Beautiful, talented, rich, and famous; all markers of success and happiness in the world we live in.
Yet, as we’re learning, this often isn’t the truth. Outer appearances aren’t always reflective of the inner experience and, as humans, what matters most is our inner experience.
The recent suicide of country singer Naomi Judd raises again for me the awareness that, too often, behind the external façade of success and achievement—even wealth and power—lurks an internal hell.
In working with successful people who’ve achieved great success and acquired every external thing they believed they wanted, too many tell me they’re feeling empty inside and are living empty lives of quiet desperation.
Beneath outer appearances of success resides a deep sense of unhappiness and loneliness. So, the search continues and the sense of isolation grows. We get busier, create more outer goals and check-lists of things to accomplish in the world, when what most needs attention is making friends with ourselves and developing a sense inner happiness.
We do the things we do, pursue the goals we’ve set, in an effort to feel fulfilled and to live a good and happy life. At the end of the day, what we really want is to be happy. When we’ve acquired or accomplished the things we’ve wanted but still feel lacking, we’re left to wonder what’s wrong with us and we can feel alone.
Happiness isn’t a wild goose chase. We’re simply looking in the wrong places. We’ve had it backwards. It’s not the outer-world version of success that creates lasting happiness. Happiness begins within ourselves.
What I’ve learned, on the road to gathering all this grey hair, is nothing I’ve ever accomplished in the world, none of the degrees and accolades in the outer world, have changed how I feel inside. It’s never been the job or situation that’s made me happy or unhappy. Trying harder to accomplish more only led me to burn-out.
As humans, we’re led to believe achieving all of our goals and completing things on our check-list of life will make us feel different inside. It does not. Where we need to turn our attention is within.
When we look to the outer-world accomplishments for our markers of success, we’re looking in the wrong place. In raising our daughters, it’s never been about the degrees they’ve accomplished or jobs they’ve held, my bigger question is always, “are they happy?”. What I want most for them is happiness.
It’s from our inner sense of happiness that success arises, not our worldly successes that determine our happiness.
In my journey to happiness, I had to first make friends with the person I was. I was a mess at the time, and I had tried hard. I had to quell the negative self-talk and start to care for myself the way I’d care for someone I love. I had to become my own best friend and learn to develop self-compassion. It was very challenging at first, as I was so conditioned into believing the constant internal criticism and listening to the negative thoughts I’d practiced for too long.
I had to reach out to others for help, some personal and some professional, to help support and guide me on the way. It was important to begin sharing what was really going on inside of me, instead of presenting only my Facebook version of myself to the world. I had to show-up for myself the way I did for people I love and care about.
I’ve learned that so many people felt the same way I did, that I wasn’t alone in feeling lacking, inadequate and unhappy. All of us had made the same mistake; believing the same myth of, “I’ll be happy when…” and chasing happiness in the outside world. As I share my story, I see the relief people fee when they learn they’re not alone; the relief often shows up in the form of tears.
In that shared humanity and knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling the way I did, that I could begin the journey upward into living a happy and fulfilling life. In my journey, spiritual community and mindfulness were essential to my recovery.
I now teach, write and speak about my journey for only one reason, to let others know they’re not alone. It’s no longer a surprise how many people see themselves in my story of burnout and recovery.
We have to start talking about these things. Reaching out and connecting with others and letting them know how you really feel. Seeking out a caring network of people to support you on your journey is essential because, trust me, you’re not alone.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.