Pack up your troubles
Nobody expects you to be chipper all the time, but if you consistently feel as though you’re not good enough, Natasha Kesseler has some advice.
Are there times when you don’t feel good enough? Are you focusing on other people’s wins, taking your attention away from your own long-term success and happiness? If so, how often have you sat down and thought about what you really want, and why you want it? If you don’t know why you do what you do, and what drives you, this could be contributing to your “unhappiness”.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate your way through these feelings and, like Bobby McFerrin sang, Don’t Worry, be Happy.
IDENTIFY YOUR TOP SIX VALUES
American author and speaker Byron Katie said, “confusion is the only suffering in the world”. And what I say is “through confusion comes clarity”. So let’s get you through the confusion by starting with some clarity about what’s important to you. If you understand what gives you meaning and purpose in life, such as your beliefs, whether religious, universal, spiritual, work or otherwise, it can help guide you and be your measure of success. Without it, you could easily fall into the comparison trap. If you don’t know where you are starting from, and are measuring your success by someone else’s life, then there is a high chance you may feel you’re not good enough, confused, unhappy, or unfulfilled. Use your values as a measure and decisionmaking tool. There are some easy online tools to help you identify and unpack your values.
SET GOALS TO MEET YOUR VALUES
Once we know what drives us, we need to focus on taking small steps to meet those needs. Sometimes inaction can contribute to our unhappiness. Identify some daily or weekly things you can do to meet your values. I’ll use myself as an example of how knowing your values can help you set goals. My top six values are family, health, fitness, creativity, passion, and flexibility. The first step is to think about how the work you do may meet one or some of your values. I work in health so this value is met by the work I do, and I am passionate about psychology. For fitness, I set the goal to exercise at least twice a week. For me, it’s a quick stretch before I go to work or, if I have more time, I go for a run. For flexibility and family, I run my own business, so I can control my work hours, which gives me the sense of flexibility and meets my family needs, and at the same time it enables me to pick up my children from school. But creativity is one that, as a working mum, I have been unable to meet and if left it unchecked, I may start to feel dissatisfied.
So, this is where I need to spend some time thinking about how I can do something to meet this value. When you don’t know what your values are, you can leave important values unmet, and over time that can impact how we feel.
APPLY THE ART OF SACRIFICE
When you set goals, make sure you don’t set too many. Try to avoid chaotic or reactive behaviour, but spend time on planned meaningful action that relates to your goals. Just as an organisation has a strategy, values and goals, it doesn’t try to do everything at once. Choose two or three goals that relate to your values.
FORMULATE A PLAN
Only when we get specific, can we then look back at our success or failure. Set your plan and commit to it.
NO UNREALISTIC COMPARISONS
Avoid comparing yourself to others on social media. Instead, start competing with yourself. If you checked in on your own progress and goals as much as you checked social media accounts, imagine what you might achieve. When you achieve a planned goal, or see your personal values being met more, your feelings about yourself are likely to shift.
ASK SOMEONE TO HELP YOU
Get a friend, your boss, or mum and dad, to help you. Choose someone you trust to give you positive recognition for your progress. We can be our own worst critics, so ask someone to check in on you once a month to tell you what good things they have seen you do or achieve.
Going back to the song analogy at the beginning, to feel satisfied in life, you should choose what song you want to play right now (identify your values and make a decision), rock on with your decision (apply the art of sacrifice), follow the music book and practise playing your music (the plan), and fine-tune your instruments regularly (measure your progress with the help of others). Start dancing to your tune in your pursuit of happiness.
Natasha Kesseler is a registered consultant psychologist (New Zealand and Australia) at Achievement Syndrome.
If you can’t think through this stuff, it’s important to reach out for help. Call a friend, or speak to your boss or GP. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know, New Zealand has a free 24-hour counselling service you can reach anytime by calling #1737.
Avoid comparing yourself to others on social media. Instead, start competing with yourself.