People talk a lot about happiness in the future tense. How many times have you heard friends say, How many times have you heard friends say, “If I could just find the right guy, I’d be so happy,” as they sigh deeply?” But happiness is not a circumstance to wait for. Happiness is being satisfied with who you are, where you are, and where you’re going. It’s all about you. Happiness requires no one else’s approval, validation or permission. Your own happiness is one of the few things you have complete control over and while cultivating happiness can be hard work, it’s work no one else can do for you.

Myths that steal our joy

So why are so many of us unhappy or dissatisfied? There are a lot of reasons, but certainly part of it is because the media and people around have fed us lies and told us that we should be unhappy. We are told what we are supposed to want and when our circumstances fall short, we feel it. Of all the myths that keep us down, there are two that stand above the rest.

Myth #1: You need a “Significant Other” to be happy

This is possibly the biggest lie out there and arguably the one that most of us believe. Surely if there’s someone who thinks we’re special, who wants to be with us and spend time with us, isn’t that a sure-fire recipe for bliss?

Wrong! Somebody, anybody, is not better than nobody. Don’t get me wrong, a relationship with the right person is a wonderful sweep-you-off-your-feet experience well worth the effort. But if you’re looking for someone to fill an empty spot in your heart, you’re asking for the impossible and will end up disappointed.

Myth #2: If I just got married everything would be perfect

It may not be the biggest myth out there, but this one runs a close second. There seems to be a general opinion floating around that if two heads are better than one, then marriage has to be the end-all answer for everything. It is tragically untrue. Your spouse or future spouse is not a Fairy Godmother with a magic wand who will make all the problems in your life disappear. The hoopla surrounding a wedding can be pretty distracting for a while, but eventually you will get home from the honeymoon and reality will be waiting for you.

The truth is that no person, no matter how perfect or charming, can make you happy all on their own. Happiness is an individual sport — just you and the clock. How you see yourself, the kinds of people you surround yourself with, and the way you see your job and your place in society — all of these will impact your happiness in a way that no one person ever could. And this is great news. It means that you don’t have to wait for anyone. You can start working towards being happier right now.

The first step toward a happier you

If you’re not happy with your life, now is a great time to look at the reasons why (and after getting this far through the article don’t even think of blaming it on your love life!) Why are you unhappy? Are you lonely? Disappointed? Scared? Feel rejected? Unworthy? Angry? Harboring regrets? Take a good long look at what you’re really feeling. As Dr. Phil McGraw, relationship guru to millions through his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show is fond of saying, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” Now is the time to figure out what’s really bothering you.

The time to deal with the issues that are making you unhappy is before you get into a relationship. Think about it – you can be utterly selfish for awhile and only deal with what you need. What you lack in intimacy, you gain in space, and space can be a wonderful balm for the healing process. If you don’t feel like you can face these things alone, head for a friend — not a new boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s unfair to expect someone who hardly knows you to work through these things with you, and it’s almost impossible for him or her to give you the honesty you’ll need. A good friend however, knows you well enough to encourage you and help you and to give you insight from an honest and loving perspective. Don’t doom a new relationship by turning dinner into a therapy session.

You have to like yourself first

The key here is to realize that the most important element to finding happiness is finding peace with yourself. If your opinion of yourself is healthy, you are much better equipped to face whatever challenges the world throws at you. If you have low self-esteem (and many of us do) the first thing you need to realize is that you can’t keep looking to other people to validate your existence. You must get to a place where you like yourself, by yourself, if you’re going to make a relationship a success. If you rely on a partner, or a parent, or a boss for your self image, you’re putting a lot of power into the hands of another person.

The way we value ourselves governs the way we treat ourselves, how we judge success and failure, the choices we make, the people we spend time with, and how we allow those people to treat us. You have to respect yourself to get respect from others. The road to self-esteem can be a long one and old scars can make the journey seem almost impossible. It took me five years to get to a place where I liked myself again (you can read my story here). It is worth it.

Once you are in a place where you like yourself and value yourself for who you are, you are in a great position to be happy — whether you are single or in a relationship. You will be better prepared to make a good choice of who should be your partner. The one person you are guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with is you, so if you want to be happy for rest of your life, the time to make peace with yourself is now.

This article was written by: Claire Colvin

Photo Credit: Richard Jaimes