Don’t Be Perfect, Be Happy
I used to be a perfectionist. I guess inside I still am. I used to put heaps of pressure on myself to be the best. Perhaps sometimes I still do. What I have found is that the times when I’m stressed and miserable are also the times when I’m putting pressure on myself to be somebody better. At these times, I’m not focused on being happy, I’m focused on being perfect.
We all want to be useful and we all want to be somebody. I know what it’s like to be a somebody and I know what it’s like to be a nobody. It’s no easy thing to go from being the top scoring person in your course across all campuses at your university to being just a housewife with a doctor husband, particularly when many conversations go like this:
Person asks my husband: ‘So what do you do?’
Husband: ‘I’m a doctor’
Person: ‘Oh wow, congratulations, that’s awesome, so…do you cut into people? I don’t agree with my GP, can you just check all my pill bottles for me? [insert more questions here while I stand there smiling like a circus clown and pretending to be part of the conversation]’
Finally when the conversation has exhausted, person says to me: ‘and what do you do?’
Me: ‘I’m a housewife.’
Person: ‘Oh, so…are you planning on getting a job?’
Me: ‘maybe, some time in the future…[insert a lot of nonsense here because I feel pressured to have future intentions, but I’m really thinking, what on earth am I saying? A housewife IS a job and I have no intention of doing whatever it is I’m saying.]
I still have moments like this, but I’m learning to be proud of what I do because what I do makes me happy. My husband and I have a happy life together, making our own choices and doing what we do. It’s when I start thinking about society and its expectations that I get miserable. Why can’t I be somebody more important? Why can’t I be somebody better? Why can’t I earn heaps of money? Well…I could. But would I be happy? I don’t think so.
We all look to that person who we think is better than us and think, if I could just be more like them I would be happy. Little do you know, that person is looking at somebody else and thinking the exact same thing! I don’t know one person who thinks they’re perfect. I recently heard a talk where it was pointed out that we all (women that is, I don’t know about men) wish we had flatter stomachs and skinnier thighs, but models have the flattest stomachs and thinnest thighs and they are the most insecure people you’ll meet because their entire profession revolves around how they look and they’re always trying to look better.
We always feel this pressure to be more, do more, and have more. How can we be happy with what we do have?
Recognise that we live in a society of consumerism
This, I think, is the first step. We live in a society where we’re encouraged to always want the next thing. How do people sell products? By making people feel that they just cannot live without that product. So, we end up feeling like we’ll never be happy without that thing, whatever it is, and to get that thing we need more money, to get more money we need to work more, so we work ourselves to the bone so we can get this thing that we don’t even have the time to appreciate because we’re so busy working ourselves even harder to keep up with this lifestyle.
Some families HAVE to work hard every day for hardly any reward and still struggle to get by. Those of us who are privileged not to have to do that, still do. And we complain about it at the same time! We complain that we don’t have enough time for family and we complain that we don’t have enough money. So why do we do it? Because we can’t support our outlandish lifestyle, because society pressures us to have more, because we want more status and power. But we are earning enough. So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s because we’re buying too much!
Try buying less replaceable things and spending more time with your irreplaceable loved ones.
Appreciate what you do have
Just stop, slow down, and look at what you do have. Most people in this country have everything they need. Now, look at everything you have and think about what makes you the most happy. Is it your new computer? Your job? Is it your new oculus rift? Is it the new car? The new horse? The pool in your backyard?
Now, think about this. How would you feel if you could trade your family, your friends and everyone you love, in exchange for every item that you ever wanted. Would that make you happy? I can’t speak for you, but for me, the answer is no. For me, the most important thing is family. BUT we so often forget that because we’re so busy working our butts off to get the next thing that we think is going to fulfil us. I think the biggest regret that our generation is going to have when they get old is that they spent too much time studying, working, and playing with gadgets and didn’t make enough time for family.
Instead of looking at what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. Unless you’re the president or the Queen of England, you cannot have everything. And, even the president and the Queen don’t have everything – I would say one thing they lack which they would really like is some privacy! Now, you and I, we have privacy. We can come and go when we please, wearing what we like, making whatever mistakes we want and the whole world won’t gasp in horror. How lucky are we??
Once, work used to finish when the sun went down, but this is not the case now. We are always so busy-busy-busy. I’ve even noticed a change from when I was a child, which was only 10 years ago! People seem too busy to do things together, but busy with what? These days it seems to be work, work, work and even play seems to be a chore. It seems to be stressful now to even make time for family.
Look at the emphasis that is placed on university these days. Not everybody has to go to uni. In fact, some of the richest people I know did not attend university, they started a trade and eventually their own business and now they have many people working underneath them, some of whom probably went to university! Yet most kids in year 12 are so stressed out these days because they HAVE to get the mark to get into uni. The things that you think are the be all and end all are not. If I could go back in time, I would tell the younger me this. I would encourage the younger me to go out and get some real world experience, rather than jumping straight into university.
I know a few families who are very well off, but both parents are so busy working that they hardly have time to spend with their children. The children themselves are also very focused on getting ahead and are busy most weeknights with extracurricular activities and there’s hardly any time for family, let alone friends.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to quit everything and be a slob. It’s great that they’re well off, it’s great that they’re doing extra work. I realise too that some have to work long hours to get by. However, for those who don’t need to, I think sometimes it might be necessary to draw a line and say, ‘I have enough, I don’t have to work so many hours, I don’t need the extra money, I can work a little less and spend some time with my family and show my children that I love them and teach them how to socialise.’
It’s great to see families just relaxing together in the park, casually kicking a football, rather than standing on the sidelines yelling at their kid who is participating in a sports club and trying to get ahead. Not everything has to be a competition, sometimes we just need to slow down and enjoy things for what they are.
Kick a ball for the fun of kicking a ball, rather than to win a game. Go for a walk and enjoy the scenery and fresh air, rather than focusing on losing weight. Enjoy moments spent with your family without worrying about what else you have to do as soon as family time is over. Just slow down and enjoy the now.
Stop Looking At Those Who Have More and Do Something for Those Who Have Less
For every person who has more than you, there is also someone who has less. In fact, there are more. I don’t know the statistics exactly, but there are many more people in this world who are living below the poverty line than above it, that is a fact. While you’re focusing on the few people who you think have a better life than you, there are so many more who have it worse. Instead of buying yourself that expensive piece of cake you think you really need, how about buying a meal for a friend who is less well off. Instead of working your behind off to get more money to buy things you don’t need, how about donating some of your time to a local charity. When we help others instead of helping ourselves, we find ourselves being happy.
Now, I don’t mean, go and help somebody so you can make a big show about it and make everyone see what a wonderful person you are. That won’t make you happy. That will just make you annoyed when you see somebody else getting more attention for their efforts than you are. What I mean is, go and do something for somebody else and expect nothing in return. The happiness you bring to others will make you happy.
Do something, not for the sake of money or status or fame, but just because of the warm feeling it gives you inside.
Some of the things I’ve enjoyed involve; going to the local pound and walking some of the dogs, volunteer to for a Christmas wrapping fundraiser for a charity, going into your local nursing home (and visiting your grandma) and playing the piano for the old folks. I know, most of you are time poor, so just do the little thing here and there that you can spare time for. Don’t make it stressful by making it a chore that you HAVE to do every Monday, just do it when you feel you can.
You don’t even have to do something that takes up a lot of your time. You might see a poor family in the shops choosing between buying some toothpaste or some toilet paper and you might offer to pay for that yourself. You might offer to pick up some groceries for some of your elderly relatives or friends. We have this attitude that ‘what is mine is mine, I worked for it and so I deserve it.’ But does that really make you happy? I don’t mean for you to throw all your money away trying to help the whole world because that’ll never happen even if you were a billionaire, but sometimes little acts of kindness towards those less well off than us can really help us to see how good we really have it.
Sometimes you don’t have to do anything, just take some time out of your day to observe others instead of walking around in your little bubble. The other day I saw a homeless man walking down the street with no shoes and picking things up off the ground. As he walked past, a man sitting there having his coffee offered him something and so they stopped and had a little chat and I felt so warm just observing this. The feeling diminished somewhat when I realised that the thing being offered was a cigarette. I would probably advise offering a small meal and a non-alcoholic beverage, but it was still a kind act that was obviously appreciated by this man.
Thinking of others makes us less focused on ourselves and our worries and results in us being happier.
Why Should We Be Happy With What We Have?
Why not? The quest for more is what ruins families, communities and nations. The husband/wife who think they would be happier with a new partner find themselves leaving their third marriage still wondering what went wrong. The mother/father who wants to be the top of their workplace finds themselves putting everything into their work and wondering why their partner and children seem like strangers. The community that wants to make themselves bigger and better takes the money away from their local farmers and wonders why the produce doesn’t taste as good anymore. The nation that wants to push themselves ahead of all others ends up struggling in debt wondering why they don’t have enough funds to solve the problems in their own backyard.
To Sum Up:
Why should we be happy?
Because we will never be perfect, so we may as well be happy instead.
How do we be happy?
Just slow down, appreciate what you have, spare some of what you have and share it with another, enjoy the moment, buy less and spend more time with those you love and don’t be perfect, just BE happy.