By Sophie Winik, IATG ContributorMay 31, 2016
“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.” ~Robert Morely.
Who are you? What makes you happy? How do you define “happy”? Are you the shy and quiet girl? Are you the sassy girl? Are you popular? How do you define you?
I was always the quiet and shy girl in school. I never belonged in a clique or felt like people really wanted to be my friend. I knew I was nice, and I knew I was a good artist. I knew that being quiet did not mean I was a bad person.
But still, who was I?
I was Sophie. I was a girl who enjoyed doing her own thing, which was fine with me. I didn’t judge myself or put myself into a box of expectations. This made me happy, being able to be me. Happiness didn’t involve being popular, but rather remaining who I was as a person, who I felt I was. But to be happy in a world where one is surrounded by expectations meant I needed to figure out what that big word, “happiness,” meant to me.
Finding my own happiness was hard. I developed an idea in my mind of what it would be, what it would look like (smiling, having lots of friends, everyone liking me, basically what every child and teenager wants: to have fun with everything life brings).
In reality, happiness did not come so easy.
I didn’t have a lot of friends, I changed schools a lot, and I didn’t always have a smile on my face, at least not an authentic one. Life was tough, and I was figuring out how to navigate myself through it. Suddenly, the word “happiness” was overwhelming, and I didn’t know what it meant to me anymore.
As years passed and I grew older and was becoming more and more self-aware, I would be able to think about my happiness and what it meant for me in the bigger picture. I was able to understand my own emotions and what it felt like for me to feel happiness, and I was realizing that “happiness” didn’t have to be what I originally thought it should be. As an adult, I have shifted my understanding as I’ve continued to learn more about myself and what makes me feel happy.
It’s not an overwhelming big word anymore.
It’s a smile, a smile saying, “Hello world! This is me. This is my life. I choose to be happy!”
I have now realized how much I’m in control of my own happiness. I have the power to say, “Today I choose to be happy!” I have the power to make myself happy, and though others can certainly influence that feeling, it’s up to me to achieve it and feel it. Understanding what happiness means to you takes you a step closer to actually living it. Being myself, not who others wanted me to be, helped me to be a happier person. Creating art, something I have always loved, made me happy as I coped through difficult times in school. Being kind to others, knowing it was appreciated, left me feeling good about myself. As I grew older, less shy and quiet, I still remained true to myself. That has been the greatest meaning of happiness for me: being myself, nobody else, just Sophie.
What does happiness mean to you? Take some time today and jot down a few things that truly make you happy (dancing, painting, spending time with friends), and then do MORE of those things! You deserve it.
Sophie is a preschool teacher in Southern California. When she is not teaching the little ones she is writing stories about her experiences with bullying, with the hope that her words will help others stand up against bullying and be another voice to end the hate. Sophie is also an artist who loves to paint and draw and is studying to be an art therapist, specifically working with children. Check out her anti-bullying stories at kindrevolutioncampaign.wordpress.com.