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Conditional vs. True Happiness

I’ve been thinking about conditional happiness since it was mentioned in last month’s reading of The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, and I also talked about it in my solo episode about body image and intuitive eating on The Blonde Files Podcast.

Conditional happiness tells us that if/when X happens, we’ll be happy. It means living in constant fear of losing the thing that we’re holding responsible for our happiness. Trust me, I’ve done this over and over again until I learned the hard way that I’m responsible for my own happiness; it’s an inner fulfillment that nothing external can satisfy. I can be grateful for circumstances and abundance – but that’s different from true happiness.

True happiness isn’t dependent on anything outside of ourselves; it’s internal. When happiness is conditional, we see it as a goal to be attained rather than an expression of who we are. True happiness is the simple joy of just being! It shouldn’t be a goal but a way of life. So when true happiness is the way, all of our actions come from a calm and confident place rather than a place of fear.

I’ve found that if I approach anything in life from a place of negativity or hate, I’m not going to be successful; it’s not sustainable. Maybe I’ll accomplish whatever I set out to do but I’m miserable the whole time. I can tell you from experience that when I look back at old photos and I see where my body was physically when I was at my breaking point, it was my “goal body” – but that wasn’t what I saw or felt at the time. I just kept wanting to go further and get that spot in my stomach and that part in my arms; the goalpost kept moving down the field and it was never enough.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have physical goals and achieve them and be happy with them because I feel like that’s where I am now, but the difference now is that I do things from a place of self-love and self-acceptance. My motivation is feeling my best because how I look will always be changing and fluctuating. If my condition for loving and being happy with myself is solely based on how I look, then I’m going to be in a constant state of fear and dissatisfaction.

I learned that fear is 1 of 3 things: not getting what you want, losing what you have or being found out. I don’t want place my happiness in something that’s changing and I don’t want to try to control things in order to be happy. So slow down, tune in, accept what it is right here right now and ask, “What can I do to support myself now in this moment? What do I really need?”

Have you or are you experiencing conditional happiness? Have you experienced something that changed your perspective on happiness? I’d love to hear!