Personal Declaration of Independence

August 5, 2016

paking your picnic basket with goodies

We people can be odd creatures. We want to be happy. We want to be fully and authentically ourselves. At the same time, many of us want everyone to like us, to approve of and even admire us. I’m here to tell you that stuff doesn’t all pack well into the same picnic basket.

The Declaration of Independence we all studied in school was a strong, no nonsense document. It didn’t ask for freedom, it claimed it. It didn’t whimper or say pretty please and its follow-through didn’t hinge on whether breaking free would be popular with those who’d previously held the reins. Essentially, it said: Screw this. We have had enough and we’re outta here. Oh, and while we’ve got your attention George, screw you, too.

Boom!

There’s a lot of good stuff in those famous paragraphs. There’s some crap, too (“…the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”). In all the great and bad, there’s one line that stands out to me. “…all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

That last part is worth reading twice. It means we humans are inclined to suffer for as long as we can stand it before we fix the circumstances which cause our misery, simply because we get used to being unhappy. That’s crazy, right? Not just lazy, but foolish and crazy.

Most happiness-stealing situations creep up slowly, making it pretty easy for us to get comfortable with misery. Baby steps toward a wretched life. And we are almost always active participants in sucking the joy and authenticity out of our lives. More craziness. We, hoping to build and maintain reputations as nice people, make small but habitual choices aimed at pleasing others and crafting delightful public personas, even if those choices are in contrast to who we know we are. Even if they cause us to play small and deny the truth of our greatness. Even if they smother the voice in us that longs to sing.

I used to do exactly that, long ago. I was an extraordinarily well-behaved child who brought home stellar report cards. I didn’t sass my parents and I lived in constant pursuit of perfection. Teachers adored me and I made my parents’ lives easier than my siblings had. What a nice girl! The truth, though, is that striving for perfection is a sure path to misery. Once I realized that and got over the idea that everyone (or really, anyone) had to like me, my happiness quotient increased dramatically. I decided to simply be myself—my lovely, flawed, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, beautiful, perfectly imperfect self. I abolished the forms of suffering to which I had become accustomed.

We can be happy. We can be fully and authentically ourselves. Or we can strive to have everyone like us, approve of us, and admire us. I don’t know about you, but when I pack my basket, I choose only the stuff I find most delicious.

Warmly~
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16 Comments

  1. Reply

    Jay

    I’m with you. When trying to please everyone else by fitting the mold others find acceptable, we lose a piece of who we are. However, we need — or maybe *I* need — to be liked, accepted, and hopefully, loved by others. Not by everyone, but by someone or some people. Then there’s the professional world… sometimes it’s not okay to be authentic.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      I prefer to be liked, accepted, and loved by others, but I don’t need to be. Those who like, accept, and love me are genuine blessings in my life, for sure. But if I wasn’t being myself, then the person they liked, accepted, and loved wouldn’t even really be me and I would have robbed them (and myself) of even having the chance for something real. I think when we’re real, there will always be people who’ll love us–our tribe. We all need a tribe.

      As far as work, it definitely can be trickier. I strive to be fully myself at work and I believe I succeed about 99% of the time. The only times I can think of offhand when I’m not are those moments when someone will share something with me that I find genuinely offensive and instead of showing what I think, I inhale and put on my pleasant ‘gee, that doesn’t make me think you are a hideous beast of a person’ face. Not authentic. Fortunately, I don’t need to plaster that face on often.

  2. Reply

    Malcolm Campbell

    At some point, we figure out that to play along with the crowd, we have to do a lot of stuff we don’t want to do, stuff that often seems wrong or somehow against our nature. Never liked that.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      If we’re lucky, we figure out young to just be whoever we actually are. Saves a whole bunch of grief.

      1. Reply

        Malcolm Campbell

        Some people have trouble doing that because they’re trying to fit in the crowd and be like everyone else.

        1. Reply

          Beth

          Total truth.

  3. Reply

    Julie

    Who doesn’t like being liked, loved by those around them? That feeling of total love and adoration is simply one of the best feelings in the world. Then we have to quit looking in the mirror and go face the other people in the world. The important thing though I think is that we can accomplish that first part on our own, learn to love oneself then be able to give that love out to others in the world. I have a very extremely small circle of friends/family, even though I come from a huge family, my family circle is small, by choice my choice! I choose to surround myself with those that can see and accept me for the person I am, those that don’t sadly get left behind in the past. I send each one of them off with all the love I possibly can. Those I keep close I love with all my heart, but more then that I like them. We should all strive to be this way. I am perfect the way I am, for me. No doubt not for others around me, but for me I am. Love you Beth this is awesome. <3

    1. Reply

      Beth

      I agree with all of that, Jul. I don’t need droves of people. I’d rather have a small circle of truly connected relationships than many superficial ones. And as far as some who were once in our lives but are no longer, maybe that’s just how it needs to be for both parties. If people are happier apart, then apart is how they should be. Not every relationship is a forever one, and that’s okay. Some relationships, even wonderful ones, are meant for a season.

  4. Reply

    Deborah

    Oh, my gosh, I feel like if I were as grand a writer as you I would have written this. All of this has played table tennis in my mind this week and I’ve been whacked up the side of the head a few times. After spending four weeks in the states, two with my overly dramatic, controlling family, I returned to Germany just in time for DS to leave for 2 months. Talk about a whirlwind of emotion. What my two days with him reminded me was how happy and blessed I am to have a heart full of unconditional love supporting me.
    Like you I am now very choosey about what goes in my basket and who. I’m very alone here and lonely at times, but it’s a choice I will deal well with because I chose it. And I get to choose the joyful, creative spirits that take up space in my basket, because they will always move over for more grace and faith to enter.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Life is both too short and too long to court drama or be who we aren’t, just to keep the peace. One nice thing about spending a little time with the crazies is how it ramps up our appreciation for those with whom we can be exactly who we are. I love my tribe!

  5. Reply

    GAIL RUBECK

    BEAUTIFULLY SAID!

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Gail! So good to see you, and thank you!

  6. Reply

    Jo Heroux

    Love this and agree, 100%. Now I wanna share a little quick story with you.
    I’m pretty real pretty nearly all the time. SURPRISE!
    In that vein, I have pissed off a person or twenty that I genuinely love and want in my life. Since I spoke my mind, kindly, but honestly, some have simply cut me out of their life. Okay. I’m sad about that, but it would have happened eventually.
    There was this one time though. Exactly what I just described happened and about two months, maybe three, later I got a call out of the blue.
    “Are you interested in talking to me?” The voice I didn’t think I’d hear again.
    “Of course!” Me
    “I just needed you to know that I have neve respected another human more than I do you. No one in my life has ever been so honest and then let me walk away. No one. I was wrong and you told me so. Thank you.” TVIDTIHA
    “You’re welcome and thank you.” Me
    “I’d like to be friends again. I miss you and I need you.” TVITINHA
    “Then let’s give that a try. I miss you, too.” Me

    Sometimes…authenticity is a bridge to a better life and relationship. She and I are still very close friends.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      “Sometimes…authenticity is a bridge to a better life and relationship.”

      I think authenticity is ALWAYS a bridge to a better life and relationship(s). As you know, being authentic doesn’t mean saying everything we think or know or believe, but it does mean being true to ourselves. When we do that, it enriches every aspect of our lives.

      I’m glad the friendship that clearly meant a lot to both of you lasted through the rough patch. I’m sure even without meaning to, we all hurt one another now and then. If the love is genuine (and the people involved are, too), it mends. If not, it’s perfectly all right to look back on the best parts and know that the rest meant it was time to let go.

  7. Reply

    Tammy Minnis

    “That last part is worth reading twice. It means we humans are inclined to suffer for as long as we can stand it before we fix the circumstances which cause our misery, simply because we get used to being unhappy. That’s crazy, right? Not just lazy, but foolish and crazy.”

    I believe that a lot of people will stay in a situation that from the outside looks miserable. A lot of times a person who is in what seems a bad situation get something out of it that they think they need. Whether they are cognizant of that or not is another issue.

    I know the bottom line for me is no matter what my circumstance, I’m good with me. I don’t rely on anyone to make me happy. I choose to be. I’ve had some crazy things thrown my way through out my life. I survived my childhood and spent my 20’s trying to cope with it. Made it to 30 and that’s when I started feeling peaceful. Won’t get into the details but I do believe that it’s a choice to be happy.

    You are such a gifted write EG. I really admire your ability to communicate well the matters of the soul.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      I think you’re absolutely right that people often stay in what looks like (and what might actually be) bad situations because there’s something in it for them. There’s some payoff, even if it’s an unhealthy one.

      I also think you’re wise in understanding that you and only you are responsible for your happiness–and that happiness is a choice. Like you, I choose to be happy. Is my life perfect? Nope. Have I had my share of trials and heartbreaks? Sure. But I have many blessings, too. That’s where I choose to direct my focus and because of that choice, I life a pretty happy life.

      And thank you, Tammy. Truly. ♥

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