His happiness column is popular. He writes for respected publications. He has a new book out. His publisher claims he is a ‘happiness expert’.
Do not be fooled.
He tells you, ‘you have to work for it’. He bases his claims on ‘research in the worlds of science, philosophy, theology, art, and literature’. He will ‘teach you how to have a better life.’
Don’t let this seduce you.
You were born happy. Happiness is your natural state. And you have all the expertise to reclaim it if you feel you’ve lost it. Like the seed that contains a tree. It’s innate, inherent, intuitive, inside.
And you know it. We all know it. We are all born with it, and it will still be with us when we breathe our last breath.
Yes, it can seem unavailable. Fleeting. But still, it’s always there. It’s always been with you and it cannot leave you. But it can definitely become obscured. When times are tough, when fear grabs you by the throat, when bewildering things happen in the world. And especially when you can’t feel it.
But no external factors are going to ‘get you there’. Because you’re already there. It’s just a matter of finding out what is covering it over. What have you deposited on top of it, making it feel heavy or out of reach?
A happiness expert’s arsenal of ‘research in the worlds of science, philosophy, theology, art, and literature’ contains the expressions of others, the externalised effects of the happiness-realisations of our fellow human beings.
I’m not saying ignore them or throw them away. All I’m saying is, don’t use them to try and find your own. Use them to strengthen and inspire, but not to pursue or find. You haven’t lost anything and happiness is not something you need to pursue. That would be like looking for your sunglasses while they’re on your head.
Anybody telling you otherwise is leading you astray, even if they do so with the best of intentions. All they do is prolong your sense of separation from your own happiness.
But there’s a catch: to claim or reclaim, to steady and grow it, you must ignore self-doubt.
Self-doubt doesn’t need to be conquered. There’s no reason to read about the ’12 psychological reasons why you doubt yourself’ kind of articles (though it can be an entertaining way to pass time.)
If you can, surround yourself with people who love you for how you are in all your colours, behaviours, ‘energies’, ‘vibes’, moods, light and darkness. They will likely also recognise when you use self-doubt as a reference (and tell you to stop it). And you can do the same for others.
Knowing your happiness is already the case, you will simply start noticing self-doubt in all its subtle and not so subtle guises.
My self-doubt talks to me in my head, with my voice:
- maybe he/she/they know something I don’t;
- perhaps I’ve missed something;
- maybe I have to work (harder) for it;
- maybe I don’t deserve it because of my character;
- perhaps there’s a secret I haven’t yet discovered or been told;
- what if I’m wrong and they’re right;
- maybe I won’t know until I’m on my death bed;
- if I’m not feeling happiness right now, I must be doing something wrong;
- I will be doomed if I do this;
- perhaps things go wrong if I do that;
- it might be better if I please him/her/them.
My self-doubt also manifests in comments of other people.
If there’s any ‘work’ to be done, it’s noticing the undermining voice of self-doubt and seeing it for what it is. Simply notice, ‘Ah, yep, there it is.’
Maybe not easy, but simple.
There is nothing else you need to do.
Meanwhile, you continue to go about your life, find or keep a roof over your head, earn some money, cook some food, read a book (or not), have sex (or not). Go picnic in the park, dance, make music and whoopee, in solitude or with others. Or not. From here on, you will know what to do and not do.
When it comes to your happiness, you’re the only expert.