Why you owe to yourself to find your true self and what it implies

Being yourself is a complex but very crucial aspect of personal development. The discovery and then development of who you truly are can take a significant amount of time and shake up all your relationships. You may even have to stop doing whatever you’re doing to earn your living and start a completely new career.

Your true self, that inner voice that lives in you ever since the beginning of your earthly life, is very well hidden by the teachings of your parents and school and the influence of romantic partners and friends.

You want to please your parents and partner by obeying their wishes of who you should be. You want to be a good student and work hard even for subjects for which you don’t feel any inner motivation. You want to be appreciated by friends and you change your behaviour and attitude appropriately.

The emotional need to be loved and the social need to be accepted and appreciated silence the inner voice of being who you truly are – the human being who came into this life to live in authenticity, integrity, morality and freedom of expression.

If you are lucky, it comes a moment when you are awakened and you feel how the inner voice is vibrating in your body and talking to your soul. It can be that you are awakened after a moment when you face death or after a painful break-up. Then, you feel the need to escape from the roles that you’ve played so far and to start living according to how your inner voice guides you.

This inner voice is your connection to God, to the Higher Intelligence, and if you are wise to listen to it, it will bring you to the home of Divinity with every experience you start living as being your true self.

The first steps towards being yourself require courage. You’ll have to manage the confusion and disappointment of the loved ones who will start witnessing a new behaviour. Their expectations on you are no longer fulfilled. They’ll have to learn to accept your true nature and this may be extremely difficult for them.

You’ll also need tact and patience with your loved ones until they learn to appreciate the real you and your way of showing how you love them.

You’ll need strength when some friends stop contacting you because they see in you a different person, around whom they may not want to be. Actually, it does not matter why they don’t need your company anymore. The important and valuable aspect is that whatever you do as your true self is in alignment with your divine being.

Your thoughts and emotions purify and they’ll result in beneficial actions as well. In time, you’ll be surprised how much happier you’ll be with your relationships and professional life.

Becoming your true self does not happen overnight but if you stay faithful to the inner voice, you’ll eventually manage to break free from old and toxic habits, such as the need to be praised for doing things in which you don’t genuinely believe. You’ll laugh with all your heart and you’ll feel truly alive and in communion with God!

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How to stay on the funny side of life

You can choose to live your life as a comedy. Humour can positively change your perception on life experiences. If you think that life is more about serious matters, please reconsider. You can learn to see the funny side of life.    

Humour can bring lots of benefits in your life. It can make you happier and healthier by helping you cope with stress. It can help you heal if you have more serious traumas. It can make you more attractive in the eyes of the opposite sex.

It helps you see more of the beautiful side of life.

First step – appreciate humour

One of my favourite movie characters is Guido, starred by Roberto Benigni in “La vita e bella”, Life is beautiful. Guido’s enthusiasm of life and amazing humour help him protect his son from the Nazi camp.

I wanted to be a little bit like Guido. My uncle was like him – gifted with creative humour. His spontaneous jokes and funny gestures made people around him laugh from their hearts!

As for myself, well, I realised I’ve taken life too seriously and dwelled on the unchangeable past. I was certainly capable to appreciate humour but was I capable to create my own humour?

Could just anyone improve their sense of humour?

According to research done by Nevo, Aharonson and Klingman (1998), on a sample of 101 female teachers, humour can be learned.

In addition, I believe that the most efficient way to learn to be more humorous is to identify on your own what type of humour resonates mostly within you.

Second step – Develop your personal humour

There seem to be at least 29 types of written and spoken humour. It’s big enough a portfolio to have something for everyone.

My top favourite types of humour are the self-depricating, blunders, situational humour, and jokes. In my everyday life, situations often reflect these types of humour.

The self-depricating humour and the blunders can help changing your perception about the past and slowly let it go. It is human to look back at the past and lament over the painful moments.

You can teach yourself to look at the mistakes of the past and see how foolish they can appear in hindsight.

The situational humour – can help us get over embarrassing or tense moments, i.e. a date which does not go quite as expected. As a parent, I realised that there are moments throughout a day when instead of getting angry with my toddler, I choose to laugh.

For example, you step into your living room with freshly painted walls. You breathe in content the smell of paint when you notice your toddler’s blue paint fingerprints on the wall.

Jokes, especially the inside jokes you have with your partner or close people are a wonderful way of bonding. At the same time, inside jokes can release the tension in moments of conflicts when suddenly you crack a joke which makes the other one burst out laughing.

Why dwelling on problems when you can boost your joy by finding the comic side of life.

A good laughter can save the day!

How about you? What kind of humour do you use in your every day life?

Why we should stay cool in front of others’ envy

I thought I am a person who is comfortable to have around all sorts of characters. A conversation with a woman who emanated envy towards me proved how wrong I was. In fact, after the respective encounter, I remembered about previous situations when I had been uncomfortable around envious people. I started reflecting more on this side in human beings and I identified few reasons for ignoring others’ envy.

The decision to stay away

Not along ago, I was having a smooth flow of discussion with another person. Since my toddler is the main conversation partner, I was excited to discuss with a grown-up, for a change.

When I started rambling about the joy of having my blog, I saw a grimace on her face and envy floating in her eyes. I tried to carry on with the trail of thoughts but the excitement was replaced by the feeling to take distance.

I felt naked, vulnerable and inhibited when my eyes met the envious eyes. Our discussion ended abruptly with an embarrassing silence.

After the incident, I wished I had continued talking, to get to know her better.

Why do we feel envy?

Envy is a negative feeling which occurs when someone lacks another’s quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it. This is how researchers Parrott and Smith define envy in their paper, “Distinguishing the experiences of envy and jealousy“.

Another aspect of envy is reflected in a popular Romanian saying, “If my goat died, I wish my neighbour’s goat would die too!”. This saying shows that when people are miserable, they want the whole world to suffer just the same.

The feeling of joy when others go through hard times is expressed in English by the term “schadenfreude”, which has been borrowed from German.

Most likely, linguists can provide similar sayings in other languages which reflect the same dark side in human beings – the envy.

Charles Darwin’s social evolutionary theory explains that envy is rooted in our genes for survival and procreation.

So, every human being experiences envy under different circumstances, whether towards friends who are happily in love, colleagues who have been recently promoted or random strangers who seem to have something we don’t have.

Coping with our own envy is not enough

When I was a child, my mother would tell me, “Don’t be happy about others’ failures!” So, I got the feeling that I have to cope with any seeds of envy that are growing in my soul.

Later on, I read the ten commandments in the Bible and found that envy is one of the sins that God is urging us to avoid.

What my mother didn’t tell me was how to react when I feel spitefulness in people with whom I talk. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. I did feel the envy like a slap on my face. And I walked away.

Getting inspired by the good

The Bible teaches that we should not be hasty to throw the stone at those in whom we see bad sides, i.e., lying, vengeful, unfaithful, etc.

Instead, we should remember about the benefits of cultivating compassion towards others. There must be something good in each one of us based on which relationships can be built.

If others are envious towards us, most likely they see something in us that they lack. We should only hope that for their sake, they’ll find a way to work on it and find their peace of mind.

Let us be happy, flattered and pleasantly surprised that others want something that we have. This something must be damn good and appealing!

Let us be humble and remember not to make the same mistake as the envious person – avoid comparing ourselves with others. My personal approach is to be aware of the envy resulting from the comparison.

Maybe others are more beautiful. That’s a fact of life. Another fact of life is that others can be more creative, more generous, funnier, smarter, wealthier and so forth.

We are unique in our own way, a blend of virtues and imperfections. Somebody has to be the best at something and it’s absolutely fine if that person is not us.

We can be the best at changing our way of thinking into a more constructive one, by focusing our energy on being a better person than we were yesterday.

I remember writing something similar in a previous post: what if we start looking at others as sources of inspiration for a better self?

I didn’t give a chance to get inspired by the good sides in the person I was talking about in the beginning of the post. Instinctively, I locked her away on grounds of the spitefulness I saw in her.

What should we strive for?

According to Buddhism, the opposite of envy is sympathetic joy, or taking joy in the good fortune of others. I’d like to add another side to the opposite of envy – accepting others’ envy.

Some of us choose to share others’ happiness. In any case, we should not be judgemental on those who are unaware of their envy or unable to do anything about it.

We can only hope that one day, they’ll have the opportunity to get out of the grip of envy and choose the love for others.

How about you? How do you react when you are surrounded by resentful individuals?

To help or not to help others

“Speak to all people as though they are the wisest, gentlest and most beautiful beings on Earth; for what they believe, they become.” – Heather K. O’Hara

The history of mankind is full of lamentable wars and conflicts. In each case, there are stories of how individuals helped others fighting for the same cause. In times of peace, how much are we willing to help one another and why would we be willing to do it? 

 

How natural it is to help others?

For many years, I’ve been living in my cloud of naiveté where I believed that everyone is willing to help others.

I thought that every human being is ready to …

Be aware of others needs. For example, sitting in the train and listening to the narration of the person sitting opposite to you.

Offer flowers to show appreciation, admiration, love or even encouragement.

Offer drinks or dinner to a friend who happens to go through a tough time.

Smile at strangers, whether that’s the shop assistant or the person with whom you have a random eye contact in the street.

Say encouraging words. Observing a particular strength that someone has and say it to that person when she may feel under the weather.

Give a lift, etc

In Finland, I became acquainted with another way of living – I can do it alone, I don’t need help and I don’t offer it either. As a result, if I push a pram, carry a back bag and hold a shopping bag while leaving the supermarket, I am prepared to depend solely on my physical strength to see my way through the shop door.

Helping at any cost?

Of course, helping others shouldn’t become a burden for ourselves. For example, should a friend ask for a lift at 3 am, then maybe we can politely suggest to use the service of a night taxi.

Helping others should feel good. If we feel uncomfortable about smiling for example, then we should not do it.

But if we are willing to help people, and yet too shy to approach them, then we may want to do something about our shyness.

At the same time, when it comes to approaching strangers, then we may want to use our common sense and figure out what would be the best way of offering help. For example, some mothers would not accept any help with getting the pram in the bus.

Offering and receiving help is a choice.

Why should we help?

The short and simple answer is because we WANT to help. Most certainly, each human being has her motivation for helping. As far as I am concerned, I admit that I feel happy and useful when I help someone.

If I am to receive help from someone else, I prefer to receive it from people who have the same motivation as me for doing it.

Helping someone and expecting something in return is not help. It’s manipulative behaviour, which makes the person who’s been helped to feel indebted.

Helping – expecting anything in return or spreading joy?

When we help with all our heart and good intentions, we contribute to the betterment of goodness in the world. We may inspire other people to do the same.

Helping for the sake of helping increases the awareness of interconnection between individuals. We may not be aware how much our happiness is affected by others happiness, until we are in a group of people. Then we have the chance to see how uplifted or down we may feel depending on the general mood in the group.

So, if you are one of those who believe in helping others, let’s start planting seeds of happiness in people more often. And let’s see how much happier we will become.

Yes, it does take some of our time and energy to think of others and sometimes some money to help others. But we wouldn’t have survived so far, if we hadn’t taken care of one another.

When Is the Last Time You Did Something for a Stranger?

In some situations, helping others is not a question of having fun. It is a question of moral duty, which we have as human beings. There are two ways to look upon this moral duty: must-to-do or want-to-do thing. It may be beneficial to our happiness and personal growth if we embrace the latter attitude.

I don’t have time for myself, so much less for others

New York Times reported on a study done by Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist and four psychologists that finds that women perceive the time with their parents being similar to work. Tasks such as helping with the housekeeping or planning family gatherings with their parents are found to be less pleasant for women. Other studies find that modern women experience a sink in their personal happiness due to the increase of tasks they need to manage. (link to the article in the New York Times)

Some of us find time to go to the gym. Others invest time in finding out how to cook healthy food or where should they go in the next holiday. How about investing a tiny bit of time into cleansing our inner lives? Imagine how our lives would be with hardly any consuming thoughts.

As paradoxical as it may sound, it may help a great deal to get more involved in the community of humankind where we signed up when we were born. Being present for others around us means observing life as it happens. At first, it may be challenging because we are too engaged with our daily problems. Even when we don’t have a problem, our mind creates one.

The great news is that learning how to be aware of the people around us can be turned into a habit, just like any other habit. Starting with baby steps may be a wise decision. For example, we can start by learning to become aware of the people we pass by in the street.

A few days ago, something wonderful happened when I was travelling with my baby by bus. A middle-aged woman stopped right in front of us, gave an energising smile and said, “Hello”, to my baby.

He is usually looking at the other passengers with the curiosity of a child. The others do their best at avoiding eye contact, God knows where their thoughts are taking them. This woman not only noticed my baby’s eyes but greeted him with a spontaneous joy. For a few seconds, we stood there smiling at one another, forming a triangle of sunshine.

What happened after this short connection with a stranger? The numbness I felt was replaced by aliveness. My inner world turned into a space of joy and peace.

Our empathy, warmth and affection need training, just like our muscles

Make a baby smile.

Listen to an elderly person in the street.

Make room for spontaneous meetings with friends.

Keep company to your ageing parent when seeing a doctor.

Actions like these are maintaining the aliveness and spaciousness in us. Yes, it is very important to focus on our lives and to achieve our dreams. Yet, the meaningful and happy life is within our reach when we develop the habit of giving and receiving empathy, human warmth and affection.

There is potential for happiness in each one of us with so much creativity and positive energy. If we take some distance from our everyday problems and focus, for a change, on what happens around us, then we’ll find ways of releasing this potential!

 

The Dormant Richness Inside Each One Of Us

Where does happiness come from?

“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”, Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father of USA.

Most certainly, it is easy to agree with Benjamin Franklin’s view on happiness. We all have our small joys in life, such as watching a TV series or going to an ice-hockey game in the weekend. The problem is that we don’t perceive these small joys as real and long-lasting happiness. Instead, our minds are wired to chase the happiness, which comes from the “good fortune”. And this is how we go through life feeling empty, depressed, miserable, self-disillusioned and bitter.

The hope helps us survive the bottom line. We will be happy when we find love, when we get our dream job, when I get promoted, when we become a mother, when our sexual life gets better, when we are rich, after I divorce, etc. Yet, all these future expectations are beguiling and the very source of unhappiness. For example, if you do become rich, there will always be room for making more money. Therefore, the chase after happiness continues and the present is a struggle. Or, if you do get promoted, you may be disillusioned to realise that it is not bringing as much happiness as you expected.

Are there any chance for us human beings to be happy at certain points in our lifetime?

Research on happiness has flourished in the last ten years, offering to individuals self-help tips on how to find their own happiness. Here are few books, which I consider worthy of mentioning: Sonja Lyubormiski, The Myths of Happiness, and Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener, Unlocking The Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Scientific studies show that we can at least reach happy moods and irrespective of what causes these happy moods, they “lead people to be more productive, more likeable, more active, more healthy, more friendly, more helpful, more resilient, and more creative.” (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness, pp. 265)

Have you ever made this test to observe people from the distance? If you did, I am sure you agree that you can spot the unhappy ones by the way they carry themselves. Especially in the case of us women, the gloomy atmosphere in our minds reflects in our body movements.

Has it ever happened to you to adopt new ways of thinking for few days and think you are finally happy just before you slide back into the old way of viewing the world? Is sustainable happiness but an abstract concept that exists in the work of psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky?

Can we reach a steady level of happiness?

How we relate to happiness differs from one individual to another, depending on our genetical heritage, our childhood and adulthood experiences. However, I strongly believe that we all can find our glimpses of long-lasting happiness by digging out the dusty characteristics which make us human.

Compassion, empathy, love, gratitude, altruism, soul-to-soul connection: they all live in us, the problem is that they have been forgotten. The age of science has brought wonderful advancements into the world at the cost of taking us away from who we really are: human beings.

If we want to be happy, we need to take a good look inside and cultivate the seeds of all these characteristics that make us human. Yes, it hurts when we feel that there is not love in our life. While we are waiting for love, we’d benefit from turning our face and soul towards the people around us and offer them the crumbles of love that there are in us. When we hear about a sick person who needs money for surgery, why not donating few euros from our income? Why not joining a group of people with similar interests?

Life happens now and we fool ourselves if we think we have control over it and we’ll be happy tomorrow. If we can control something, well that something is the humanity in us. The happiness will follow it.

 

When negativity sneaked into my heart

It was the end of one of those days when the little one had been wining all day long. I was in the supermarket, on my mind with the “to buy” list and at the same time, I was trying to entertain our baby who was already getting bored in the shopping cart. Mothers know how it feels! A thought crossed my mind: “Gosh, I badly need half an hour to breathe in peace!”

When my husband finished his day of work, I informed him about my wish. I hoped I could prepare dinner while our baby would spend quality time with his father. What happened was that my husband started doing something else in the kitchen, which was important but maybe not as important. The baby was left alone with his toys. Being mommy’s boy, of course he came crawling to my feet. That was the last drop. I started boiling. He was pulling my pants and wining. You know, that kind of wining that is meant to drive parents nuts.

I looked daggers at my husband who was singing while emptying the dish washer. I looked at the baby’s tears and I sighed, “What is wrong, baby?”. I held him with one hand and with the other, I continued stirring in the sizzling chicken curry. Thanks God, I have two hands. In moments like that, I wished I had three or four. When my arm got tired of holding the baby, I went straight to my husband and … I felt like a bull in a  Spanish arena, starring my husband as the toreador. I started micromanaging him on a low voice. I briefed him on what was needed to be done in order to prepare our baby for bed time. He took the baby and moved to the bathroom singing. I was growling inside!

It was midnight when I was lying awake and feeling the huge irritability inside of me. I could hear the pitter pattering of the rain drops at the window. Under normal circumstances, that sound would put me in a peaceful and dreamy mood. But that night, the sound annoyed me to death. What was wrong with me? I wondered how mothers of more than one child were managing. Compared to their lives, my life must be a walk in the park. :) Luckily, the fatigue came to rescue. I managed to fall asleep despite the irritability being still present.

The next morning, I remembered this article that I came across in the Scientific American, The Joyful Mind. The article discusses the biology of pleasure, how different regions of the brain work together to create pleasure. The path to pleasure is a cause and effect between anticipation, desire, sensation and satisfaction. “Well, good morning!”, I said to myself. That was my problem the night before. This path to pleasure had been broken when my top desire to have half an hour of peace had not been satisfied.

Life is not only white and black. According to Aristotle, a person’s happiness is composed of two elements: pleasure and meaningfulness. I am living the most meaningful time of my life, when I witness the development of our baby each day. Then how can I have these moments of frightening negativity? How could a moment of broken pleasure cloud the happiness of a meaningful life? Back to the article A Joyful Mind, the scientists have not understood yet how the brain creates the perception of a meaningful life. Maybe I missed something that the brain scientists can’t find in the brain either. Something that Eckhart Tolle refers to as the “power of now”.

In these moments when my reality does not unfold as expected and triggers the out of balance, getting in touch with my consciousness is the salvation. Again, easier said than done, but hey it is worth trying! If I succeed, I will be knowing how it feels “To stay present in everyday life”. I will know what it means “to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum will drag you along like a wild river…To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. To feel the body from within, so to speak”. (Eckhart Tolle, Practising the Power of Now, pp. 51)