The One Thing You Need To Stop Doing If You Actually Want To Be Happy

Photo: marekuliasz | Getty Images / J Meza Photography | Pexels
Woman looking sadly into a mirror

Finding happiness isn't easy. But any person who truly does embrace being happy eventually has to overcome one big obstacle.

They have to get over themselves.

That sounds like a joke, but seriously take a moment to consider how we talk to ourselves.

RELATED: 5 Hopeful Signs Your Life Is About To Become Much Happier

One of the first things we’re taught as little kids is to “use our words.” And, once we start talking, then it’s a lifelong lesson in how to be polite and treat other people the way that we’d want to be treated.

The way we address and speak with other people is a huge portion of maturing into adulthood, and it is constantly reinforced that it is important to talk to other people with kindness.

But what about how we talk to ourselves?

Many of our earliest lessons in life stem from how we talk and relate to one another, so it’s no surprise we’re taught to say please and thank you and refer kindly to strangers. But there are no informal lessons about how you should talk to and perceive yourself.

And that can lead to a perpetual criticism of everything you do — something that people who are truly happy with themselves don't practice.

In other words, you’re trash-talking yourself, and that has got to stop.

I read Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart’s eye-opening book, A Kinder Voice, and was fascinated by her description of how our own inner dialogue creates a destructive viewpoint that we come to rely on as the truth.

“Each time we run a mental narrative — such as I’m not cute enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or good enough — neurons are etching a pathway in the brain,” says Jacobs-Stewart. “…These highways sometimes feel so strong that we think they are etched into our own brains that the words we’ve stated are true. We are literally using repetition to create a negative self-image, which makes us view ourselves poorly. I’m sure you can imagine what that does for your self-esteem.

RELATED: The True Meaning Of Life Isn't About Seeking Happiness

So why are happy people more confident in their thoughts?

They treat themselves with love and kindness.

It can be difficult to realize that loving ourselves for who we are is an area that many people fail in, and if you want to be happy, you're going to have to learn to turn that noise off.

But how?

Tempering your inner voice may not come easily, because there's no one to stop us from mental rhetoric and insults. If you want to be truly happy, then you are going to have to stop constantly tearing yourself down — which is difficult, but not impossible.

Throughout A Kinder Voice, Jacobs-Stewart details this fight to regain control of her inner critics and shows how anyone can learn to do the same.

For her, it was easy to imagine love for another, but when asked to project that same love toward herself, she stumbled — hard:

“The image that came to me was of a plant that is all dried out and unable to soak in fluids. Water just sits on top because the soil is too hard and dry to absorb the nutrients. That was my heart — too guarded, too afraid to take in loving-kindness toward myself. My inner critics ruled with the words You are not good enough.”

RELATED: 10 Things That Won't Actually Make You Happier (And 10 That Will)

Everyone deserves love and appreciation — the kind that comes from without and within; but only you can provide inner acceptance.

Be aware of when you’re putting yourself down — don’t just accept what your inner critics say.

In reading A Kinder Voice I became aware of some proven ways to control those destructive thoughts. One of the methods Jacobs-Stewart advocates and teaches is unbelievably simple: meditation to make ourselves “mindful” of what we’re saying and thinking.

Think about how you would deal with someone you love when they’re hurting. Would you hurl insults when they screw up? Belittle them? Yell for no reason? No?

Then why do it to yourself?  

Don’t listen to the critics who whisper that you’re not good enough. You will never know just how far you can get and how happy you can be unless you embrace yourself wholly. And, to do that, you’re going to have to start treating yourself like the wonderful person you really are.

If you would like to learn more simple meditative ways you can start correcting your inner dialogue, pick up a copy of A Kinder Voice. Or give it to a friend who really needs it.

We could all stand to be a little nicer to ourselves.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Be 10X Happier With Your Life, According To Research

Merethe Najjar is a professional writer, editor, and award-winning fiction author. Her articles have been featured in The Aviator Magazine, Infinite Press, Yahoo, BRIDES, and more.