By Bryan Teh Chia Wai
WAIT! Before you decide to flip the page, dear reader, I want you to know I’m sorry for the seemingly sophistic title. I am no philosopher, nor am I qualified to tell you how to live your life. This isn’t really a self-help article, but what I do have is a thought.
Everywhere, people claim to have the secret to eternal happiness and contentment. The way I see it, the true meaning of life really depends on how one chooses to see it. Some believe that artifacts bring contentment, some believe relationships bring contentment, and some believe that the things they achieve in life bring them happiness. Whatever it is, personally, I’d say don’t let anyone else but yourself determine what brings you contentment. Here’s why.
Here’s the thing: everyone focuses on relationships with others. Get close to your family, and you will be happy. Find a girlfriend, or you will never feel satisfied. I suggest this one thing—before you ever think of starting or perfecting your relationship with someone else, ask yourself these questions, “Do you love yourself? Do you know what your preferences are? Do you know your limitations and boundaries?” If you answered any of these questions with “I don’t know” or “I guess”, I’m afraid you have one more important step to take before you get closer to others.
You see, the only person who has the power to dictate your life and affect your choices is you. In your everyday life, it’s easy to let external factors affect your choices that manipulate you into making choices that aren’t yours. Oddly enough, thanks to some seemingly higher powers at work, the manipulated choices make you truly unhappy. Psychologically, whatever decisions you make, as long as it is your own decision, you would be happy with it no matter the outcome. It’s your own doing, and you do not end up feeling like a pawn that was forced foolishly into the game without a choice, only to be taken out of the game. The thing is, no matter how scary it is, you do have a choice. In the end, your success at work, college and pretty much in every sector of your life depends on how well you know yourselves. There is only one solution – establish a better relationship with yourself.
It is quite impossible, I’d say, to be truly happy in any relationship if your relationship with yourself is not stable in the first place. Insecurities, overthinking and personality problems—all those stem from not truly knowing yourselves enough. Obviously, it is impossible to fully know the ins and outs of yourselves, but what is important is that you ensure that you are stable on your own before you go on to look for stability with others. Relationships between couples, families and friends tend to become shaky only when we are uncertain about ourselves and the reason why the relationship is built in the first place. People who have good relationships with their own selves also develop confidence and are more certain when it comes to making decisions that end up not only affecting themselves, but the people around them as well. See, that’s why loving yourself is important. The first step to taking a picture or to paint is to determine the subject, focus on how to make the subject seem perfect, and naturally, the background and other factors will fall into place. It’s similar to how a preacher has to first understand what he is saying in order to preach to the masses.
So, how does one love oneself? Well, it’s not exactly going up to the mirror every morning and telling your reflection, “Dang, you are the most handsome, smartest and most perfect person ever!”. The thing is, everyone has their own preferences as to how they ‘learn and communicate’ with their own self. Some prefer to read, some travel, some reflect, and spend time alone. What I would suggest is to read a lot and notice what sort of books attract you and what you feel as you read. Some books such as Haemin Sunim’s book, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, is a book that teaches us to notice the little things. Another cheaper alternative is to just simply be mindful of ourselves. I always try to pause throughout the day and notice the small things, notice how the birds weave as they fly across the sky, or how the ants are constantly moving, being such busy workers. When you stop to notice, you begin to realize how you feel and how you react to things. Another step is to own a small journal in which you can draw and write down your thoughts. Trust me, it works no matter whether you’re a male or female. It helps people be more mindful and to be creative in terms of writing and/or any other form of art. There are multiple steps you can take to learn about yourself. Most importantly, you have to pay attention to everything you do. This includes watching what information goes in, watching the things you say, noticing the people around you and understanding why you feel the way you do and learning how to react to it. Your emotions and thoughts are important. Once you have that in control, there would be nothing that limits you or holds you back as you understand that only you can affect what you choose to do, how you choose to react and who you choose to be.
Personally, this step has helped me make a big change in my life. I haven’t got a perfect hold on my life, but I’m learning. Oh, and personally, for all those who wish to start a relationship—please do work on yourself first, not only for your own advantage, but also for your partner. I promise you—you will have a much happier relationship. So please, love yourself more, will you?