Self Love and Happiness

 

Today I want to talk about self-love. You have probably heard of self-love before, or perhaps you may be familiar with its close relative: selfcare. The idea of self -love is all over the place but I think that it is largely misguided in that the true meaning and understanding get lost in translation,  or worse, intentionally misconstrued by marketers and corporations who want to profit on the insecurity of others and teach them to engage in spontaneous, or extravagant behavior in order to better love oneself.  

Self love has often been described in terms of indulgences: give yourself this nice decadent meal because you deserve it and love yourself. Treat yourself to a spa day because you deserve that feeling of relaxation, pampering and comfort. In a lot of ways I do support the pampering and enjoyment of the finer things in life. This can be an appropriate form of expressing happiness and appreciation, when done in moderation. In moderation being the key as it can be difficult to curb our craving for more.  For this post though I don’t want to focus so much on caring for oneself, and treating oneself to a spa, or a comfy new mattress, as a form of self love. I want to talk about one of the key steps to happiness, which is truly loving oneself.

What self-love is, is understanding, appreciation, and knowledge of oneself. Knowing that you are imperfect but loving yourself all the same. Being perfectly imperfect, as Psychologist Pia Mellody would say. You should love yourself for who you are and realize that you do not any sort of external THING, or attachment to make them happy. 

I was first turned towards this particular notion of self-love when I read How to Love by a Jesuit priest named Anthony De Mello. What I thought I was opening was a book that was going to teach me how to be a better partner for my girlfriend, a guide book on how to properly love and care for her.  What I got instead was a book that taught me to love myself first and foremost. At first I was confused and thought that this seemed selfish and vain, and resolved that I would read a few chapters before putting it down and moving on. 

After just a chapter or two though, I was hooked on De Mello’s message, and soon came to realize that by loving myself wholly and truly was not selfish but would allow me to become a better lover for my girlfriend , a better friend, son, and brother, and to that matter a better citizen and lover of the world at large. 

Anthony De Mello (1931-1987)

De Mello’s thoughts on love focus on the idea that one ought to have no attachments. Anything and everything can be taken from us at any moment, except for ourselves; and that so long as our sense of happiness is tied up to any external attachment: another person, our lover, our wealth, fame, success, titles, career whatever, then we are vulnerable to disappointment and cannot truly be happy. Those things are bot ephemeral and not truly ours, and as such we can be deprived of them. What we cannot be deprived of is ourselves. 

Among his writings in how to love, De Mello says that love can be found through understanding the following: 

                1. That we have been misled by believing that we cannot be happy without X: our romantic partner, our wealth, our status, etc., any attachment, which ultimately lies outside of our control and doesn’t truly belong to us. 

                2. If you are able to recognize that you do not need this attachment, that you can enjoy what the world has to offer without possessing it, without missing it, and without fear of losing, for you never have it in the first place, then you will be happy. 

Much grief exists in today’s world because we are led to believe that without this or that that we cannot be happy. But no, true love can only come from those intangibles that cannot be taken from us, that which we have control over: our self (sounds similar to the Stoic concept of only focusing on that which is within your control: ie yourself.)

True happiness comes from letting go of attachments and focusing on yourself. Once you learn to love yourself as you are, you will realize happiness. I encourage you to love others, surround yourself with a romantic partner and close friends, but do not define your sense of happiness in this but rather in your deep appreciation and love of yourself. 

I leave you with the hope that you will learn to realize you do not need anyTHING to be happy or to love yourself and that you are worthy and deserving of your own love right here right now. Once you have that, I hope you can put forth love and happiness into the world, but with the understanding that though it is there and worth love, happiness, and appreciation, it does not BELONG to you. Enjoy, be happy, but remain unattached. 

The Stoics and Happiness

    For my first post I want to observe the concept of happiness from the perspective of the Stoic philosophers. Stoicism was founded in Greece during the 3rd century BCE by Zeno of Citium. Among the most famous stoics I would include: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.  Epictetus was born a slave who would eventually go on to become a wealthy, and well respected free man. Seneca was born wealthy but would face many hardships during his life including exile from Rome, and eventually being sentenced to death by suicide for his alleged role in a plot to overthrow the emperor Nero. And lastly, Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of rome, arguably the most powerful man in the world. Though their experiences and the trajectories of their lives differed greatly, these three men all belonged to the same school of thought and as such shared similar views on how to live a good life and how to be happy, reinforcing the stoic thought that no matter who you are, the path to happiness remains the same. 

With this being my first post about the stoics, and my first post period for that matter, I want to try and sum up the stoic concept of happiness as simply as I possibly can, with the full intent of visiting the stoic notion of happiness many times over, during the duration of this blog. The core Stoic belief on Happiness would be: the ability able to determine the difference between that which is in your control and that which is not, and to only concern yourself with that which you can (which is ultimately very little) and to not stress that which you cannot. 
My personal favorite quote, perhaps in all of stoicism, which encapsulates this core principle is from Marcus Aurelius who said : “According to this theory, man is like a dog tied to a moving wagon. If the dog refuses to run along with the wagon he will be dragged by it, yet the choice remains his: to run or be dragged.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations) I love this quote because to me it perfectly articulates the futility of struggling against that which we cannot control. The wagon in this metaphor is an unstoppable force, like fate. The dog represents us. The wagon will not stop no matter what the dog does. The dog can put up a futile resistance, or he can trot along happily and do his best to enjoy the journey, making the most of whatever comes his way. 
In life, the vast majority of things that are going to happen are out of our control, and no amount of preparation, or resistance can change the eventual outcome, and no amount of rage, resentment, remorse, or sorrow can change the past. As depressing as that may sound I think there is actually comfort within it, and the acceptance of this state can unlock happiness. We may be aware of the wagon, and the direction it is going, but nothing we can do will stop it. If we are to become happy we must embrace the journey with acceptance, and make the most of the trip. 
Imagine the amount of stress we put on things that are out of our control: other people’s opinions of us, our height, physical appearance (to a great extent), the state of world affairs. How much happier would we be were these stresses to disappear. We cannot control them. We can as soon assert our will over these types of concepts as the dog can stop the rolling wagon. Instead, be happy and rejoice in what you can control: your own thoughts, and emotions being chiefly among those. If you focus here, I believe you will be able to truly find happiness or at least take a giant step in the right direction. 
While the above does not completely and 100 percent capture the essence of stoic philosophy nor even their thoughts on happiness, I do believe that it is perhaps the simplest summation and most important lesson that the stoics teach. I look forward to revisiting the stoics in general and focusing attention on individual stoic thinkers in future posts. One of the things we will come to see is the similarities between the teachings of the stoics with dozens of other groups of thinkers that transcend the barriers of time and geography. 
I hope you enjoyed this post. I can’t wait to share some more thoughts, but for now, please take the time to pause your life and contemplate those things that are out of your control, and to shift your attention, your thoughts, and your actions towards that which you do control, and I hope that you find happiness in so doing. 
Love. 
PS: one of the things I want to do throughout my blogging is to point my readers in the direction of the sources where I draw my inspiration, as well as give credit to those whose work I rely on. 
As it pertains to this post, I encourage you to check out the Daily Stoic by Ryan Halladay and Stephen Hanselm. Their work is brilliantly broken down into 366 chapters, one for each day of the year, and focuses on a specific quote from a stoic thought leaders with added commentary by the authors. Is was not my original exposure to stoicism but it was probably one of my most meaningful exposures. In fact, it is perhaps one of the single most influential books I have ever read. I am currently reading it for the 3rd time, and I have never stopped reading it since I first began about 2 or 3 years ago. 

 

Intro: Welcome to my Blog on Happiness

Happy Together

Hi all, thank you for visiting my blog page: Happy Together. I have begun Happy Together for a place where I can write about philosophy, psychology, and human emotions. In particular I will be writing about happiness, my favorite emotion, and the pursuit thereof. I believe that the desire to be happy has been among the central aims of humanity since before we even had the intellectual ability to ascribe a name to that feeling we now know as happiness. During my discussions I will make frequent references to some of the many thousands of philosophers, thinkers and influential individuals who have discussed the concept of happiness, especially those that have had a particularly profound effect on my own pursuit of happiness. I will discuss what those ideas mean to me, how I have found them helpful, and where, if at all, I disagree. I would love it if you, my hypothetical reader, would leave some comments of your own. I believe that when we openly discuss such things, that we are given strength and courage as we realize that we, as individuals, are not alone in our pursuit of happiness, but that it is something for which all living beings aspire.  

A little bit about me: my name shall remain anonymous for now to avoid any possible conflicts of interest with work.  At the time of writing this introduction I am in my early 30’s old and live in the United States. I currently work in a sales position that brings me overall contentment and provides for a comfortable existence, though not necessarily fulfillment. What I think does bring me fulfillment however is sharing happiness with others. I am no psychologist or expert, I am just a human being making my way as best as I can through life. At times I have dealt with serious depression and anxiety, and at others I have felt on top of the world. I believe the pursuit of happiness is a lifelong journey and one that connects us to all living beings both present, past, and future. I want to share my thoughts here and hope that they can enrich your life, if for no other reason than to know that you are not alone in your often times frustrating pursuit of happiness. 

What qualifies me to write about this subject? Well, nothing, and everything. As I said before, I am not an expert in any traditional sense. I do not have any fancy degrees, at least none that lend me credibility or a heightened sense of respect with regards to subjects like psychology, or philosophy. All I have is my own collection of experiences, studies and my own sense of understanding and knowledge garnered by my alternatingly voracious and often times apathetic or nonexistent search for happiness. 

What qualifies me to speak about this subject is that I am a human being, and like every living being, a large part of my life is spent on the pursuit of happiness. All I can rely on is that which I know, read, experience or discuss, but it is precisely this that makes me qualified. On some level, we all yearn for happiness. What it means or how we find it may differ on a person to person basis, but I think that on some deep level, searching for happiness is perhaps our most common trait that transcends all boundaries of humanity. In reading my posts I will hope that you think about what I have to say and please make note of where you agree or disagree. I hope that this can be an enlightening experience for my readers, and in particular I hope that reading my posts will enhance your sense of unity with your fellow Man by realizing that though are differences are many, we share the same basic wants and desires. 

One of my favotire quotes on philosophy is from Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is my attempt at examining my life, and creating a life worth living. Though I intend to chiefly focus on happiness, I will at times examine darker emotions, feelings, and thoughts.  I hope that by deeply examining my own thoughts and emotions, as well as those of others, that we can come to a greater sense of compassion and understanding for ourselves as well as for each other. By beginning with the self and flowing forth outwards to others we can nurture the soul of the universe, as Paolo Coehlo called it, and create a life that Socrates, and more importantly ourselves would say is worth living. 

I hope you enjoy my posts. PLEASE feel free to leave comments. I sincerely want to hear from you. Do you have similar thoughts or experiences to myself or the authors/thinkers I reference. Do you disagree? In addition to your thoughts, please feel free to share your own opinions and experiences. Through greater interpersonal communication and interaction, we can achieve a greater understanding of happiness together. 

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

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