50 RULES OF LIFE
Rule 15: Don't Compare Your Insides to Others' Outsides.
Often, when I'm working with people who have low self-esteem, they base their opinion of themselves on what they observe of other people:
"They seem to be able to cope better than me."
"She has it all together. Why can't I be like her?"
"He is so talented. I'm not good at anything."
"Their marriage is perfect. I bet he never cheated on her."
"Why can't I be like them?"
Being a psychologist, I have a different perspective of other people's lives. And I don't mean just my clients. A lot of people tend to share more of their personal problems with me even in social settings. Or they clam up when they find out I'm a psychologist which tells me a lot as well! Anyway, I see more of the inside of people's lives than most people do. No one has a perfect life no matter how much it may appear that way. People struggle with mental health issues, physical problems, stress, children and family problems, marital concerns, work-related issues.
I try to remind my clients who make these comparisons that they are only seeing what other people want them to see. Even very close friends or family members may not share all of their struggles or problems. As a result, they are comparing their insides to other people's outsides.
Such a comparison is not a fair way of evaluating yourself. You know everything about yourself. You know every thought and every behavior, every attempt and every failure, every self-doubt and every hurt. You don't know all that about someone else. You only know what they choose to show you. As you develop a closer relationship you may be privy to more but you still don't know everything. Therefore, comparing yourself to what others allow you to see is not a fair comparison.
Don't treat yourself unfairly. Don't compare your insides to others' outsides.
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The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)--page 1
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
"...happiness doesn't come with fireworks and a parade. Instead, it sneaks in quietly as the night so that you don't realize it
has been there for awhile."
The first and most important key to finding happiness may be the most difficult for many people (especially those reading this article): To find happiness you must not seek it!
In other words, the more you try to find happiness, the more it will elude you. I think Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) said it best, “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
However, don't be discouraged. You can do many things to create a life where happiness is more likely to find you. Yet, the same caveat applies: If you do everything for the purpose of finding happiness, you may achieve much, but you are not likely to find happiness. Researcher Mauss and colleagues (2012) who found that the higher the value a person places on being happy, the more likely they are to be unhappy, stated, “encouraging a mindset to maximize happiness (as some “self-help” books do) may be
The reason happiness becomes elusive the more you strive for it is due to creating a fixed desire of achieving happiness. If you have read some of my previous articles, you know that a fixed desire is a demand that something has to occur, or be true, or be achieved in order to be happy. Demands, or “shoulds,” are irrational thinking styles that create conditions for stress and unhappiness. Most of the time these demands take the form of “To be happy, I must be thin and wealthy” or “I must find the love of my dreams” or “I must have a fulfilling job.” In fact, a fixed desire can be almost anything. It could be "I should feel good today" or "My son should get an A on his exam."
However, typically the demands are not completely under the control of the individual and/or they are externally focused which means that the individual may not be able to make these things occur even with a great deal of effort. Therefore, this demand attitude allows happiness to be at the whim of the external world.
In the case of happiness itself, many people make the attainment of happiness a fixed desire: “I must be happy.” However, it is only when we realize that we don't need to be happy that we can find happiness. As William Saroyan (1908-1981) said in My Heart's in the Highlands “The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.”
The difference between a fixed desire and a desire or a goal is that the latter doesn't connect personal happiness with the outcome. For instance, a person may desire to find a fulfilling job but doesn't demand that it has to occur.
Interestingly, people who have desires rather than demands may be more likely to achieve their goals (Berg, Janoff-Bulman, & Cotter, 2001) possibly because they are more motivated and less discouraged. When the very essence of happiness is dependent upon the achievement of a goal, striving towards that goal can be quite overwhelming and even frightening: “What if I fail?”
The one time I experienced test anxiety was just as I started to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that would affect my entrance into graduate school to become a psychologist. Just before I picked up my pencil, I said to myself, “This is the most important test you will ever take. If you don't do well, your life will be ruined.” My anxiety shot up as I opened the booklet to read the first question which might as well have been written in Russian because I couldn't comprehend a single word. Fortunately, I knew enough about self-talk and recognized what I had done to myself, so I put my pencil down, did five minutes of deep breathing and told myself, “This test doesn't matter. If you fail, all it means is that your life will take a different path.” That is the difference between a fixed desire and a desire.
The Tau te Ching (also known as “The Book of the Way” which I think of as early cognitive therapy) states, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” If you reflect on this statement you may realize that to give everything up, you must also give up the desire to be given everything. Very paradoxical and mind-boggling, isn't it? But that is the first step: To find happiness you must not seek it.
Similarly, Charles Dickens stated in his novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, “Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”
However, that being said, let's discuss how to achieve happiness. Actually, how to create the conditions so that happiness can find you. The work to finding happiness is to remove the obstacles to happiness. READ MORE: page 2
Intro to Secret of Happiness--page 1
What Is Happiness?--page 2
Is Happiness Possible for Everyone?--page 3
What Intentional Behaviors Can Influence Happiness?--page 4
How Do You Choose Which Intentional Behaviors to Pursue?--page 5
A Final Word About How to Know Happiness When it Finds You--page 6
Copyright © 2012
by Excel At Life, LLC
Permission to reprint this article for non-commercial use is granted if it includes this entire copyright
and an active link.