Relationships are like plane crashes.
Let me rephrase that: relationships are like preparing for plane crashes.
Still with me? Great! Allow me to explain. If you’ve ever been on a plane, then you have also had to sit through the choreographed safety demonstration that the flight attendants perform with painful smiles. At this point, you may have even memorized it.
Personally, I can’t help but focus on one specific part:
“If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”
Growing up, I was always confused by this little tidbit. Why would these nice people suggest we neglect children or loved ones in order to ensure our own safety first? More importantly, why would people actually listen to them? It just seemed crazy and little selfish.
Over the past decade (and several relationships later), I’ve come to realize how naive I actually was. When you stop and think about it, this all makes perfect sense. How could anyone save someone they care about if they themselves are unconscious? That’s what happens when you run out of oxygen, or so I’ve heard.
This mindset has invaded my adult friendships and relationships.
As a (mature) adult, we’re supposed to embrace intimacy and connect with others on a deeper level. As someone who is fairly self-confident, I can say that focusing on my own happiness has made this significantly easier. After all, how could I possibly make someone else happy if I’m not?
It’s impossible. You may be able to fake it for a few months, but eventually, your unhappiness will manifest as insecurity, resentment, and a myriad of other less-than-ideal traits that will make it much harder to sustain a relationship.
If you ask me, finding your own happiness is a fundamental part of becoming a mature adult; it’s more important than balancing a checkbook (does anyone actually use one of these anymore?), pairing the right wine with dinner, and doing your taxes, combined. Without it, we focus too much on our own insecurities and tend to over-correct.
Have you ever seen that guy at the bar who is loud, obnoxious, and forcibly demands he buys everyone there a drink? There’s a good chance he’s missing a little happiness in his life.
What about the girl who constantly asks her friends whether or not her outfit is working before they go out? She may appear happy, but deep down inside, she might be missing something.
I’m sure we’ve all seen people we care about become unhappy thanks to breakups, bosses, and binge drinking. These things tend to destroy people who aren’t already happy in their own skin.
So what do we do about all of this?
We need to focus on making ourselves happy before we try making others happy.
This might sound easy, but if done properly, it takes a lot of introspection (i.e. alone time). For an extrovert like me, this was initially hard to grasp; I’ve always thrived around crowds of people, feeding off their energy. This might be fun, but it isn’t really conducive to learning more about myself. Once I realized this, the real fun began.
A little over two years ago, I decided to start writing. What began as a way to organize my thoughts morphed into a daily routine that included writing for myself, in a journal, as well as writing for others through weekly articles. It was during this process that I learned something extremely important:
My thoughts and ideas are valuable to others.
How often are we told this? If you ask me, not nearly enough. It took encouraging comments from countless strangers for me to realize that I make a difference in the lives of others, whether I know them or not.
Honestly, without writing, I’m not sure I would feel as happy as I do now. Each day, I look forward to writing and I consider this time to be sacred. For you, this happiness could very well come from something else. You may find it in art, music, design, dance, volunteering, or simply by talking with others. Whatever it is, you won’t find it unless you try.
Once you do find it, make sure to secure it properly before helping the person next to you. Otherwise, you’ll both go down in a blaze of unhappiness and self-loathing.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on happiness from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.