If you are looking for the typical generic post telling you that you will reach optimal happiness in the new year if you simply follow these steps, you won’t find it here.
Although I want you to be as happy as possible, that’s not something I can guarantee. If you are looking for a blog that is oddly specific to me, brutally and embarrassingly honest about myself, and things I’m deciding to leave in 2016 that may also benefit you, hey girl hey, stay awhile.
2016 was an okay year for me. It definitely wasn’t as exciting as 2015 and though I accomplished a few things on my goal list, to me, they were more so materialistic and not as valuable:
- I purchased my first luxury car, a 2 door Mercedes Benz C250
- I got engaged on my 28th birthday
- I took my fiancé on a cruise to Mexico for his golden birthday
- I published a few articles on blogs I’ve been a loyal reader to for years
Let’s talk about the car first. I’ve always wanted a luxury car and, honestly living in LA, luxury cars are something that you see more often than in other cities. However, I don’t feel any happier now that I have it. It is definitely more expensive to maintain than any other car I’ve owned in the past and a part of me wants something better.
Getting engaged was something I’ve wanted for a long time. Planning a wedding is fun and it has brought me closer to my fiancé, but it hasn’t changed any preexisting issues or insecurities in our relationship. The cruise was blah, my fiancé got seasick, and I had disembarkment sickness once we returned.
Getting my articles published and my writing recognized was probably one of my biggest accomplishments this year because writing has always been something I’ve wanted to do my entire life, but either didn’t have the motivation to do it, or simply thought I wasn’t capable of making money from my writing.
With those being the things that stuck out to me the most during this year, the list also made me think of things I feel are important to leave in 2016:
1. The belief material things will make you happier
There is nothing wrong with wanting things. Heck, my mom says I have champagne taste with kool-aid money, which is funny, shade, and kinda true actually. I love nice things and I especially love nice things that I cannot currently afford. The problem lies when you deny yourself happiness until you acquire those nice things, or limit your happiness to the moment you acquire those nice things, are happy in the moment, and then decide you need something else to be happy. Finding happiness in material wealth is dangerous because it is unattainable - the more you get, the more you want.
Being financially secure should always be the goal. Being rich is a nice one too, but allowing yourself to place material possessions over your happiness will always leave you unhappy because you will always feel unsatisfied. There is always going to be a newer bag, a more expensive car, a bigger house, or a newer pair of trendy shoes. If you aren’t happy with what you have, you won’t be happy with what you don’t.
[Tweet "Putting material posessions over happiness will always leave you unhappy."]
Leaving the belief that you need things to be happy in 2016 will not only put more money in your pockets from all of the things you aren’t splurging on, but it will also teach you to appreciate the things you do have and find happiness in other places, like yourself perhaps.
2. The belief that a relationship change will make you happy
“I thought being engaged would make you happy,” my fiancé confessed to me the other day.
Of course this was followed by me drilling him on if he was ready to get married and if that was the only reason he proposed, which of course he said “no” to, reassuring me that he proposed because he was and is ready to get married. Then I did some self-evaluation, in between more questioning to him. “Do you think I’m unhappy?” I asked.
“Yes, sometimes. I just thought since you want to be married, being engaged would have made you happier,” he reiterated.
The truth is, I myself thought that as well. I felt that by not being engaged we weren’t where we should have been in our relationship, considering the length of time we’d been together and that once we got engaged, I would be happier. This was extremely naive thinking of me. An engagement ring, wedding ring, marriage, etc. will not make anyone any happier if you choose not to be. There are multiple reasons why at any moment I can feel less than happy, some of which are things on this list that I’m vowing to leave behind in 2016.
Though yes, I’m very happy with my fiancé, my relationship, and the thought of marrying my best friend next year, at times I’m unhappy with other parts of my life, which can affect all aspects of my life. Often, people feel like getting into a relationship or moving forward in one will make them happier. Yes, during that two week, or few months in the honeymoon phase, you’ll feel ecstatic but after that, what are you left with? The same feelings of unhappiness for whatever reason that you had before. Don’t rely on a ring, relationship, or marriage to make you happy or for you to decide to start being happy once those things happen.
Instead, you have to figure out what your underlying issues are. Why do you feel like these things will make you happier? What do you feel is missing that you need these things to change to be happier? Perhaps you don’t feel whole by yourself? Maybe you feel like you are being judged by not being married. Maybe you feel like this step will make things better in your relationship. Whatever it is for you, stop holding on to the belief that everything will be better once this happens because if you are unhappy, that ring won’t magically make you any happier once it’s on your finger. You have to take time to yourself to really figure out why you are unhappy and what you need to do to change it, because at the end of the day, you are solely in charge of and responsible for your happiness.
3. Anything that doesn’t serve you
And I do mean anything.
One of my close friends half-jokingly told me she was leaving me in 2016 after I neglected to show up to a girls' night out she had been planning for over a month. My head was hurting and I simply did not feel up to going, so I opted to stay home. She definitely let me know how unhappy she was with my choice in not coming, and though I wasn’t feeling the greatest, considering the effort she put in, how I’ve cancelled or not been fully present for her lately and she’s consistently there for me, I could have at the very least stopped by. I stopped by her job a few days later with a few gifts for her to let her know just how sorry I was. The truth is, she’s extremely important to me and I value her as a friend, and I wanted her to know that so, in addition to my apologies, I showed up.
Unfortunately, everything and everyone in your life does not value you, nor are they serving a greater purpose being in your life. Often times we hold onto things that aren’t good for us simply because they’ve been there so long we don’t know how to let them go. This could be a “friend” who consistently shows you they don’t value you or your feelings, a bad diet that leaves you sluggish and tired all the time, alcohol, a drug habit, a relationship you want out of, a job that leaves you sad and depressed, you name it!
[Tweet "Stop being afraid to let it go and simply do it. Move forward and don’t look back."]
That thing you’ve been saying you were going to let go of for months, maybe even years, and haven’t gotten up the nerve or strength to let it go, leave it! Why? Why not? Why not leave something that is doing you no good in the past? Why not allow yourself to live with one less burden, why not grant yourself the happiness you deserve in the new year? Stop being afraid to let it go and simply do it. Move forward and don’t look back.
4. Self-induced unhappiness
I believe that we choose whether or not to be happy. Of course other people can do things that can hurt us, or circumstances can get us down, but we have the final say in how we react to things. Two people can be in the exact same situation and choose to see it entirely different. A person in jail could be more free mentally than a person living in the free world, all due to their emotional intelligence and how they choose to see their circumstance and themselves. If you know you are overweight and stepping on the scale only makes you sad each time, why keep stepping on the scale every single day
Instead, do something that will make that number change. Every. Single. Day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, hit the gym, make healthier eating choices, then you won’t have to rely on a scale to see progress because you’ll be able to notice it in yourself. If you are unhappy with any aspect of your life, but are choosing to complain about it or constantly remind yourself of, you're going to keep seeing it in your life instead of the change you desire. Sometimes we go out of our way to make ourselves unhappy. Crazy, right? Why would anyone choose to be unhappy, to make themselves unhappy at that? I saw a meme the other day, one of the Kermit the frog, me to me ones, perhaps you’ve seen them.
This was not only hilarious to me because I’ve been there, but also so true and probably for many people. Intuition aside, why is it that when things are going good - no suspicions, just pure happiness - do we feel the need to, in some way, incite conflict or unhappiness? Let’s say you do go through the phone and find nothing. Do you say 'okay, my partner isn’t doing anything wrong' and never check the phone again? Or do you then wait a little while before checking it again because there is absolutely no way that your partner could not be doing anything behind your back? Most people check it again until they eventually do find something, anything that in some way will give them just the right amount of pain.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it that we are afraid of truly being happy? Afraid of being hurt, so instead we try to hurt ourselves to avoid being left in the dark? To be honest, that’s an answer that I myself don’t have. But self-induced unhappiness is something I won’t be carrying with me to 2017. Life is too short to cause unnecessary pain on myself. At some point we have to allow ourselves to let go of trying to control every aspect of our lives and just allow ourselves to be happy, and that is what I’m choosing to do because I’ve done the opposite and it’s never ever made me happy.
Fear can be debilitating. It’s personally prevented me from pursuing my dreams, taking chances, leaving dead end jobs, and fully allowing myself to be happy in my relationships. Why do so many people allow fear to stop them from growing in life?
[Tweet "Fear has a way of telling us, Not yet…you aren’t ready, take your time..."]
Fear has a way of telling us, Not yet…you aren’t ready, take your time, which can turn into months, years, and decades of living far below our potential. I’m leaving fear in 2016 because, like everything else on this list, it has no place in my life. It isn’t making me a better person and is merely holding me back from my potential. My current life is full of changes that I'm both excited and happy about, and I can’t allow fear to in any way alter those feelings.
If you’re holding onto to any of the aforementioned things, I encourage you to let them go. It might not be easy at first, but the more you actively work on making changes, the better you will feel and the better your quality of life will become.
Are you ready to make 2017 a year of change?
Ashley Renee is a soul food enthusiast, sometimes vegetarian, spoken word poet, who doesn’t trust boxed macaroni or cats. Keep up with her @ashleyreneepoet on twitter & instagram also check out her website. Originally published on: Why I Waited