I struggle with the idea of happiness. A lot! Maybe it's because I see pics from others that make me feel like I'll never be able to go there, eat that, or have that much fun. But no, that's not it. Social media is just that - media. I try not to ingest that jealousy. Instead here's how I approach being happy.
I compartmentalize seeing other people's photos because I feel like I was putting out that kind of social media while living in South Africa for over two years. Every time my husband, boys and I had fantastic opportunities to do things that others may never get to do there was a part of me that felt guilty that I was creating bad feelings with my posts. My friends know that's not who I am but it didn't stop my brain from feeling empathy for those who might have felt jealous.
Like going on safari, several times. Living abroad is truly a FOMO-inducing opportunity. I am keenly aware of that. Many times I hesitated in sharing photos that I felt may not illicit positive feelings from friends back home in the U.S. Yes I hesitated. A lot.
See! Reading this, are you feeling happy right now? Jealous? Sad? Questioning your life? Maybe that last one is a bit over the top. But I think that's just how our emotions present themselves without our brain even thinking about it.
If you know me, you know that I would never want anyone to feel jealous, sad, or knocked down in any way. That's why when I watched a show last weekend about Happiness, I knew I had something I wanted to write about. To talk with you about this and get your perspective.
Money helps. Having money allows a person or family to live in the way they choose. Money allows flexibility and provides options. But that's not always happiness. I want LOTS of things, just like anyone else.
But I also know that I love to be outside, in the sun and in nature. I love working with my hands, being creative, and making beautiful and functional things. I tried my hand at woodworking a few years ago which I absolutely loved. A stack of 'boring' wood, cut, sanded, stained, or painted and a functional and beautiful piece you made is now part of your decor.
In South Africa I fell in love with the bold, colorful textile called shweshwe. It quite literally made my heart happy and gave me excitement and enthusiasm to create things. I started sewing my own bags and selling them at local expat markets. It was proof that I can choose doing something that makes me wake up happy every day.
Pride. Creativity. Satisfaction. To me, those are three important elements of happiness. Notice money is not included in that list. Growing up in the late 70s and 80s was such a different environment than what my kids experienced in the 2010s. Of course, the launch of the internet culture had a huge impact on their lives (and ours). But even the invention of all this tech doesn't prevent kids from learning and experiencing life, despite the hours logged online.
What I'm talking about is the idea that life is about making money and buying a big (fill in the blank - house, car, boat, whatever). The 80s were about excess. But my feeling was more about why I couldn't choose employment that was fulfilling, rather than paying the bills. This mindset is certainly changing after three-plus years of Covid that upended our daily lives.
Why do I rant? Because I finally realized that my happiness is more important than churning out a corporate job. Never again do I want to give up my happiness for 24/7, indoor, paper-pushing, frantic, (sometimes) arbitrary deadlines that make everyone crazy. No thank you. I'd rather spend my days working on my small, struggling business that I love, am passionate about, and can set my own urgencies.
Lately, there's been a lot written about 'being unapologetically you.' I wholeheartedly agree. But what does that actually mean? For me, I need to stop trying to please everyone else to my subordination. I need to stop feeling guilty about doing what's best for me.
And this is THE most difficult - not allowing my intense feeling of empathy towards others to derail my path. My path and my business include a very heaping dose of empathy for others but that's not what I'm talking about. It's not about losing the important trait of empathy but guiding that empathy in a way that propels my business and my life and happiness rather than allowing empathy to take over my life. Does that even make sense to anyone else?
This blog is part me, part my business, part my family, and part my life in South Africa. One thing that South Africa taught me was that empathy can be channeled for good and also that I am stronger than I think.
Are you happy? What does happiness mean for you? What is standing in your way of living your true happiness? I want to know. Maybe we can help each other?
Founder, Bosisi Designs