2 Questions to Ask Yourself to Build a Happy Life
By: Raven Best
Do you know what pisses me off? Those posts and memes that are meant to be inspirational but fail miserably! Those posts that say things like:
Choose Your Happy.
Usually painted with watercolor in swirly font on a floral background. Yes, thank you for the tip...but HOW?! How sway? I’m the type of person who likes to plan. I like steps. I like lists. I like processes. Granted, I know that life rarely cares about your plan and just does what she wants. Regardless, I like a general guide so that I can maintain some sort of direction. 2 word demands of what it takes to be happy just don’t cut it for me.
Ever since high school, I battled with depression and anxiety. My lowest point, probably being 22. Yes, the whole entire year of age 22. I didn’t know up from down and didn’t have the motivation to find out the difference. I didn’t see a point to anything. I was just floating between work and home. Weekdays to weekends. Maybe it was the post graduation blues? All I knew was that I was too young to feel this old.
I knew I had to start doing things differently when I stopped modeling because of my acne. Disclaimer: I was no Tyra Banks. I had no aspirations to be signed or walk in NYFW. Modeling was...a placeholder. A quick ego boost to make me FEEL like I was doing something. Something to make it SEEM like I was doing something. But in reality, I was working in childcare without a clue as to what I wanted for my future.
My acne had gotten so bad that no amount of foundation could cover the scarring; you could see the discoloration in photos. I had too much pride to ask photographers to retouch the photos. So, I just stopped. I was left with the question of...now what? When I sat there to look at my life and what I felt I had going for myself, I felt deeply unsatisfied. There were very simple questions that I was asking but did not have the answer to:
What am I doing?
What makes me happy?
What does happy even feel like?
I didn’t like my job. I was horribly insecure about my skin and my body. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt good about...anything. The raging breakouts were actually a blessing in disguise. I finally felt motivated to tackle things that I had avoided for years. I decided that I was going to find my happy, dammit! Plenty others have found it, why couldn’t I?
I’m going to share how I found my happy. Please note: the keyword is “my” in that previous sentence. Happiness is not a one-size-fits-all pantsuit. It looks and feels different for everyone. As you grow and change, your meaning of happiness and mental peace will change too.
The most important question I asked myself:
How does this make me feel?
If it was negative, it got the boot. For me, it was purging the placeholders. The people and activities that were present but served no purpose in my life. You know the lyrics in Solange’s song ‘Cranes in the Sky’? That part where she’s singing about drinking it away? And sexing it away? And changing her hair? Yup! She could’ve just @ me because that’s how I was living. I had to let go and get back to the basics. That meant deleting the late night texters, distancing myself from the phony friends, giving up the Flaming Hot Cheetos addiction. I even quit my job— Don’t do that though. I was still living at home and had discussed it with my parents beforehand.
I had to hold myself to higher standard. If I wanted to be better, I had to do better. Simple as that! This wasn’t an overnight ordeal; this took MONTHS. It was the ultimate spring-cleaning of my life and to be quite frank, it sucked. I was aggravated with all the build up of unnecessary fluff that had become my life. I felt like I was behind my peers. I felt lost. I felt lonely. But, anything or anyone that affected my self-esteem and my inner peace had to go.
The next question I asked myself:
What DO I want in my life?
This can be an overwhelming question. But in this phase, everything is about trial and error. Things that you enjoy? Keep. Things that don’t seem to be working? Let it go.
There were always things that I admired: yoga headstands, painting, clear skin, confidence, excellent money management. I wanted to do those things. I wanted to be that kind of person. So, I started looking at ways to incorporate those activities into my life. I started doing yoga at home. I started cooking more and eating cleaner. I went to the art store and found the cheapest supplies I could find and started painting. I read books about how to budget and build self-esteem—Corny? Maybe. Helpful? Definitely. I started researching different career fields—What skills are needed for them? Who are the people in those fields?
We live in a big world full of resources. Chances are, someone has been on our path before. We don’t have to figure everything out on our own. The hardest part is not finding the answers, it’s figuring out which questions we need to ask.
As I started actively making changes in my life, the better I felt about my circumstances and myself. I liked who I was and who I was becoming. It was the first time I felt that I had potential and a clear path. Once I found the things that I felt spoke to my being, I began to build on them. Consistently incorporating them into my life. Consistency is a make or break in any journey. Nothing comes overnight, and rarely does it come easy. To build and maintain the life I wanted, I had to consistently act, think and believe in ways that supported that journey. I began to be very conscious of how I responded to positive and negative events. To take responsibility for how I chose to respond and think every day. It’s a daily practice. Sometimes I revert, but I always find a way to put myself back on track.
At age 24, I’ve joined an art’s group where I live paint and have had my art exhibited. The other day in yoga class I did a lotus headstand. I eat clean (mostly) and know how to manage my skin. I have grown to accept and love my body. I am surrounded by a very strong support system. I am taking classes to become a Graphic Designer, a career that I am excited about where I can be creative full time. At 22, most days I felt bored. Now, I feel grateful: for how far I’ve come, for where I am and for where I’m going. But what I am most proud of is cultivating and maintaining my inner happiness. An unshakeable light that always finds its way to the surface despite whatever may be going on around me. I speak of depression and anxiety in the past tense. My healing has taken time, letting go of certain people and moving through some hard lessons. But, I’m where I dreamt of being years ago. And, I know that I will get to where I’m dreaming of now!