Use [process] To Achieve [goal] To Make You [emotion]

Once upon a time, I had with a friend who was going through the very tough stage of finding happiness.

On paper, she had everything the average person would want. Husband that cares for her deeply, a large home, all the money she can spend, a huge wardrobe, perfect nails, eyelash extensions, lavish vacations, fancy cars and fine dining. On paper, she should be happy. On paper, she has the American dream. But she was miserable.

She frequently asks me how I handle life. I used to be antsy and unhappy, but since our previous conversation a few months before, I became content. I embraced minimalism and found internal zen. So she adopted my way of thinking. She started to get rid of things and define herself as ‘minimalist’ and was frustrated when it didn’t have the intended effect.

It then dawned on me that a lot of people rely on the internet to do their heavy lifting of introspection.

She would read my blog to learn why Tania is happy. And when she saw that I adopted minimalism and paleo lifestyle, she did the same. Instead of reading the blog posts for what they are  -  a peek into my thought process to show why I do what I do and the lessons learned, she accepted it at face value. She equated happiness to minimalism + paleo.

Using a <process> to achieve <goals> to make you <happy>.

I equate it to weight loss – so everyone can relate. Some women follow a strict 1000 calorie diet to maintain their physique. They are brainwashed that frail is in and beauty means tiny. Some women follow an exercise regimen that requires a certain amount of protein + amino acids + fat + carbs. Oftentimes, they talk down about one another.

The frail women’s argument: Women aren’t supposed to have big thighs and arms. We should have big boobs and tiny waists. We need to eat enough to survive but not in excess.

The heavy lifter’s argument: We should be strong! Don’t feed into society’s perception of women being weak and frail. We need to lift as heavy as we can and build muscle!

What is the common denominator? Both are obsessed with their body; they are just using opposing stances. The frail women are obsessed with the amount of calories and avoiding looking bulky. The strong women are obsessed with the amount of nutrients in the body in order to get bigger muscles. At the end of the day, they are both using {calorie/nutrient counting} to achieve {their own sense of perfection} to make them {happy}. But say you are unhappy with your body and looking for something that can bring you peace. Which is the right answer? Neither party is wrong. You can obsess about being small and become anorexic because you honestly think ‘nothing tastes better as skinny feels’. You can obsess about having vanity muscles because it’s in right now. But neither will bring you peace.

There is critical thinking involved in finding your own sense of self.

Finding inner peace means that you let it go altogether. Finding inner peace with your body is to stop counting anything, eat when your body tells you it needs fuel, stop when you’re satiated, work out for health, not vanity muscles, and maintain the weight that you fall into naturally. Because there is no right weight. Everyone is different – not just genetic makeup, but also lifestyle. Who says that an outdoorsman should maintain the same weight as an assistant who sits in a cubicle 80% of the day – nevermind that they are the same height and frame.

But you know what this requires? The cumbersome, substantial, time-consuming, and painful process of introspection.

Introspection is awful – just awful – to start. When I initially started, my brain was fighting itself because I couldn’t accept that I was thinking the way that people I hate do. I couldn’t accept that while I switched from counting calories to counting weights, I still just wanted validation in the world that I’m attractive. I couldn’t accept that I shopped because my life was unfulfilling. I couldn’t accept that I traveled every chance I get to run away from my current situation. It’s terrible – to have to face yourself and not like what you see. But it’s necessary. What’s even more frightening is what happens to you on the other side.

You can fall into one of two camps:

  1. The ones that recognize what they don’t like about themselves and continue on their introspection journey, which can lead them into forgiveness of oneself and realizing that they can change the future.

  2. The ones that run at the first sight of bad qualities. Or worse, they don’t make apologies. This exercise only made them more self-absorbed.

So the process continues. By refusing to do your own heavy lifting, you continue to look for shortcuts. You follow what everyone else is doing because they are happy with their <process>. After a while, you realize it didn’t give you the same happiness as what you’re reading online so you move on to the next process and look for reasons to justify it.

And you wonder why you’re so unhappy.

Sincerely, Tania