I grew up in the South at a time when it was frowned upon to be authentic and free of spirit. Being different or extraordinary was not something that was welcomed or celebrated. Stepping across the “line” was a calculated risk. It was a very hard time to be my authentic self. At times it was hard to look in the mirror and feel my value and truth.
In this environment, being different and “looking weird” would be perceived as a threat worthy of attack. Conformity was the norm and anyone who looked different or talked funny was remarked upon, judged, and shunned. From my earliest memories I knew I was different. The truth could be dangerous and even deadly. Even before I understood the concept, I knew that being my authentic self was something that I was better off doing without.
On the surface everything looked fine, peaceful, content. What wasn’t said was often mirrored in passive aggressive actions and words said behind one’s back. Shaming and shunning were just as much a part of life as talking putting others down with harmful and destructive gossip.
Just a whisper of the truth was enough to cause a flustered panic of hypocrisy and blame. The ability to be self-aware was an impossibility. Dysfunctional relationships were a barely visible but unspoken reality. Hateful words of misogyny, homophobia, and racism were more than abundant.
In this conservative environment, there wasn’t much room for freedom of thought and most never spoke their true feelings aloud. There was always simmering tension in the air with a lingering feeling of violence. Decisions were made for others without any opportunity to hear themselves out. Judgment and shame were always part of the conversation and as tools for control and submission.
Growing up in this environment and learning these lessons firsthand from my family and neighbors I became skilled in survival and secrecy. I built defensive walls, listened, and quietly observed. I learned how to navigate a minefield of ignorance and intolerance where racism and misogyny were part of the daily conversation. I heard things regularly that made me rage inside and still haunt me today. I was silenced by fear and alienation. I regret that I never spoke up when things hurt me the most. I was afraid to look in the mirror and see myself clearly.
Most of this was societal and ingrained in the culture and community of the time. Self-awareness was something that was never mentioned or discussed. Feelings were best bottled up.
As a means of survival, I created an impenetrable outer shell to hide my true self. Every day I feared my vulnerability and hidden truths. I had lost touch with myself and was confused about my identity. I was living my life for others and rarely happy with how I felt about myself. Perception is so changeable, but I was reluctant to live in my truth. I was fearful of my truth, confused, and found it hard to have real friends. It was so easy for me to leave without a word and never confront the demons within myself. I was somewhat of a loner and had fascinating adventures that I could never speak about.
Most of this moral decrepitude was societal and ingrained in the culture. It often made me feel angry and disconnected. I learned the power of knowing the difference between right and wrong without any thought or hesitation. I sought diversity in my friendships and culture. Many warm memories of happy times with people who were different. It helped to create my path into becoming The Happiness Warrior. I began to like who I saw in the mirror and began to seek mentors and guides for my reinvented life.
The lesson is clear: we need to stop being so fearful of those which we don’t understand and learn to step back and see the humanity and spirit within others. This is how we stop judging and comparing ourselves to others and find freedom in our experience. This is how we raise our vibration and open our minds to our own potential. This is how we renew our spirit and say no to the useless and cruel behaviors of our past.
VALUES COME FROM WITHIN
I’ve always believed that in order to be happy we each need our own set of personal core values. Core values can help us sort out the truth and establish our authenticity. They help us live happier, more peaceful lives and make decisions based on facts and reason.
There’s always less drama when we know where we’re going. We can only do this when we are able to see ourselves clearly and understand that happiness comes from within. We can raise our vibration and find more meaning when we learn to look at ourselves in the mirror.
Do we love ourselves when we take a look in the mirror? We can’t be truthful about why we hate others when we hate what we see when we look deeply at our own lives.
WHAT WE HATE IS USUALLY WHAT WE HATE ABOUT OURSELVES
Often we think we hate someone because we see something of ourselves in their expressions or actions. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror and being able to predict our next actions. It’s seeing the worst parts of who we are and knowing deep down that we’re seeing our truths.
How many times do we see people accusing others of what they do themselves? Hypocrisy is a word to avoid in our lives, can we be honest when we display this behavior ourselves?
EMPATHY BEATS TOXICITY
I’ve always believed that our humanity starts with empathy and caring for the greater good. It’s the basic desire to help others when they are struggling and the joy that comes from connection and making a difference. It’s how we understand, listen, and love better.
Empathy is learned as we grow and develop and is something we can cultivate throughout our lives. It gives us more than it takes and costs us nothing. Choices abound throughout our lives, but empathy is entirely self-directed. As I often say, the attitude we choose is how we get to our destination. Life for all of us is finite, why not focus on being a better person?
Toxicity is the opposite of empathy and in our fast-paced and rapidly changing lives it’s become more prevalent and noticeable. Never fear to remove that which doesn’t make us happy including other humans:
1. Establish firm communication boundaries. The issue with toxic people is that they lack self-awareness about how their words and actions negatively affect people around them. Someone like this is acutely aware of their apathetic, manipulative tendencies and aren’t in any hurry to change their ways if nobody presses them to. Be brave and be direct in order to make yourself clear.
2. Practice self-distancing, remove expectations, and be positive. Once you identify a toxic person, don’t stop helping them or being a team player. Lead by example, and don’t complain about what we don’t have control of. Never blame and learn to accept responsibility. Don’t complain. Avoid sarcasm and the plague of insecurity. Remember that sarcasm is a refuge for the insecure and weak minded. It’s never “just a joke”.
3. We can protect ourselves from toxic people when we understand that we never know what anyone else is thinking. How many people can we think of who portray themselves as someone that they’re not?
4. Ignore attention seekers and be able to identify signs of sociopathic behavior. One in one hundred humans is statistically shown to be a sociopath.
5. Look for people who display their happiness openly. Look for those who display an ability to be true friends and keep them close.
6. Remember that the people we spend the most time with are the ones that help shape our own values and beliefs.
STOP COMPARING AND START LIVING
As The Happiness Warrior, I’ve always thought that one of the ugliest emotions we can have as humans is the feeling of envy and jealousy. It’s endemic in our lifestyle and culture and the source of so much destruction. The root of this lies in our ability to experience self-awareness and feelings of contentment for who we are. It’s a choice to be envious and one that seems so widely accepted. It’s the opposite of freedom and the cause of so much friction. Envy is one sided and can be insidious as well as destroy lives. There’s nothing to celebrate about ourselves if we are unable to accept and feel joy when others are happy and accomplished.
It’s important to understand what we don’t like in others so that we can better understand and like ourselves. It’s easy to fall into the traps of our society but we can only rise when we can see ourselves clearly. It’s important as human beings to be able to look in the mirror and like who we see!