I am always wary of books and such that offer promises of happiness, or whatever, in three, or five, or even seven easy steps. Do you notice that easy steps usually come in odd numbers, but you never see nine, eleven, or thirteen easy steps? After seven easy steps, you will see a jump to ten easy steps, because ten is a number that even those of us who hate numbers can like. Odd numbers are good up to seven, it seems, and then we move into the realm of ten or twelve steps.
As an aside, odd numbers are also best for any kind of floral or table or candle arrangement. You will have to trust me on this one. If you want to give someone a balloon bouquet, pick three or five balloons, never four or six. It just will not look as appealing, and that is your Suzy Homemaker decor tip for today. Odd numbers win when it comes to most the most appealing decorative arrangements.
Back to the topic we go now. I do believe that happiness is an intentional choice that you have to make every day, and that you will probably have to do a lot of work to make it an ingrained habit. You may have to change the way you see things, and react to things. You will have to turn those negative messages in your head into positive ones. You will probably also have to change the way that you view yourself, treat yourself, and care for yourself. You will have to learn to reframe life circumstances and interactions with other people. You will have to let go of blame and grudge hold and the need to always be right. You will have to be grateful as much as possible. You will have to be forgiving. You will have to get rid of old, worn out, ineffective, coping mechanisms and trade them in for new, healthy ones. None of that stuff happens overnight. It takes a lot of work, and willingness, and many more choices, and action, and actual change, over and over and over again. It cannot be accomplished in three, five, or even seven easy steps. It is an ongoing process. Sorry for the bad news so early in the week!
The good news is that the really super cool thing about making the choice to be happy is that, along the way, you are apt to discover your authentic self, and unlock the door, and let the real you out of wherever you have been hiding yourself. Again, you will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Oh, look! It’s the authentic me and I look mah-vel-ous!” It did not happen that way for me, anyway. If it happened like that for you, I would love to hear from you because that must have been one great day, and I love to hear about people and great things happening to them.
Finding my authentic self took a lot of work, and years of peeling off layers, and digging through a lot of muck and garbage until I found the core of my personal pain. Once I found that core– that pain– I brought it out from down in the depths of my soul and I carried it up into the light of day and then I released it. That did not happen in one day, or even seven, or ten days. It took a while, with rest stops along the way, and missteps, and back steps, and the Texas two-step. Finally, I did it, though. However, I suspect I am not fully there even now. I do know, with completely honesty and clarity, that I am far more authentic today than I was a year or two ago, and do not even ask me to look back to three or five or seven years ago. Gads!
If you have been sitting there reading this thinking that I am fixin’ to tell you how to become a more authentic person in three, five, or seven easy steps, I am not. No-can-do, I am afraid. After all, I barely know you. We have only just met! It would be highly presumptuous of me to think that I know the road anyone must follow to become authentic. We are all unique. Your road will be different from mine, and besides, I really do not recommend my route to anyone, even if I do not care for you a whole lot, because it was rough. No, what I plan to do is give you some signs that you are becoming a more authentic person. I do not know at this moment in there will be an even number of signs, or an odd number, so we will find out together!
1. The first sign for me was that I truly was happier more of the time. Because I was finally being true to myself, I was happy with the choices that I was making, and with the people who were in my life. Good choices, good people, all good.
2. I found that I had stopped caring what other people thought of me. I am who I am and I worked hard to get to me, so as long as I know and feel that I am being true to myself, and am adhering to my beliefs, and enforcing my boundaries in a kind fashion, it is okay if you do not like me. Frankly, most people do like me, and that is lovely, but I am all good with the few who do not. I do not need to be liked by everyone anymore.
3. I am far more honest. Now, we all know that active alcoholics lie a lot. It is the nature of the disease beast. Also, as Dr. House points out, everyone lies. However, there was a time in my life, even when sober, that I would lie because I was afraid people could not accept the truth, or that I would somehow be punished if I told the truth. As I have become more authentic it would seem that I have also become more firm in maintaining my integrity, and I also put on my big girl panties, too. I have no reason to lie now. Sure, I may still be inclined to tell you that your butt does not look big in those jeans, but so few people ask me that question, it is a fairly moot point. If I tell you that you look nice, I mean it. I do not do false flattery anymore. Also, if I “liked” your blog post, I did actually read it. The flip side of this is that I have a far lower tolerance for dishonesty in others that I care about and trust. I love myself too much to allow myself to be treated that way anymore.
4. I no longer always need to be right. As the adage goes, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy”? I would rather be happy so I do not need to be right all of the time anymore. I also feel very little need to become defensive when someone points out that I may have behaved in a manner that might not have been particularly wonderful. Instead of arguing, now I simply acknowledge the truth, and say, “You’re right. I am sorry.”
5. I take full ownership of my behavior, be it good, or bad. I apologize. If the problem is squarely mine, I admit it. I still make mistakes, I still do dumb things, I am far more human than ever, but that is okay. People really seem to like people who are human and know it and admit it and own it. It is more than kind of cool to be fully responsible for myself. I do not need to blame anyone, nor am I looking for a knight in shining armor around every corner.
6. I feel lighter—oh-so-much-lighter! I do not have to carry around various masks and disguises to change the way I present myself to the vast number of people in my life. I have nothing that I feel that I need to hide. I feel bold, and colorful, and vivid, and free!
7. You now get to be whoever you are, too. I have no need to change anyone anymore. I hate to see people miserable and in pain and unhappy and if you ask for my help or advice, I will give it, and if you choose another path, that is cool. It is also cool if you choose not to change. If you want to be unhappy then I have no right to tell you to be otherwise. I am not inside of your head. I do not know your hurts or your motivations. I will pray for you, though, and you cannot stop me from doing that.
Looky! It is an odd number! It is a good thing, too, because had it not been seven I would have had to proceed forward all of the way to ten and that might have been stretching it. For me, were I prone to doing stuff like cost/benefit analysis types of things, which I am not, the benefits of doing whatever you have got to do to continue to move closer to your authentic self would far outweigh the cost.
I still have a way to go yet. I can still be too nice sometimes, if there is such a thing, and there is. I can still hold back the truth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though I am fully aware that I can present the truth in such a way that little harm will be done. Each day I take another step forward, and that is all any of us can do. Give me a little more time and I just might have ten signs of authenticity. You just never know!