“One loses a significant amount of power when they give into being a victim of circumstance.”
As humans, we are all susceptible to this – no matter which side of the coin circumstance falls – we’re easily made miserable by misfortune just as proud as we can become from success.
I came to the realisation recently that relying on circumstance, i.e. situations, events, outcomes and essentially, the uncontrollable state of things, is often a means to an end when navigating this thing called life. We’ve been conditioned to believe that happiness is only found after surpassing a certain threshold when it comes to such things as wealth, material possessions, culture, social status and beauty.
The entertainment and advertising industries have been instrumental in nurturing these worldly desires, encouraging us to attach our lives to superficial ideals which fast become our measures for societal acceptance and self-worth. Yes, this could be misconstrued as melodramatic flurry, but make no mistake, the impact is very real.
My years working in the business of media has perpetuated this notion of succumbing to circumstance, as I have often found myself a fish-out-of-water, overly self-critical and at the worst of times, quite unhappy with my life. In my own my mind and emotional processes, I learned to pity and belittle myself at the first sign of any difference from my peers. I had always felt less fortunate, less cultured, less experienced, less attractive. My circumstance given my humble beginnings, often had power over me in a very negative way.
One would think that maturity and experience would be enough to shake such ridiculous ideas, however the beast that is society and the pressures involved, still carry weight when assessing one’s self and life path. Still it seems to be implanted in my mind that greater happiness can be found when I’m a little slimmer, when I earn more money, travel the world or find a partner. I suppose there is some truth that I will find joy in achieving those goals, but the question for us all is, how happy are we right now?
A recent meeting with a friend led me to ponder this idea of achieving contentment, in opposition to resigning to circumstance.
She had just returned from a holiday in Europe with her boyfriend, with whom she lives in a great apartment in which they own; she has good paying part-time job to help secure her through study, and has a wonderful and supportive network of family and friends.
The essence of her dialogue to me over dinner however, suggested that she was unhappy. She seemed to want more in her life – as we all do – and she really saw herself as stuck, burdened with ongoing problems and regretful of previous choices. Indeed, there were personal and circumstantial trials that she was facing, but these trials seemed all too familiar to me because they were largely self-inflicted – they were the kind that l myself, easily get lost in from time to time.
In as much as I empathised, I couldn’t help but draw comparison with the things she already has that still I lack – the means to travel, own an apartment, the boyfriend. Yet somehow, I found myself feeling more grateful than envious.
It hit me at that moment that happiness cannot be sustained through material or societal ideals. It hit me that in always wanting more, you will always be left feeling empty. It hit me that in order to truly to find contentment, you must practice gratitude.
I parted ways with my friend that night hoping that I had provided her some solace, but also in some way, reassured by my own convictions. I felt a sense of lightness about my own journey, knowing that despite the setbacks and circumstantial barriers, gratitude provides a way out of victimhood and a leap towards happiness.
We are not defined by what happens to us, but rather, how we get through what happens.