And how you can start prioritizing your own happiness.
Personal happiness is not our default human state. It takes work, commitment, and self-discipline. Otherwise, we easily give ourselves away to others, much more than we give ourselves to ourself.
Personal discipline allows us to value ourselves—and our own voice—enough to discover our priorities, then protect them with boundaries.
When we lack self-value, we tend to lean on others for direction. We look to society to tell us what to prioritize, we look to partners, friends, and parents for boundary enforcement, and we look to external factors for validation of our feelings and permission to move forward on our own chosen paths.
Valuing self—prioritizing your own happiness—means identifying what matters to you, at your core, independent of outside influences. It’s about listening to your inner voice and giving yourself permission to operate predominantly off of your own intuition rather than the information that is presented to you through outside forces.
If you want to achieve personal happiness and success, first assign value to your own inner voice, your own opinions, and your own preferences.
5 Ways We Stop Ourselves from Being Happy
1. Having dreams or visions but lacking the motivation to achieve them.
If you dream about a different life than the one you’re living, then there are undiscovered priorities within you. It’s natural to have fleeting dreams or visions, like accepting a prestigious award, confronting an old friend, or winning the lottery. But if you continually return to visions of yourself as a world-renowned photographer, or being single, or renovating your home, and you’re not taking daily steps to turn these visions into a reality, you’re not prioritizing your happiness. You’re not valuing your preferences or working toward the happiest you.
Achieving personal happiness depends on the amount of self-discipline you exert. If you want to become a world-renowned photographer, you start by developing your skills, networking for connections, pitching jobs, and creating a portfolio. All of these things will take time and attention.
It’s up to you to assign time and attention to your passions. If you’re imagining a life without your partner, despite a healthy relationship, and remain in the relationship for safety or security reasons, you’re denying a path to personal happiness. You communicate to your subconscious that the realization of your inner-desires is not important, not valuable, and not worthy.
If you picture yourself performing renovations on your home but have no plan in place to financially achieve this goal, you’re denying your inner-desire to change your surroundings.
In all of these scenarios, you may succumb to an easier path despite the weight it will bring.
Valuing yourself and acknowledging your self-worth takes commitment and discipline. Developing your motivation is not easy and it may be a long and slow process for some people, but if we choose not to develop our motivation we allow our priorities to go unrealized and communicate to ourselves that achievement of our inner-desires is not a worthy cause.
2. Staying in a draining relationship (romantic or non-romantic).
Happiness is not about settling into place. It is not a destination or static. You may achieve happiness in one aspect, and then the circumstances change. You need to circle back to your core values—your priorities—and determine if your situation aligns with your goals.
If you choose not to commit to finding a new job or advancing into a new position in your current job, despite your consistent feelings of discontentment with your boss or coworkers, you’re forcing yourself to remain in an unhealthy, and unhappy relationship.
Staying in contact with toxic family members, toxic friends, or in a romantic relationship with a toxic spouse means that your boundaries have not been established or enforced.
Personal fulfillment will come after personal happiness has been prioritized. Everyone has expectations of how they would like to be treated by family, friends, partners, acquaintances, coworkers, and bosses. As long as the expectations are healthy, there’s no reason you should deny your inner-self the satisfaction of these expectations.
3. Predominant feelings of being disrespected, unheard, or invalidated.
If you’re feeling constantly disrespected by friends, family, or coworkers, you may want to revisit communicating your boundaries and priorities. For example, if you feel that one of your parents constantly makes condescending remarks about your spouse, despite your discussions with them about their behavior, you may not be enforcing your boundaries in a healthy way.
This is not to say their behavior is your fault, it’s not. Enforcing your own boundaries is about demonstrating to people what behavior is tolerated in your presence. Your presence is a gift nobody is entitled to.
The allowance of behavior you feel is harmful blurs the boundaries around your priorities. It’s much easier to stay silent but when behavior is repeated despite continued efforts to communicate, you choose the outcome you’re comfortable with, dissolving the boundary or distancing the relationship.
4. Blaming external circumstances or avoiding personal accountability.
Accepting responsibility for things that don’t work out the way we planned or anticipated may feel counterintuitive but when you accept responsibility, you can take control in a different way.
Acknowledging what part you have control over in reaching your desires allows you to focus on pathways to happiness rather than obstructions. There will always be external circumstances that impact our ability to accomplish our goals but we can choose to work around them, when possible. Knowing when it’s possible to work around obstacles begins with constantly looking for ways to work around them.
For instance, you may be struggling to get ahead at work. Maybe you’ve been passed over for a promotion more than once, maybe the new employees are starting out with higher pay, maybe your work is not being recognized properly. If you desire a higher position or higher salary within the company, it’s your responsibility to find out exactly what is holding you back. Approach your boss, find out what you can change or improve. Then do it.
You may fix everything and find that your boss is the problem and that’s not something you can change or improve. So you’ll now need to revisit your success path and the circumstances within your control. Your boss may be a jerk, they may not like you, and there may be no real justification for that. But when you discover the root of the problem, you have two choices:
1) stay and try to work around your boss or change your boss (success is unlikely in both scenarios) or
2) you can find another company that will provide you with the growth opportunity you’re seeking
Allowing external circumstances—like your boss—to dictate your success path will hold you back in life. You have choices. Not every battle is ours to fight—if your boss is a jerk, drop your sword and leave the battlefield. That’s not a battle you have to choose. Happiness, validation, respect, and good pay, can be found elsewhere.
Determining the factors you can control, in that scenario, will empower you to seek out a new arena in which to pursue success. Valuing yourself means knowing when a certain hurtle is going to handicap your ability to progress at the pace you want. Valuing yourself is looking at a situation and realizing the circumstances are not ideal but there’s a solution is within your power.
5. Waiting for permission.
You don’t need your parents or spouse or employer’s permission to make decisions about your happiness. This is not to say you don’t need their cooperation. But when you determine what you want, like seeking out a new career path or pursuing a photography course, you get to establish the parameters that will help you reach that goal.
Talk with your spouse if you want to take a course so you can work toward becoming an independent photographer. Create a plan to make it work and communicate why it’s important to you. Healthy relationships are about supporting each other through personal pursuits.
Constant friction in your pursuits, by way of your relationships, is a signal to evaluate the community that surrounds you. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy, only their support.