Happiness that is out of your control
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
Since I was a child, I always believed that if I could just figure people out then I could have some control over whether they like me or love me and I would feel accepted. But I keep coming to the conclusion that I can’t control other people’s happiness, that their happiness is fully out of my control.
About eight months ago it was my 35th birthday and Salsa socials were starting. So my dance assistants and I decided to go out dancing to celebrate. We were all having a great time and I was dancing and seeing all these incredible friends that I hadn’t seen in two years – since pre Covid times. It was beautiful.
As I finished one dance, I was lit up and excited and I saw a girl walking by and I tapped her on the shoulder and I asked her to dance. She turned around and warning bells went off in my mind because of her body language and demeanor. She had incredibly low energy and she wasn’t smiling. It just didn’t feel right.
When I asked her to dance, she turned around and definitely did not look interested in me or dancing at all but she shrugged her shoulders and said “I guess.” So we started to dance.
But the people pleaser in me came out. I had to get this girl to smile. So I did everything I could. I was trying everything I could to make her happy and to make her smile. If she smiled by the end of the song, I figured I would have done a good job and that’s a win.
So we were dancing and 45 seconds into the song she wasn’t smiling. Then a minute and a half in, she still wasn’t smiling and she started looking around at other dancers. She wasn’t even making eye contact with me and I was feeling insecure. I turned into my inner 16-year-old, insecure Aleks. What’s wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Why wouldn’t she be happy with me? And so I said to her:”Hey, listen, you know, if there’s someone else you’re looking for who you want to dance with, that’s okay.”
She blinked a couple times, looked back at me, paused and shrugged her shoulders. “No, it’s ok. This is fine.”
Then, I felt even more frustrated and more inadequate. After another 15 seconds or so I tried again, “Hey, listen, maybe if you’re tired. That’s okay. We don’t have to finish this dance.”
Again, she blinked a couple of times, looked at me and shrugged. “No, we can finish it.”
And so we finished the dance and I felt so unworthy. Right at the end of the song I shook her hand and said “Thank you for the dance.”
She said; “Okay,” shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
I was crushed – she hadn’t smiled and I definitely had not made her happy. I had to go sit down for a moment. This was only eight months ago. At a time when I am surrounded by people who love me. It’s me – Aleks. I run the largest Salsa Dance School in Canada. At this point my self-love level was pretty high and yet, at that moment I felt empty and insecure. I started playing back the dance in my head and wondering if I could have done something differently or done a different move. So as I was sitting there, I was starting to spiral and my self-doubt was growing.
As I was sitting there lost in thought, this girl approached and said, “Oh my god, it’s you – Aleks!” I looked up and I saw a ray of sunshine. This girl was so happy and so energetic and said; “I’m from India and I just got here two weeks ago and I’ve been following you on Instagram all the way from India and not only do I love your dancing but I love your positivity and energy! Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?”
I looked up at her, smiled and I wanted to tell her how grateful I was because of what I just went through. But she didn’t need to hear that so I smiled and said “Let’s dance!” So we danced, and it was amazing and a massive change from my previous dance.
Here’s the cool thing. One girl came into my life who wasn’t smiling and wasn’t happy. Another girl came into my life and was happy. And in both circumstances, I had no control over their happiness. I forget that sometimes. In both dance and in relationships, I tend to work so hard to make people happy, but that is not my job.
I can create a warm environment, I can create a positive environment. But when I try to create happiness in someone else, I always lose and I become resentful. Maybe you’re like me and maybe this is a great reminder. Whether it’s in dance or in life, sometimes people won’t smile. That is not your fault and it is not your job to make them happy. Their happiness – just like yours and mine – comes from within.
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