Courtesy of Erika Art
Although there is no single definition of happiness, experts generally consider it to be a feeling of contentment and contentment with life.
External factors, such as material things and experiences, can provide temporary happiness, but true happiness comes from within — a lesson author Erika Kind had to learn the hard way.
Here Kind tells how she found happiness from fear and insecurity.
A lack of trust in childhood
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never had a lot of self-confidence. I hardly had an opinion of my own. Having what was considered “the wrong opinion” became one of my greatest fears. I was taught that if I was going to “make it,” I had to develop a certain personality—and it wasn’t something that came naturally to me.
The dominant people in my life, like my father, made me realize that I can do things their way or not at all. When what I thought didn’t match what others wanted from me, I was judged, humiliated, and insulted. Soon my brain started asking, “What do I need to think?” instead of “What do I think?” to avoid trouble.
I was convinced that thinking differently or acting differently meant that something was wrong with me. When I was with people like my father, I was afraid to speak, afraid to share my own thoughts. It didn’t leave much room for a child to develop their own personality.
Losing myself in my teenage years
As a teenager, I began to lose myself more and more. I isolated myself from my family and tried to protect the small, vulnerable part of me that I felt was really me. I built a wall around that part of me so I could pretend I was who I needed to be, which was incredibly difficult. It felt like I was cheating on myself.
I buried my emotional side and only let it out when I was alone or with friends. Luckily I had wonderful friends – my best friend from back then is still my best friend today. But around my family I became quiet and withdrawn. I didn’t want to risk my feelings being trampled on.
I grew up shy, insecure and anxious
I grew up a shy, insecure and anxious child who had trouble trusting people. No matter how hard I tried to be the real me in private, I was never authentic. This convinced me that I wasn’t even good enough to be accepted by myself.
I felt helpless and like an alien, so different that no one would understand me. It was my destiny to be insecure and afraid, I thought. I didn’t even consider that I could be different than I was.
I haven’t spoken to anyone about what I’ve been going through, haven’t seen a doctor, or sought a therapist. Weakness was never an option. But as I grew up, the hidden “me” that I had sealed off so long ago began to rebel. She was tired of being trapped and wanted to get out.
Using the power of my thoughts
One day I just stopped and said to myself, ‘This isn’t who you are or who you want to be. But who are you?” That was the beginning of my journey back to myself.
I had always been interested in psychology and spirituality, although I had never pursued those interests. But as the urge to be the real me grew, I revisited the issues. I wanted to learn more about myself and people in general.
So I did some research. I have read many books, the most life changing being those by Dr. Wayne Dyer who was an expert in self development and spiritual growth. I studied things like energy healing and aromatherapy and learned how to read tarot cards. I attended seminars, workshops and lectures, including one with Dr. Dyer himself, where I felt embraced by his peaceful energy.
Then came the important part: applying the things I learned to my own life. The most effective action I took was to harness the power of my thoughts. I paid attention to my thoughts and noticed how often I judged myself negatively for doing so, and then worked to change the negative energy around my thoughts, my actions, and my life in general.
learn to love myself
In September 2009 I attended a conference in Laguna Beach, California. A few days later I was sitting on the beach watching and listening to the sound of the waves when I suddenly felt different.
For the first time in my life I felt a true and loving connection to who I was as a person. I felt free and I knew that everything would be fine as long as I listened to the voice of my soul – the voice I had locked away. I had already started to feel this way, but that day it felt like the last veil had been lifted and I knew I had nothing and no one to fear anymore.
Return home with a new perspective
I returned home armed with my new empowered attitude. No more blaming others for my difficulties—I had started taking responsibility for my own happiness. Whenever I had a thought that I recognized as destructive, I actively exchanged it for a constructive one.
For example, when I drive my three children to activities every afternoon, I always get in a bad mood. I would think, “Here we go again. Driving all afternoon with no time for anything else. I hate it.” I swapped that out with, “I’m so grateful that I can take the time to drive my kids where they need to go. What a blessing to be able to make it possible for them and to share their joy see.”
Making this change required constant attention at first, but after about a week it became easier. And after a month or two I noticed that most of my thoughts were constructive. And the benefits have been amazing. My feelings changed from resistance, impatience, and irritability to awareness and appreciation. It made me braver, more tolerant, and more able to see the beauty in everything I was experiencing.
Another strategy I used was making a list of all my fears. Once I did that, it was time to face any fear. Whenever one of them came up in my daily life—let’s say, when I felt I was wrong without reason—I didn’t back down but responded immediately. I knew these were the things holding me back and I had no excuse but to face them.
Courtesy of Erika Art
Discover a new meaning in life
Today I feel like I have laid the foundation for happiness as a natural state of being. I still experience sadness and frustration, but I no longer let those emotions control me. My fears now offer an opportunity for growth. They show me that I’m about to have another breakthrough, and I can’t get enough of those breakthrough moments.
Looking back, I see my past experiences the same way. I don’t blame my father for the way he was – he was overwhelmed and shaped by his own difficult youth. He was by no means a bad man; When you needed him, you could rely on him 100 percent. He did what he thought was right and probably wasn’t aware of how it made me feel. The experience was a necessary part of my journey to see myself more clearly.
I’ve also discovered a new purpose: to share what I’ve experienced in hopes that others will be inspired to change their lives for the better. I have written five books including I am free: Awareness of who you are by discovering who you are not, gave lectures, seminars and workshops and founded a therapy practice. I also did book signings which has given my life so much meaning.
I was unhappy but I was able to change my attitude. We are not willless victims programmed by our fellow human beings. We are the programmers of ourselves!
– As Alyssa Sybertz said