Do you loathe your own birthday but count down the days to celebrate for your roommate’s? Do you cook a flawless dish of chicken parmesan for your partner and tell them you can settle with a bowl of Captain Crunch for dinner? Do you come back from vacation with a bag full of shot glasses for your friends but forget to buy one for yourself?
My whole life I have gone completely out of my way to do things for other people. There has never been a time where I’ve just baked a batch of my favorite white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for myself to merrily munch on. I don’t even save a couple to the side because I feel too guilty when they could be in the happy hands of others. I have this innate desire to do things for everyone else. I am an avid people pleaser.
If this sounds anything like you, you probably can’t remember the last time you did something for yourself or even accept a compliment. When people try to do things for you or offer help, you respond, “No no no! Don’t worry about me. I’m fine…really.” I’ve been in therapy for a while now, and it has always been baffling for me to answer the question, “What makes you happy?” Time after time I have replied, “Well, it makes me happy to see other people happy.” I thought this was a good response. The correct response. Yet my therapist replied, “That’s not really what makes you happy though.”
I thought about what she said for a while. I tried analyzing the last time I did something for someone else. I’ve observed that the key to a guy’s heart is food 9 out of 10 times. Therefore, I did some baking for my friends on the wrestling team and handed them a Tupperware filled with plump peanut butter cookies. They all attacked the box like drunken sailors and my face lit up with a pleasant smile. However after the short animal rage, they kindly thanked me and went back to watching Sports Center. The bliss was over and I was standing there with an empty stomach.
It truly makes me happy to see the smiling faces of other people, especially when those smiles were formed by something I did. But for how long does that happiness actually last? There is that initial feeling of butterflies in your stomach knowing you just made someone’s day a little bit better. When’s the last time you lightened up your own day? When’s the last time you treated yourself to an expensive bottle of wine or an afternoon listening to nothing but your favorite playlist? When’s the last time you asked yourself, “What really makes me happy?”
I think many of us struggle with doing things for ourselves. We tend to put ourselves on the bottom of our priorities pyramid, always coming up with an excuse to put other things and people first. I’ve always thought it was something to be admired for, always doing things for others. Yet I found myself becoming lost. I was at lost for whatever made me happy because I was too busy concentrating on the rest of the world and figuring out what to do for them. I actually felt bad for myself realizing this. Is it honestly that painful for me to just treat myself for once?
Although it’s still a work in progress, I’ve finally decided to start doing things for myself—doing things that sincerely make me happy. Sometimes it involves money, sometimes it doesn’t. It could be buying that expensive silky black dress I saw window shopping, or reserving time on the weekends to go for a walk to my favorite spot in the city. Whatever it is, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to have my mind rest easy and contently. It’s inevitably true that you are in control of your own happiness. I’ve finally posted on the back of my door, “If you want to be happy, be.”
Have you discovered what makes you happy?