outsourcing happiness. are you doing this?
“If I had a different job, I’d be happy.”
“If my mom was more loving, I’d be happy.”
“If my friends would be better to me, I’d be happy.”
Here was my big one, and it was so big I didn’t even realize it was there ‘cos I’d believed it for years: “I can only be happy if I have a boyfriend.” My relationship would end, I’d cry and sob and feel like my WHOLE WORLD was over! I’d gather my closest girlfriends and vent and moan about how I was going to be alone FOREVER! I thought he was the ONE!
The Truth Smack-Down
One day, a friend of mine who never says a word that might hurt anyone–I think she apologizes to furniture if she trips on it–quietly and encouragingly said to me: “I know it really hurts right now, but by the next time we all get together, I’m sure you’ll be excited about someone else.”
Blink. Blink blink. She was sincerely trying to help. Blink. Blink blink. In over six years of friendship, I’d never heard her say a word that might even remotely insult anyone. Blink. Blink blink. My eyes started to dry. She hadn’t meant to make that point, but it had sure hit home. I was serial relationshiper. I was petrified of being alone. I had a pattern.
Later that week, I called a friend of ours. “Do I seem like I’m always looking for a relationship?” She took a deep breath. “Yes.”
I was outsourcing my happiness. That’s a lot of power to give to one person. It’s a lot of responsibility to ask someone to take. And, in one of the great cosmic jokes of the universe, because I was depending on a man for my happiness, I was attracting men who depended on me for theirs. “Why do I always end up with these guys who make me their whole world? It’s too much pressure! I’m an independent woman. Where are the men who have fulfilling lives, full of friends and family and a job they’re challenged and fulfilled by? Where are THOSE men?”
They were out there, I just wasn’t looking for them. Not really. We get what we project.
Breaking the Habit: Compassionate Witness
I stopped looking. I stopped projecting. I sat with myself. If I didn’t have plans, I didn’t make any. When I felt the need to pick up the phone to distract myself from loneliness, I noticed it, and put the phone down. I let myself cry. Okay, I admit it, I talked to myself. A lot. I got curious about this loneliness sensation. What did it feel like physically? Where was it located in my body? What did I attach to it? What did I make it mean? Saturday nights, when I didn’t have plans, I watched a movie and ordered Indian food. Chick flicks that most guys would refuse. I made gourmet popcorn–just the way I liked it. I was tired of giving loneliness that much power over me. And I was tired of outsourcing my happiness.
Eventually, loneliness went away. I felt more satiated, more filled-up, less grasping. I was content. With just me. Happiness came to live with me; actually, it had been there all along. I had learned I was genuinely okay on my own, and genuinely happy. And then my life filled up. More friends, more fun, more adventures and people and places and JOY. Joy.
Whether you feel unhappiness because of a job, you mother, your in-laws, your friends, or that feeling that feels like an empty space in your heart waiting for someone to fill up…I invite you to sit with it. Get curious about it. What does it feel like? Where is it located in your body? How would you describe those sensations? Every time it comes up, don’t avoid it. Just get curious. And I promise, I do, that if you are sincere and true in your intentions and efforts to stop running from it, it will go away. And you’ll stop outsourcing your happiness, because you’ll have found it deep within yourself.