Happiness comes from within, and at the end of the day, we are the only people responsible for our own happiness. While I have understood and embraced the concept throughout most of my life, at various points in particularly trying times it is easy to forget. I recall the moment of clarity that came the last time I realized this. It was a bracingly cold yet bright and sunny day in January. As I crossed the street from work to enter the parking lot and leave, I mulled over how tired I was of being disappointed time and again by the guy I was dating when it hit me: I was depending on him for my happiness. It was a recipe for disaster, particularly since he continually let me down. In that moment, I snapped out of it and decided to change. No longer would I rely on him or anyone else to make me happy. From that moment on, I was taking responsibility for my own happiness once again. I have never looked back.
On the topic of happiness, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“We are the wellspring of our own happiness. Our happiness resides within. No one else and nothing else can give it to us. We may try to find all kinds of things outside ourselves to fill us up and make us happy, but they are all short-lived. We think success, recognition, respect, money, and prestige will do it for us. They’re nice for a while, and the feeling lingers that something is missing. This does not mean that a happy person cannot have all these accoutrements of success—she can. Happiness, however, is not a result of these symbols of success.
Happiness is ethereal. It only dwells within, and when we seek it, it becomes even more elusive.”
Happiness starts long before we ever achieve our goals, reach a certain level of success, or obtain any material possessions. While it is easy to look at our lives and say if only we had “___” (fill in the blank) then we would be happy, the truth is that happiness comes not from external circumstances or from other people, but from ourselves. It is entirely possible to be dirt poor and to be more content with your life than someone who is extremely wealthy. You can be surrounded by all the friends in the world and still feel disconnected. As Andrew McMahon says in the lyrics of “Dark Blue” by Jack’s Mannequin, “Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room?” Happiness ultimately comes down to your own contentedness, your ability to look at your life and find the silver lining in it. Do you see things as mostly positive or negative? Do you complain often? Or do you instead focus your mind on gratitude? Your thoughts and words carry more power than you think. Your happiness is dependent only on yourself. You make it what you will, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances. Happiness is entirely within your own control.