A parrot I used to know had a pretty extensive vocabulary. One of the things he would say was, “Well GOOD FOR YOU!” followed by raucous laughter. He would fan out his tail and his eyes would flash yellow and orange and he would look very jolly indeed. It is a truism of the parrot world that five things come not back: The spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, the neglected opportunity, and anything your bird thinks would be funny to repeat, even if she only hears it once, such as the smoke detector. Most people’s birds would waddle around muttering things like “Eat a bag of die in a fire.” Fortunately, the Good For You Parrot heard a constant stream of positivity, enthusiasm, and encouragement. (I realize he is starting to sound like a mythical beast here; surely he was being sarcastic?)
My own bird finds it amusing to feed our dog. They will make eye contact from across the room and he will suddenly jump up and run to her, frantically wagging his tail. She trained him, as a 10-week-old puppy, that she would drop choice tidbits for him. Now all she has to do is squint her eyelid a little and he’s her willing slave. Several times she has illicitly dipped her sneaky beaky into a bag of nuts, where she always tosses him a couple of walnuts before choosing an almond for herself. She seems confident that there will always be plenty for her and enough to share. Maybe it’s noblesse oblige. Maybe it’s her way of paying protection. Maybe she’s just sloppy. Either way, he might as well enjoy the fringe benefits of their association.
Sometimes it can be hard to allow ourselves to enjoy the same things we would wish for other people. We don’t feel entitled. We want our friends and family to be happy and fulfilled. We choose or make gifts we know will be perfect for them. We remember their likes and dislikes and we cook them their favorite foods. We carry them in our hearts and we’re devastated whenever anything in their world goes wrong. But we hold ourselves to a different standard. We don’t feel like we deserve these things for ourselves.
The truth is that other people have a vested interest in your happiness. Your smiles are contagious. You have a great laugh. You’re probably a great hugger. Nobody is served by your down feelings. If you feel ashamed or guilty or lonely or awkward or unworthy, it does nothing to boost anyone else. Someone out there may want to dote on you, and it’s then your job to receive that feeling.
Maybe everyone you’ve ever known has been a naysayer or a source of pain in your life. It does happen. Even the most selfish, cold relatives may still feel proud when you do well. Don’t hold yourself back just to spite them or prove a point. The worse your start, the more inspirational it is when you do well. Your happiness can be a beacon to others who have it worse than you did.
People who love you want you to flourish. People who like you are glad when you do well. People who don’t know you may have their days transformed when you walk by, just seeing the light in your eyes. People who wish you ill? Don’t worry about them. Maybe they’ve never felt that anyone approved of them or regarded them as a kindred spirit. They, too, will benefit from an increase in net happiness in the world. If you don’t feel entitled to be happy on your own account, try a little taste-test and see what your happiness does for others.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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