as “You are responsible for your own happiness” helps remind me that I cannot count on other people to make me happy. This was a hard learned lesson that I still struggle with. When I first started to learn this, I was in… I hesitate to call it a relationship. I guess we’ll say I was in ‘mutual like’ with someone else. This person wasn’t perfect, obviously, but I desperately tried to see them as this flawless being, and though I didn’t realise it at the time, a part of me hoped they’d free me from my unhappiness.
It was horrible. Things between the two of us soured before too long, and things turned increasingly toxic until they cut things off.
Since then I’ve started to love myself, but sometimes I’ll still find myself starting to develop an emotional dependence towards someone else, and had to work hard at stopping it.
Moving on to the next meaning, looking at the sentence as “You are responsible for your own happiness,” I think of how being happy isn’t something that just happens, but you have to work hard towards.
Before I continue, let me clarify that what I’m about to say doesn’t count if you’re depressed. If you’re being affected by that poison, all rules go out the window.
As I was saying, I feel like happiness is something you can only achieve by doing the right things, using your time properly focusing your energy on what matters. What’s more, I personally feel disappointed in myself if I find I’m not taking care of my physical, emotional, or mental health well. I see it as a responsibility to do right by myself.
Just like insulting a customer, or messing things up for them would lead to a sense of shame and guilt, spending a day in bed doing nothing makes me feel awful. I know I’ll be happier going out and riding my bike, going to the library, getting a beer. If I fail to do anything good for myself, to keep myself fit, intellectually stimulated, or entertained, then I know I’m letting myself down. This has helped keep laziness, fear, and comfort from getting in the way of my well-being.
Back to the phrase. If we think of it as “You are responsible for your own happiness,” then we can look at a counterpart to focusing on the “You” part of it. Two of my biggest flaws are secretly hoping others will fix my life for me, and also acting like I have a duty to make others happy.
This second one is a bit tragic. One of the things I enjoy most, and in fact one of the main purposes I’ve found in my life, is to make those I love feel happier. I find it rewarding to see other people smile, and often I’ll get super excited when I can make or buy someone the perfect gift.
I’ve made ukulele songbooks, touching personal gifts, cute tea mugs, bought beautiful blankets, scarves in the perfect shade for someone, the game someone wanted for months, etc. I’m a fiend at gift-giving. Most of the time I enjoy making and buying things for others a lot more than getting them.
However, there’s also a flipside to this. When I’m not careful, I end up giving too much of myself. I put WAY too much work into helping a friend who’s feeling sad, and not taking care of my own mental health. I might obsess over doing whatever I can to make someone happy, and end up making us both unhappy with my repellent overzealousness.
So, it’s very important for me to remember that though making others feel excited and loved and thankful is one of the best feelings in the world, I’m ultimately not the one responsible for their happiness. If they’re going through a tough time and I’ve done all I can reasonably do, then I need to know how and when to back away. I can’t force them to be happier, and trying will just hurt us both.
To review, the phrase “You are responsible for your own happiness” tells me I cannot expect others to make me happy, and that to expect them to is a recipe for turning any friendship or relationship into a toxic wasteland; it also reminds me it is my duty to myself to work towards my happiness, and that I have to do what I need to do to take care of my body, my mind, and my emotions; finally, the phrase also says I shouldn’t try to force other people to be happy, that I need to be wary of wearing myself out when taking care of my loved ones, and to instead respect their own responsibility to themselves.
I hope this was interesting. I really do believe in this advice very strongly, particularly because it addresses some of the biggest issues I need to improve in myself.
How was your weekend? I had a long and difficult week, but I made sure to end it well. I went out riding my bike for a while, cooked some comfort food, watched Arsenal play Stoke, went shopping, got my nails done, had pizza, and am about to snuggle under my blanket to watch Sherlock 😀
What did you do? As always, what did you think of the piece I wrote today?