Personal Growth

Choose happiness

Counseling has been a big part of my life for the past year.

When I first started going, I was ashamed to talk about it. I felt like there was something deeply wrong with me, something that I didn’t want others to know about.

As I’ve gone through this journey, however, I’ve come to fully appreciate just how helpful a good counselor can be. There was something deeply wrong with me, but it wasn’t something to be ashamed of. The fact is that there’s something wrong with all of us – it’s called the human condition. The longer I’ve been in counseling, the more convinced I am that we all need to be in counseling at some point in our lives.

One of the consistent themes that we’ve talked about in our counseling sessions has been how perception colors our view of the world.

It’s so common to blame our unhappiness on other people or circumstances. We say to ourselves “if only they’d treat me better or give me that raise I deserve, or if only I wasn’t sick,” or any of a host of other excuses we give for not being content with our lives.

At the end of the day, however, people and circumstances have absolutely no effect on our emotions or happiness.

It’s a radical thought, one that’s taken me a very long time to accept. Yet it’s undeniably true.

Let me give you an example. Suppose some online troll treats me with disdain, throwing insults at me, accusing me of being a terrible person, etc. The natural assumption is that this would hurt me and negatively affect my confidence and happiness.

What if I decided I wasn’t going to react that way? I know who I really am, regardless of what people say. I know that I am loved and treasured by my family, friends and, most importantly, God. That really is the end of the story. I don’t need to seek the approval of others because I’m already secure in who I am.

I heard another example recently. A little boy loved to put barbecue sauce on his hamburgers. His friends thought he was crazy, making fun of him and asking him all the time why he was doing that. They teased him relentlessly, but the boy refused to be fazed. “I know this is delicious,” he said, “so it doesn’t matter what you say!”

I love this story. The little boy could have been hurt or insulted by their comments, but he was secure in who he was and what he liked, and so he forged ahead.

People and circumstances do not shape our lives. How we choose to interpret and respond to them does. You can choose to be emotionally tossed around based on the whims of society. Or you can choose to stay stable and believe what’s true. Which will you choose?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

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