Want to be the happiest person on the planet? You can, but it’s not about you…
Category: Kim's Corner
By: Kim Forsten
Sunday was National Friendship Day! I felt really grateful for this sweet reminder to intentionally focus my energy on my friendships. It also got me thinking about the dynamics involved in this type of relationship, and how it’s changing for younger generations and people who are coming of age right now.
Just like any living thing, friendships depend on time and attention to thrive. Since my days as a kid and young adult, there has been a major culture shift. You may have noticed the steady rise in popularity of “the self”. We have embraced self-centeredness (I mean that in the literal sense!) so completely that the “put yourself first” mentality has already left obsession and entered into the more comfortable zone of acceptance. It’s so normal to think this way, in fact, that we probably don’t even notice how it’s permeated our lives, including our attitudes toward friendship.
In the last decade or so, a number of brands have successfully created an association of self-care with their products, emboldening us to take more “me” time, treat ourselves more often. You don’t have too far to go before you stumble across slogans like, “Your first love should be yourself, “self-care Sunday,” or “Because you’re worth it.”
Social media has only encouraged us. There’s the worship of selfie culture. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are platforms for us to share our feelings and experiences with the world on a whim, about everything from our kids to our moods to what we had for breakfast. We can even visually document our health, spiritual, and other personal journeys, and potentially be seen by millions of people.
Do I have enough examples?
Now, this isn’t necessarily all bad. I like that we’re working on learning how to love, appreciate and understand ourselves. There’s no denying that the explosion of online sharing has been eye opening for our world. It has brought attention to important topics, lifted taboos off of certain subjects, and it’s allowed people to connect on the basis of shared experiences and struggles. But it’s doing something else, too.
I think there is a problem with the idea that we can find happiness and self-worth by constantly putting ourselves first. There’s a piece of the equation that, when missing, throws the quest of a meaningful life off balance: To have a good relationship with yourself, you cannot be without strong connections to others.
With such a high importance placed on the self (made all the more powerful by the ability to disconnect with people and connect to a device instead) and with no real conversation being had about the joy derived from serving others, others become less important by default. And when others seem less important, we become less happy.
Because no matter what higher power you believe or don’t believe in, somewhere in your subconscious, you have to know this: You’ve been placed on this earth to contribute something. Deep down, you know society does not function properly if we all decide to be takers—of time, of resources, of attention, or of credit. The purpose of life is not to take; it is to give. It’s to be part of something much bigger—and dare I say, more important—than ourselves.
So, back to National Friendship Day. If you want to feel a sense of self-worth that is real and lasting, be there for a friend. Even when (not if—WHEN) over the course of a friendship, there are periods of struggle or dysfunction, it’s always worth the time and sacrifice to strengthen the relationships you choose to be in. When we support others, give of our time and share in another person’s success, the natural side effects are a sense of joy, contentment and fulfillment that a selfie stick or a self-care kit just can’t replicate.
If you have a friend you regularly work out with, think about why you do it. Your first answer might be that you do it to hold yourself accountable. A workout buddy motivates you to get there on time, break a sweat and reach your fitness goals more quickly. But do you ever think of it the other way around? That you’re going so that your friend has someone to hold him or her accountable? That you need to rise to the occasion for them?
Starting this week, try thinking of your workout partner less as someone whom you need, and more as someone who needs you. See how a mentality of wanting to be useful for the sake of someone else affects your goals, your feelings, and most importantly, your friendships.