We spend our time trying to bring happiness to others. Our bosses, our children, our partners, our friends. We nurture, we care, we empathize. But do we stop to nurture ourselves? Do we ever define ourselves as the things we enjoy?
I have a career, a partner, children, and a house. Let’s face it, those things are not always going to make me a happy person and to depend on all of that to bring me happiness and make me feel fulfilled is to set myself up for a therapy appointment. My job is going to disappoint me. My children are a constant source of worry and anxiety. My house sucks my wallet dry. I love all these things, but I can not depend on them to fulfill me and make me happy.
So I do the things I love. I am a writer, a reader, a photographer, a music lover. I take pictures. I read books. I listen to music. And that’s who I am. When people ask if I’m happy I certainly think of the big things in my life, but I also think of the little things. And the little things add up to a lot. The money worries, job frustration, and anxiety over college tuition bills all loom less large in the big picture because I have made my own happiness in other areas.
“Women have lives that become increasingly empty,” [Gallup researcher Marcus] Buckingham said. “They’re doing more and feeling less.”
There’s the problem. They’re not doing anything that makes them feel. They’re living for everyone but themselves. They are living to please others and to impress others. There’s nothing wrong with doing for yourself. Taking the time to do what makes you happy makes you happier overall.
But what, you may wonder, about looks and external appearance? After all, America is more obsessed than ever about looks and youth, with an array of expensive cosmetic procedures that allow women to be their own Frankenstein Barbies. Men age in an attractive way while women are expected to replicate — and Restylane — their 20s into their 60s.
Well, no. That’s something you put on yourself. Maybe if you aspire to be a model, actress, or trophy wife, this is a big problem. But most of us regular women who want to lead normal lives know that we shouldn’t put the burden of our happiness on our faces and our bodies, just as we shouldn’t put it on our kids, our jobs, our partners, or our homes.
See, I know a lot of happy women, Ms. Dowd. What do they all have in common? They don’t define themselves by what they do, what they have, who they know, or how they look. They define themselves by who they are.