Dear Ginger: How can I be happy?
…I have convinced myself that I am the most self-conscious person on earth. Which is probably true. I have never believed truly that I am beautiful or that I am a good person. And after reviewing your website I wish I had the help you receive from God. Truthfully I am not the most religious person out there… Right now in my life I am absolutely self-conscious about everything I do, unaware as to what I will do in my life, or how to be happy in life. So my question is this, “How can you achieve a happy life? With no doubt in your my mind that you are beautiful on the inside and out and that you can rise from the ashes and become something new.” It seems so easy to say but impossible to achieve. I am sorry for the long letter, but I’ve really never really opened to anyone or asked for help. Thank you so much for reading this letter…
Best Wishes- S
Thank you so much for your heartfelt and beautiful note. I finished reading and immediately admired your maturity and honesty. Thank you for taking the time to write and share so much of your struggle with me.
I am so sorry that you’ve never felt lovely, good, or confident in whom you were made to be. I hurt knowing that you’ve been bullied or made to feel less-than by anyone else in this world. But I can also hear the glimmer of hope in your question: “How can you achieve a happy life? I have no doubt in my mind that ‘you are beautiful on the inside and out’ and that you can ‘rise from the ashes’ and become something new.”
Thank you for entrusting me with this precious question. First of all, let me say that I don’t know if I will be able to answer in such a way that you will feel any immediate change in your life. My own growth and self-worth have taken place over several years and dramatically over the past year through counseling. It’s true; my faith plays a huge role in the way that I see myself. My belief in God does influence how I handle the worst days. So even if we come from a different spiritual place I’m just going to speak from the heart and pray that something I type encourages you in your own journey.
I remember when I was in fifth grade and played soccer on my school’s team. We were called the Lions and proudly wore purple and gold. On one particularly sunny day I was dressed in uniform and standing on the sideline just waiting for my chance to play. Only I wasn’t really ready. I had completely stopped paying attention. Out of nowhere a soccer ball came flying in and hit me hard in the face. It was a pretty rude awakening. Not only did the ball burst the blood vessels in my left cheek, but it also raised a pretty nasty bruise in rapid time. Of course fifth grade pictures were scheduled for the next day. True story. Pull out the yearbook and the rest of the class is all facing forward in their photos. I’m the only one facing a wall in profile.
We can quickly lose sight of the fact that we are in a battle here on this earth – and that’s a dangerous place to be. If we don’t recognize that we are in the middle of a fight, we are left vulnerable. There is no such thing as a sideline when it comes to battle. We don’t call time out. Think of the movie Lord of the Rings or any big battle scene from an epic film. The soldiers are ready for war, the challenge has been given, the screaming speech has been delivered, and now the two sides are running toward each other in slow motion.
Now picture those thousands of men fighting when suddenly one of them starts daydreaming. He notices a spread of wildflowers on the ground and promptly sets down his battle-axe to gather a bouquet. Highly unlikely, right?
We’ve got to keep our heads in the game! It’s those times when we forget we are actually warriors in an army that we incur the greatest injuries. Just like my soccer ball to the face scenario, I allowed my weight struggle to influence my self-esteem to such an extent that I was crippled for battle.
Here’s what I mean by battle. I believe that we were created for a purpose. You weren’t a random speck of dust or anything close to an accident. The God who created the universe imagined and designed you to enter this world at a specific time. I believe that 100%. God created both you and I as human beings with a mind and a heart, with fears and desires. Not only that, he created us to live out an incredible story during our time on this earth. Sometimes though we let the distractions (our worries, stigmas, body issues, fears) keep us from living out the role that we alone were created to fill. It is a daily battle to not get discouraged from that very purpose.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to know and believe about God: He doesn’t force himself on us, but He does invite us to participate in His effort to overcome the conflict and junk in this world.
That’s where I think lasting happiness originates. (Confession: I’m not “happy” every day but I have found a source of joy that’s more than momentary.) When I drop the distractions of how I look and feel and just pursue loving others and living an exciting story – I find joy, peace, and contentment. No amount of journaling, self-help, or positive thinking changes my outlook for long. It’s the living that changes my perception and brings fulfillment. The recognition that my smaller story has a HUGE part to play in the bigger story God is telling gives me purpose each and every day.
“What if the positive and negative turns of your life have prepared you for something great? …Do you know that the world needs something from you? There are probably days when you feel like the world would be better off if you stayed in bed but it isn’t true. God created you and He created you with the power to bring light into darkness and order into chaos. You are necessary. And the sooner you believe that, the sooner you’ll bond with God in living a great story.” (Donald Miller, Storyline)
So where do you start? Find yourself a quiet place, maybe the library or your bedroom. Turn off distractions and take time to really consider the story your life is telling and the one you want it to tell. List out all of the gifts that make you unique, the things you enjoy and are good at. What do you like to do? What are some goals you want to accomplish in your life? Take your time.