“What do you do?” is one of the most commonly asked questions on the planet. And while typically asked innocently in a friendly setting, the idea that someone’s career can define or sum up who they are as a person isn’t just wrong; it’s problematic.
From a young age, it’s been engraved in our minds to seek fulfilment from outside sources, like a romantic partner, our career, or from something as vain as our appearance. These ideals are reinforced everywhere from the Disney movies we worship as children, to the popular question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Who says we have to be anything?
Unfortunately, I see these ideologies play out routinely in my job as a certified life coach. For example, clients come to me seeking help to get over a break-up, asking to be “fixed” to prepare for their next relationship. Instead of processing what happened, spending time with themselves, and looking for lessons learned from the experience, they scramble to fill the void they believe is missing from their life.
Here’s some free advice: there’s nothing I can do to ‘fix’ you. In fact, there was never anything wrong with you to begin with! What I can do is tell you that striving to be a certain way for someone else, or because of societal pressures, will only set you up for disappointment. Rather than feeling content, you’ll always be looking for the next ‘high’ — the next romance, the next promotion, the next compliment. And the most detrimental part of this mindset is that it denies accepting and recognizing your true authentic self, and emphasizes chasing temporary affirmations that in turn, compromise your happiness.
Fortunately, there are ways to reverse this mindset. Here are seven ways to find fulfillment and happiness within yourself.
1. Date Yourself
One of the biggest things I recommend to my clients is to stop looking for fulfilment in a partner, and instead spend time finding enjoyment in themselves. Spend time alone (yes, date yourself) to gain a better understanding of who you are — not who you think you should be or what your parents expect of you. Once you learn who you are and how to love that person, you’ll better realize what you deserve, what you need, and what you can give in a relationship, creating your own, unique definition of love.
2. Give Yourself Time To Reflect
Practicing regular meditation and journaling allows you to dedicate time to yourself, observe your feelings, and be with yourself in the moment. If you experience heavy emotions, it’s important to deal with them internally rather than expecting someone, like a significant other, or something, like a dramatic weight loss, to fix the problem. Giving yourself time to reflect allows you to better understand yourself, which can help when seeking external support from a friend or a professional coach or counselor. Armed with this information, you can recognize what you need, and build upon your own emotional strength.
3. Shift Your Energy Inward
So often our focus is on what others need, or what can be fixed within a situation. But take a moment every day to ask yourself, ‘What do I need?’. Then, direct your energy towards serving yourself first. Looking inward to examine our own reactions and emotions allows us to stop focusing on situations we have no control over, and instead focus on why certain things affect us. In turn, we can better understand and handle these situations.
4. Give Yourself Advice
When navigating a difficult or complicated decision, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine you are giving advice to your mother, sister, niece, or girlfriend. What would you tell them? When making your own choices, afford yourself the same compassion and understanding you would to someone you love.
5. Live in the Present Moment
Stop thinking wistfully about the past, or yearning for the future. Quit thinking about ‘when.’ If you are too focused on the what-ifs that might happen when you get a pay raise, or when you find a significant other, or when finally get your own apartment, you’ll forget to appreciate where you are now. You also may close yourself off to other opportunities that don’t fit into your ‘plan,’ per se — but could be infinitely more rewarding.
6. Let Go of Labels
Quit defining yourself by someone else’s standards, or by what society has deemed ‘normal.’ Instead, focus on what it is you want and create your own path. And remember: you’re allowed to change your mind!
7. Open Your Mind
Recognize that you may have grown up with limited belief systems, or more simply, that you can (and will) inevitably be wrong at times. That’s okay! Recognize any prejudices you may be unknowingly harboring, and give yourself the freedom of an open mind. Perks include your heart opening in succession, and permission to define your own happiness.
At the end of the day, you need to be the hero of your own story. You are your own soulmate, and that sets the baseline to what you attract. Find the courage to follow the above steps to self-love, but at the same time, allow yourself to be a work in progress. When you stop defining yourself by your career, relationships, or looks, you can allow yourself simply to be.