I used to never want to celebrate my birthday. I was shy and didn’t like the attention. Part of it was growing up a middle child and never feeling like I fit in. Part of it was that I felt awkward and uncomfortable in the limelight.

But there was a part of me that wanted the attention, that craved it because I never felt I had any. It’s a weird paradox.

I was introverted and scared to have attention called upon me in almost any situation but yet I yearned to be heard and my voice to matter.

But what I didn’t realize back all those years ago (and even until just recently) is that I didn’t need to be heard by others to make me happy. What I actually discovered is that I needed to listen to myself. My innermost thoughts were the voice that was being suppressed all along.

I wasn’t looking for approval from the outside. That’s where I was mistaken. I needed approval internally. Approval that the decisions I was making, the things I wanted to do, the people I wanted to be around were all my decisions if I just listened to myself.

What I have come to realize and respect is that the only way to discover happiness is we must first discover ourselves. We must be willing to gain acceptance from within before ever looking for outside validation.

We know what we want. We do. We’ve just let “society” do the play calling for us instead of being in the center of the huddle and scripting our own plays.

That’s where the game can change. We are in control of our happiness if we want to be. What we spend time doing, who we spend time with, how our attitude is every day, where we put our energy, and what we know is our “why”.

It’s in our control if we take the time to block out the noise around us and listen inward.

We don’t have to fear the limelight as long as we show up as our true authentic selves and put into the world what is deep inside us and makes us energized and driven toward a life full of happiness.

What we should all fear is suppressing that voice and following the direction of what others think we should do. What others care about. What others are doing.

Because their decisions don’t affect us.

The people who we want to be around the most and who love, support, and respect us are never making it about them. They are only asking us one question, “What do you want?”

Are we prepared to trust our inner voice and answer?