“Be happy with who you are!” You’ve probably heard or been told this many times. What I’m going to say will be contrary to this, but try to be open-minded.
First of all, I think it is good to be content with what you have. Constantly striving to get more, make more money, and never happy with having less than others will leave you in a continuously discontented state of mind. I don’t know why someone would choose to live in such an unhappy place, except if they have low self-esteem issues and feel the need to impress others with their possessions or job.
On the other hand, I believe that no matter how “good” a person is, there is always room for improvement. All of us can be kinder, more forgiving, more empathetic toward those who are different from us. No one is perfect, and if you believe that you are able to achieve this level of transcendence, you are simply fooling yourself. If you do not realize and accept your shortfalls, you could be expending a great amount of energy, time and money on a fruitless effort.
Another couple of sayings I have heard often are “If there’s a will, there’s a way” and “You can do anything you put your mind to.” Well, not exactly. I appreciate the sentiment that you should persevere and strive to overcome anything in your way. However, I can be willing and have all the faith in the world that I can jump off the Empire State Building and fly, but I will end up falling to my death. There are obstacles and facts of nature that will prevent me from achieving certain goals.
Although you may have limitations – whether physical, mental, or otherwise – that prevent you from particular actions, there is always something you can do: be a better person. We can always become better than we are. I may catch some “flack” for this next part, but here we go … If you were to see an obese person, should you tell them to be happy the way they are? Are you comfortable with telling them that their health is not important, as long as they are happy? What about someone addicted to drugs? “Be happy getting high, even though it’s killing you.”
I am certainly not condoning shaming them in any way. Quite the opposite, I believe people should be supported and encouraged, but turning a blind eye to their unhealthy lifestyle or their illness is not helping them at all. It is my belief that everyone should be encouraged not to remain “happy” with who they are, but to work for a loftier objective. I believe a person can remain content with their circumstances, and still strive for something better. That way, if the goal is not achieved, they will remain as they were – content.
The problem is that many people want to change everyone around them without looking inward. I have a coworker (who I know will never read this because it has to do with self-improvement) who is constantly complaining about other people and his circumstances. He has now “developed” anxiety and has no compunction about telling everyone he knows about it. He is the ultimate “boy who cried wolf,” so it is difficult to take anything he says seriously. In order to combat his anxiety, he wants to change external factors, take time off from his job, take medication, etc. He is not willing to quit smoking, consuming alcohol, or to see any kind of mental health professional or be open to any type of introspection to try to find where the anxiety is based. He is certainly a narcissist. Dr. Eric Perry writes about the narcissist in some of his articles. You can find one of them here.
If you constantly look outward for the source of your pain, your attitude, your unhealthy lifestyle, you will always be able to find someone or something to blame. It is very easy to point fingers, but much more difficult to turn that finger back at ourselves. Again, I am not trying to cause anyone to feel guilt. There is, however, a term known as “Healthy Shame.” In Psychology Today, Dr. John Amodeo talks about Toxic versus Healthy Shame. You can find his article here.
In closing, we can find no shortage of narcissists, arrogant, and self-serving individuals. Try to perform an introspective inventory, if you will. Examine your motives, your attitudes and feelings toward others. Could any of these things use some alterations? My guess is yes, because I think it is true of everyone. The world says don’t change anything about yourself. I say change, and make it for good.