By Paul Dalton
“Happiness is really a deep harmonious inner satisfaction and approval.” ~Francis Wilshire
It is only in the last few years of my life that I have felt genuinely happy and comfortable in my own skin.
Until my early thirties the dominant feeling I carried around with me was one of extreme social awkwardness. Which is strange, because most people who knew me prior to that time would have described me as a confident guy who got on with just about everybody.
I’m aware that outwardly I was very skilful at presenting a positive and socially pleasing demeanor, while on the inside feeling anxious and exhausted from keeping up the act.
This wasn’t just at work or at parties, it was rife in my closest relationships too—with my friends, my family and, most bizarrely, with my fiancée.
Perhaps the reason I was so well liked by so many is because I would agree with just about everything anyone said, so I was no bother to them. In disputes, I’d take both sides. I was always the first to offer a hand when someone needed help, but not because I felt charitable; I just wanted them to like me more.
If I got angry or frustrated, which I did often, you would never have known it. You would have seen someone who appeared unflappable, regardless of the circumstances. If I was hurt, let down or disappointed, my lightening reflex was to smile and say, “That’s okay!”
Somewhere along the line I had developed the philosophy that my happiness was dependent on the approval of others.
This meant that my level of contentment was proportionate to how pleased I thought others were with me moment to moment. Of course, the problem was that I rarely thought they approved of me enough, so I was rarely happy.
Now that I think about it, some of my earliest memories involve me trying extremely hard to be a “good boy,” to do what I was told, and how lonely it felt to fall out of favor with my parents.
I never thought about what I wanted from life, only what would make others want to have me around. Read More