Aoife Mcatamney offers a powerful reminder that happiness is not a dream for the future; something we will achieve when we have reached perfection, but something to strive for in the present moment. You may not be your perfect weight, or have the salary you'd like, but if we treasure the everyday good then we can achieve happiness now.
A few weeks ago I decided to start making little colourful origami stars and writing something that made me happy on the strips of paper before I folded them up. Some of these things were big things, like the time I met Tom Hanks or a trip I took to Sweden, some of them are people in my life, like my friends and family, and some of them are small things, like pizza or sunsets or baby ducks, but they’re all things that bring me joy. I keep all the little stars in a jar beside my bed so that even when my depression is telling me I’ll never get better and I’m feeling like there’s no light left in the world, I have physical reminders of all the things that make me smile.
It really made me think about all the things I have in my life right now, in this moment, that I have to be happy about, and it helped to change my perspective on what it means to be truly happy. If I’m continually thinking “I’ll be happy when…” I’ll never really be happy, because I’ll always be looking towards the next thing, rather than appreciating what I have now. If I tie all hopes of true happiness up in one thing and it doesn’t work out, where am I supposed to go from there?
When will you be happy? When you get your dream job? When you reach your goal weight? When you get married? When you have a certain amount of money in your bank account?
For me, it’s really difficult to not get caught up in “I’ll be happy when I’m thinner,” and it’s something that I’ve been dealing with for the past few years. I was always very naturally skinny growing up, and it’s taken me a long time to get used to the fact that my body now has curves. I can’t help but sometimes believe that I will be happier when I’m skinnier, but I know for a fact that it isn’t true. At one point I had a BMI of 16.7 and still wasn’t happy with my body, I still wanted to be skinnier. It took me a long time to realise that it doesn’t actually matter what I weigh, that it’s not the number on the scale that will determine whether or not I’m happy, but my attitude towards my body.
When I saw that Label were holding auditions back in September for the fashion show in April I was nowhere near confident enough in my own skin to do something like modelling, but I loved the message of body positivity and self love, so I decided to give it a go, and here I am, with only a month to go until the show! I’m definitely feeling more confident, but getting here was a lot rockier that I had expected. The last few years I’ve managed to stop hating my body, but I didn’t love it either, I’ve just tried to not think about it. Being a part of Label has made me think about my appearance a lot more, and that hasn’t always been easy, (I wore a lace crop top for our photoshoot which was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but I did it!) but I’m slowly but surely learning to love my ‘imperfections’.
I don’t worry so much about my future now. I know that even if I don’t get my dream job or reach my goal weight or earn as much as I’d want to, I’ll be okay, because I’m learning to find a little piece of happiness in everyday. I like to joke that I’m the happiest depressed person you’ll ever meet, and that’s not because I’m pretending or putting on a mask. I do still have bad days where I forget what it feels like to be happy, but because of my jar of little stars I know that it’s only temporary, that I won’t feel like that forever.
There’s a quote from The Philosopher’s Stone that has always resonated with me and now more than ever; “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I think we tend to get so caught up in long term goals and focusing on the future that we forget to try and enjoy the present. I’m not saying you should sacrifice goals you have for the future, just that, and I tried my best to avoid clichés, I really did, happiness is a journey, not a destination. Look for the little everyday things that bring you joy, spend time with the people that love you, don’t think that success is the same thing as happiness. It helps make the dark days a little bit brighter.