Last night I attended an event at The Wheeler Centre. It was a  panel discussion titled ‘A Blush Of Boys’ that investigated both boys and mens experiences of being a male in today’s world. My 13 year old daughter was with me and when they invited questions from the audience my daughter, who is a thoughtful, dreamy child, posed the final question to the panel. The audience responded to her simple yet thought-provoking question with a loud roar of applause. She sat back down in her chair eagerly awaiting a response. Each individual on the panel were invited to respond to her question and to her delight each opened with a comment on the strength of the question.

This experience moved my daughter, as this public encouragement may have many of us, though she did not fully understand it. She commented that upon delivering the question she “didn’t realise it was such a good question”. And herein lays my point. It is our role to wonder, ponder, ask and investigate. It is our role to create, channel our gifts, pursue and be determined. It is our role to be ourselves, find our voice and develop our individuality. It is through these measures that we discover who we truly are. Through investigating what interests us we may (or may not) discover what interests others. In pursuing our passion and committing to it we may discover gifts we have to offer the world but this is not why we should do it.

With so many platforms now to make ourselves seen and heard it is easy to get caught up in public response and become addicted to their feedback. I once read a recommendation to bloggers that suggested you actively go out into the world and do things that would be great to blog about. It felt counter-intuitive to me to manufacture a life that the mostly anonymous reader would hopefully find interesting or appealing.

The bigger issue of discovering and living an authentic life is being overlooked in exchange for the attention of strangers.

If we constantly live our lives with an audience in mind it stifles our innocence. It limits our willingness to play and stumble and it inhibits a sense of freedom that pursuing things privately affords us. It seems no wonder then that anxiety and depression are on the rise in our current society. We are giving up our own freedom in exchange for a public profile and losing our innocence. We are seeking approval from the outside world instead of looking inward to help us understand what makes us happy. Having our own measure of success is crucial to creating a fulfilling life. We are using feedback from the mostly anonymous outside world as our guide in life and I think this is leading us astray. The more self-conscious we become, the more anxious we become, and we lose our way on the road to becoming who we are meant to be.

So, to find your happiness, reconnect with your innocence. Reconnect with the part of you
that has no agenda, that is willing to explore from a place of purity and naiveté. Stand up in public and ask questions that will help you in your own life in some way, rather than trying to second guess what may impress others. Pursue a career/interest/life that genuinely makes your heart sing despite its likelihood to bring fame and fortune. Spend quiet moments alone and listen to where you heart is driving you. It requires discipline and courage to  create a life of true happiness and fulfilment, and there are no shortcuts. It is our life’s journey to discover our own true definition of happiness.