I recently finished the book Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin, which focuses on small, everyday steps that can make you happier. Gretchen explains that a key to her happiness was thinking about, and then embracing, what it means to Be Gretchen. These were the small quirks and specific preferences that define important aspects of her life. She provides a specific example: for her entire life, Gretchen has always loved children’s literature. For many years she tried to mask or ignore this interest, thinking that it wasn’t an appropriate hobby for a mature adult. But she was much happier when she embraced her love for The Hobbit and Little House in the Big Woods. In fact, the children’s literature book club that she started connected her to many new friends and inspired her own writing projects.
This example caught my attention because I’ve always loved teen fiction, but it also struck a deeper cord and got me thinking about what it means to Be Hannah. Many people use the adage “Be Yourself” as an encouragement to avoid constant comparison with others, but I want to talk about a different way to be yourself, an inner originality that is only achieved when you fully accept your own unique subtleties. I considered some of the quirks that are integral to who I am. And I realized how important it is to appreciate and accept those unique details about yourself. I’m not encouraging you to avoid change, because self expansion is important. However, taking the time to be who you are and do what you love, no matter whether anyone else thinks it’s crazy, will make you happier – I guarantee it. To get you started thinking, here are a few essential qualities that I see in myself – a small slice of what it means to Be Hannah. What makes you, you?
- I like to have a place for everything. At a shallow level, this comes across through my affinity for organizing. Whether it’s my closet, kitchen cupboards, or bathroom counter, I love for each and every item to have a designated home. Extending deeper is a similar desire for order within my own mental space and relationships with others. I like to have a clear understanding of the world around me and to know what to expect from others. I think that it’s because of this quality that my friends see me as dependable and loyal, a rock that holds the group together. This mindset may come across as rigid to some, but I’ve accepted that this stability actually helps me to feel comfortable in taking more chances.
- I’m not a fan of small talk. Like many introverts, I often prefer to spend time on my own rather than around a group of strangers or vague acquaintances. However, I actually enjoy meeting new people, so long as I feel that our conversation is meaningful and our connection is real. While some people enjoy chit chat simply for the new stimuli it provides, I need to believe that there is purpose behind a conversation. It’s been tough to accept this aspect of myself, particularly because small talk is often necessary: for instance, in the elevator at work or the checkout line at the grocery store. But accepting this about myself has helped me to devise strategies to tackle these situations and to more consciously seek out deeper emotional conversations.
- I love to show love through baking. This may seem strange, or very specific, but it struck me the other day. I’m not be the most outgoing or infectious person in the world, but I love to give to my friends and family by baking them delicious sweet treats. Providing for and doting upon others is a natural tendency for me. Offering fresh baked chocolate chip cookies or my famous brownies is more suited to my reserved personality than effusive or uninhibited words of affirmation – and I don’t see anyone complaining!
- I’m a true romantic. Whether it’s Taylor Swift, The Notebook, or even The Bachelor, I’m a sucker for a fairytale love story. I constantly daydream about little things, like a perfect bouquet of flowers, and bigger things, like my future home and husband. Fundamentally, I think that this attitude is reflective of my optimistic hope that things will only get better, and that everything that’s meant to happen in this life will someday come to be. This outlook certainly means that sometimes I’ll be disappointed, but that won’t stop me from continuing to strive towards that happily ever after.