So many people are in search of happiness, yet never find it. Given the number of articles, books, courses, and never-ending discussion about how to be happy, you’d think that more people would BE happy.
And yet they’re not. Instead, they’re constantly searching for something “more”. So, why do they never find happiness?
Happiness isn’t something that’s found – it’s created from within. And searching for it will lead you nowhere.
This may sound scary to you. But it’s not (I promise). It’s actually good news, because no one can take your happiness from you or prevent you from being happy. No one except you, that is.
Table of Contents
Happiness Comes Only from Within (and Isn’t About Being Positive or Cheerful)
Before we get any further, let’s discuss what it means to be happy. Happiness isn’t merely about having laughter in your life. Nor is it about being cheerful or positive. Laughing, being positive and being cheerful can help increase your happiness level, but just because you do these things doesn’t mean that you’re happy.
We all know people who try to put a positive spin on everything and practice “positivity” and yet are deeply unhappy. And even unhappy people have moments where they’re able to laugh and be cheerful.
When I talk about being happy, I mean feeling content, satisfied, and at peace – regardless of your circumstances.
Now, that doesn’t mean that happy people don’t strive to be better and don’t want to change themselves or their circumstances. But they see change as a constant and normal part of life and embrace imperfection. They understand that life is a journey that involves constant learning, growth, and change (and that sometimes it’s hard).
Happy people don’t yearn for “more” but are instead happy with where they are in the moment – because they are content in who they are. Besides, they trust that “more” is on its way.
The Relationship Between Happiness and How You Define Yourself
My Journey from Victim-Hood to Choice
When I was a kid and young adult, I defined myself through the circumstances in which I lived. We weren’t rich. In fact, we struggled. My mother was an alcoholic and some of the men in my mom’s (and therefore my) life were not the nicest (and I’m being generous in my description).
Because of this, I took on a victim mentality and defined myself through the lens of my “tough” life. The blanket of victim-hood that I wrapped myself in infused how I viewed the world and my place in it. And I was miserable as a result.
But God must have had different plans for me because over time I decided that being a victim sucked. And I realized that I had a choice. I could continue defining myself through the circumstances in which I lived, or I could define myself my way – based on what I valued in life.
And so, I chose to start defining myself based on who I really was on the inside instead of based on my circumstances.
Your Ability to Create Happiness from Within is Rooted in How You Define Yourself
Once I made my choice, I quickly learned the following two truths that changed my viewpoint on life, how to live it, and how to be happy:
- How you define yourself determines your way of being within the world (e.g., what you think about yourself, your self-confidence and self-respect levels, how you perceive the world around you, how you make decisions for yourself, and how you interact with others); and
- Your way of being within the world determines your ability to create happiness for yourself.
I realized that, because I’d been defining myself according to external circumstances, I was supremely unhappy. It tainted my ability to create happiness. How could I, when I wasn’t even clear on who I was? It even left me open to emotional distress and harm (because I didn’t know how to protect myself).
How You Define Yourself Affects How Others Perceive You
How you define yourself not only affects how you perceive yourself, but also how the world perceives you. And this often becomes a circular problem.
By defining yourself according to external factors and circumstances, you reinforce a version of you that’s not true to yourself. That leads others to perceive you in ways you don’t like or want (which leads to yet more unhappiness).
How to Redefine Yourself Into Happiness
When you redefine yourself based on who you are deep within, your actions and decisions will more naturally align with that. Which means that you’ll finally get to a place of feeling and being fully YOU. At the end of the day, it’s about owning up to who you are.
The alignment piece is key – it’s what will make you finally feel content with yourself. Moreover, it will help you to see what you want, why you want it, and how to get what you want. So that you can start your journey to create your own happiness.
I’m not promising that figuring this out will suddenly make your life easy or perfect (because that’s not how life works). But I do promise that figuring out exactly who you are and defining yourself this way will create a new level of satisfaction and contentedness you’ve never felt. And this knowledge will act as your compass throughout your life.
You Can Be Happy Even When Life Sucks
Happiness Isn’t Dependent on Your Circumstances
This is difficult for many to understand, but happy people are generally content, satisfied and at peace even during life’s most trying times.
How is that? First, they understand and accept that life is messy. I know that it’s a cliché to say that life is a journey filled with ups and downs – but just because it’s a cliché doesn’t make it untrue (and happy people understand this).
Second, happiness is about being at peace with YOU (not your circumstances or the world around you). Happy people embrace this (it’s why they’re happy). When you see the world the way they do, it’s much easier to enjoy it (messiness and all).
A Real-Life Example (a/k/a When I Had Cancer)
Being content and satisfied with who you are isn’t the same thing as liking your circumstances. I learned this first-hand when I battled breast cancer. Even though I often felt wretched and was worried that I could be dying, my journey was easier to navigate because I knew how to stay true to myself during this time.
I knew EXACTLY who I was and was content and satisfied with that. In fact, this knowledge helped me navigate through my cancer journey more easily.
This was different than many of the women I met who were battling alongside me. They defined themselves based on their circumstances (and not based on who they were on the inside) and so they defined themselves through a lens of cancer. And it consumed them – leading to constant fear, worry, and extreme unhappiness.
[Recommended Reading: the Power of a Regular Gratitude Practice.]
Redefine Yourself Based on Your Core Values – and Be Happy
So now what? How do you redefine yourself according to your “inner soul”. What on earth does that even mean?
It’s actually pretty simple (and not “woo” at all – as I’m unabashedly not a woo girl). Redefine yourself based on your personal values.
Why Your Personal Values Matter
Personal values are what give you purpose and meaning in life – they drive your behavior. You are your values (they are the inner soul of what makes you uniquely you).
You likely have a general idea about some of your core values. But you probably haven’t focused on them to the point of putting specific words and a definition around them. It’s time to change that.
I have a tool (called the Inner Compass Values Assessment) to help you get clarity around and more specifically define your core values (click here to snag it). But to get you started, go through the following exercise:
- Think about when you get really irritated or upset with yourself because of something you did or didn’t do (and look for common themes).
- Ask yourself why your behavior irritated and/or upset you. What rule or standard did you violate that’s so important to you that you’re upset about it?
This exercise will begin to reveal exactly what your core values are and what it means to honor them (e.g., how you want to behave if you’re going to align your life with them). Although you likely value lots of things, between 3-5 will rank above all others. Those are your core values.
How to Define Yourself Through Your Values
Once you identify your values and define what they mean, it’s time to start defining yourself by them. And that means to start LIVING them. Honor them in the decisions you make for your life and in how you treat others. Align how you act with your values. Your values are your compass in life – so use them that way.
And stop thinking of yourself as being defined by what you do for a living or the many roles you play within your life. Instead, think of yourself as the person who has these values and strives to live within them.
Is it really that simple? Yes, it is.
However, I’m not promising that this will make your life perfect or solve all your problems (because that’s not how life works). But living this way will start to give you some true happiness and fulfillment in life, regardless of your life’s circumstances.
Because you’ll finally be living life as who you’re meant to BE.
Until next time…
P.S. Before you go, don’t forget to grab your free Inner Compass Values Assessment. In 5 Sure-Fire Steps, it will help you (1) determine your core values with ease, (2) discover how to quickly reorient your life around your core values, and (3) uncover your next steps to more fully live your values. If you haven’t already downloaded it, you can do so below.