The New Year commonly brings resolutions to start fresh – to bring new habits into our lives to make them ultimately better. Making a resolution for the year makes no real sense to me, because life is constantly changing and it would quickly need updating. A set of goals is more manageable and realistic, especially when they are general enough that they too can evolve as the year goes on and new needs surface. A general philosophy or theme (some people are using keywords) may help keep things on track. This year I am looking at having a new outlook on life. How we see ourselves is rarely the same as how others see us. Taking a step back and looking at ourselves from someone else’s point of view is difficult and can be alarming, but can also be enlightening and ultimately rewarding.
One of my best friends told me before Christmas that she was thinking of taking a Facebook hiatus since she was tired of seeing how accomplished everyone else was in comparison. Funny enough, I had checked out my “Year in Review” that morning and marveled at how happy and accomplished my life looked, despite how negative I had been feeling. Of course, she could say the same thing as well. Most of our Facebook accounts are like this. We post happy smiling photos of ourselves and our families, the good things that happen to us, our accomplishments, etc. In some ways, it is a “Brag Rag.” It is simply human nature for us to publicize ourselves at our best. You don’t see posts about how we growl at people just because the day isn’t going as planned or when we do something incredibly stupid (unless it is also very funny).
For these reasons, Facebook (or similar media) can be a good way to start taking a look at your life, but will not give the complete picture. In my case, it gave me a much needed boost in the midst of the pre-holiday insanity that so much of us indulge in, but also made me realize I need to do this more often. We also can take this a step further and consider these questions: Would I want to be friends with me? Am I the parent I want to be? Would I give myself a job? Am I fun to be around? I would hazard a guess that for most of us, the answer to these questions is yes, at least sometimes. I have found that moving outside my self, and looking at me as others do, can be very eye opening, and not always in a flattering way.
I was shy as a kid – you could probably say clinically shy. In fact, one of my elementary school teachers recommended to my parents that I get therapy (which was not so commonplace in the late 70s). My turning point (as I see it anyway) came in 7th grade when I overheard some other students talking about me. They were saying that I was stuck up and thought I was better than everyone else. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was terrified of people and did my best to be invisible in school. I had a couple close friends, but was always uncomfortable in groups of more than a half dozen or so. There was no rational reason for this fear or my feelings of inadequacy. I was always told (and believed) that I could do anything I set my mind to. This one overheard conversation unnerved me. I was NOT stuck up and it made me determined to show people that they were wrong. The road from then to now is long (and often boring), but suffice it to say, I started stepping out of my comfort zone and tried to see things from other people’s perspective. I have not always succeeded (and sometimes forget to look beyond the blinders) but have found doing so a valuable interpersonal tool as well as a pathway for my own personal growth.
My recent Facebook self-analysis surprised me a little. Not because of what I saw, but because of how long it has been since I took an objective look at myself and my life.
I have a good life. I am overall a happy person. Sometimes life throws me, and all of us, things that are difficult to comprehend, much less deal with. Everyday life can sometimes get in the way of living. I want to stop this. I realize that sometimes everyday “must-dos” and unexpected events will slow things down, but I want to focus on life itself. Perhaps a “happiness plan” is in order. I want to set priorities, make realistic goals and most importantly, act on them. Above all else, I want to be happy and for the people in my life to be happy with me. Happiness can be contagious – let’s spread it around.