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The first rule of happiness is to be yourself

By Nina Steele 

I was watching Oprah Winfrey’s interview with best-selling author Gretchen Rubin on Super Soul TV. Gretchen is the author of The Happiness Project, a book on what makes people truly happy, based on her own experience. Her first advice is to be yourself. To emphasise her point, she recounted one experience of trying to be someone she wasn’t, and that really struck a chord.

Unusually, she doesn’t like music and since it is taken for granted that everyone likes music, she felt as though there was something wrong with her. And so, she decided to make herself like music, believing that it would make her happier.

Although I do love music, the reason why that particular experience resonated with me was because all I had to do was substitute music for friends. For, unlike many women I know, I don’t have a best friend. I just never felt the need to have one. My husband is my best friend and that is the way I like it. Even when I was single, I never felt the urge to have a best friend.

Of course there is nothing wrong with that, however, because of shows such as Sex and the City, we are told that we should all aspire to have best friends, regardless of our personality types.

Some of my former colleagues resented me for being different, because I didn’t socialise with them. Thankfully, I was wise enough to know that there was nothing wrong with me, and resisted attempts to make me become someone I wasn’t.

As Gretchen Rubin also found out, you cannot find happiness by faking it. She stopped trying to force herself to like music, because of course it wasn’t making her happy. Instead, she chose to focus on the things that she truly enjoyed doing.

On a separate note, but still in the same vein, when we moved into our current home, I wanted to knock down the dividing wall between the sitting room and the dining room, to make it into an open plan, just because that is what everyone seemed to be doing. My husband wasn’t so keen, but would have gone ahead with it, for my sake. Thankfully, an acquaintance advised me against it. She said to me, why don’t you try the current arrangement as it is, and if you still don’t like it after a while, then by all means, go ahead and have the wall removed.

I am glad I listened to her, because the current arrangement suits both our personalities perfectly. The sitting room faces the garden and since the garden is enclosed, we enjoy a great deal of privacy and peace.

Going back to the Gretchen Rubin interview, Oprah Winfrey recounted some of her interactions with audiences of the then Oprah Winfrey show. Whenever she asked audience members what they wanted most from life, the answer was always that they wanted to be happy, and of course that is what we all want. Sadly, most people assume that just because they want happiness, it will materialise. However, as Gretchen, myself and many people have found out, you have to work at it, and being yourself is the first step toward achieving it.

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