On Being Content

When I look around, everyone seems to be so ambitious. Whether it’s people I barely know, or my closest friends, everyone seems to be striving toward something: To lose a few pounds, to graduate magna cum laude, to find the dream job, to gain more Instagram followers, to find the love with that everlasting spark.

Being surrounded by all these ambitious friends and acquaintances (aka people I stalk online) can be exhausting. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s in no way a bad thing to work toward something, to have certain goals.

But sometimes I feel like this ongoing ambition contest also leads to never being satisfied with the current state.

Julika in Vienna, Austria Aren’t summer days, and flowers, and a solo trip to Vienna enough to be content?

When I imagine my grandparents’ generation, I’m convinced that it was a really good thing to just be content back then. A steady income (to provide food for the family), a comfortable home, a solid yet uneventful relationship, a car and maybe a beach vacation each summer. This is definitely is what my grandma would consider a good life with no reasons to complain. It would have been enough for her, more than enough even.

However, if I asked someone my age about how they are feeling, and their answer was “I’m content”, I’d be really confused.

The usage of the word “content” would imply that this person doesn’t want to change a thing about their life. And that’s strange, right? Why wouldn’t you want to change something? There is so much to be improved, isn’t there? This can’t be “it” just yet?

Julika at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Is experiencing spectacular Croatia views once in a life-time enough to be content?

But when did being content become a bad thing? Or a not-good-enough thing? Isn’t it enough to be satisfied with what you got and not constantly work toward a better tomorrow?

When I look at myself, I really don’t know why I never say that I’m content — but apparently, I prefer to point out what’s missing instead:

Why can’t I say “I’m content with being 20 pounds overweight, but healthy”? Why do I have to insist on wanting to change something about my looks all the time?

Why can’t I say “I’m content with my apartment, because it’s a cozy home?” Why do I have to complain about my furniture not matching and the lack of super creative DIY storage solutions?

Why can’t I say “I’m content with my job: I have flexible hours, and I’m totally interested in the field I’m working in”? Why do I have to still figure out if this is my true calling and ponder whether I was maybe destined to do something else?

Why can’t I say “I’m absolutely content to be happy in my relationship and there’s nothing I want to change, because we’re perfectly normal”? Why do I have make a drama out of socks on the floor and nostalgically reminisce about those days when everything was still new and exciting?

Why can’t I say “I’m content with traveling several times a year”? Why does every Facebook update from a traveling friend makes me feel like someone punched me in the stomach?

Why can’t I say “I’m content with being inspired by all the creative people online”? Why do I have to feel bad that I can’t braid my hair like that, that I can’t make my food look this nice, that I don’t have a fashion blogger wardrobe?

Julika in Berlin, Germany Aren’t regular trips to Berlin enough to be content?

I’ve recently understood that it is socially more acceptable to talk about the things you want and need to achieve in the future than to simply admit that you’re content. But are ambitions and long-term goals really more important than being content in the present?

I didn’t really come up with any New Year’s resolutions this year, but maybe “being content with being content” should have been one. Because sometimes I feel like I’m sabotaging myself with always striving, always complaining, always not being “there yet”. Maybe I should stop comparing myself to the photoshopped version of seemingly flawless lives online and just get used to admitting that I’m content with what my life is like right now.

 

Are you content?

 

 

  • Corinne Vail

    Maybe if you are “content” you are doing what is right for you! I like ambition, but I do think we should be happy with what we do in the everyday as well. Good post!

    • JulikaSarah

      Good point, Corinne! Thank you!

  • Excellent point, Julika! I think if we’re ‘just’ content then we’re seen as stagnant and unambitious. A good reminder that the ultimate goal in life is to be happy.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, Christine! I’m glad you agree!

  • I think the desire for “more “is something our generation has really cultivated. We can always have more, be more, try more. We are never rich enough, skinny enough or happy enough. It’s why I love this post, because sometimes you don’t need to constantly be looking, sometimes you can just revel and enjoy in what you have!

    • Ps. I am totally OBSESSED with being happy/happier. I think it’s why I reflex on it alot haha

    • JulikaSarah

      Couldn’t have phrased it any better, Ashley! Glad you agree!

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    I totally struggle with this. I always feel like there’s more I could be doing and thus have trouble relaxing- because it’s hard to enjoy the moment when you are always wanting more from your life. I definitely want to learn how to be more content this year too!

    • JulikaSarah

      I’m glad you can relate, Ashley, even though learning how to be content can be a tricky task!

  • It’s funny because my best friend and I were talking about this the other day in the context of one of our other close friends. More than other people I know, she is constantly looking forward to the “next big thing” and doesn’t seem to enjoy life in the present. Ever since I’ve known her (15 years), she has said things along the lines of “I can’t wait to finish high school, university will be so much better”, then “I can’t wait to finish my first degree, I’ll definitely meet an awesome guy when I do my Masters”, then “I can’t wait to finish my Masters, I’ll be so much happier in a career”.

    She is also an avid traveler and when I was texting her the other day she said “I can’t wait to explore X country next week”, all the while she’s in another country not enjoying herself and not making much effort to go out and do things.

    It really is all about being happy with where you are today because if you’re never happy/satisfied/content “today”, you will never be happy!

    • JulikaSarah

      I know exactly what you mean, Elizabeth! I’ve been looking forward to “the next big thing” for the longest time too, but it’s so important to learn to live and enjoy every moment!

  • I love reading this so much Julika. You totally hit the nail on the head in ways other people haven’t been able to. So great and so honest! Bravo!!

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much, Jessica!

  • This is something I struggle with so much. To the point where it was probably a big cause of my depressive state for a many years in college (that and brain chemicals but…). I’m always trying to look to the next big thing, never just happy with the way things are now. It’s good to have goals, but like you said, sometimes we should just try to live in the moment and be happy for all that we have! Because I think we are both pretty awesome and have a lot to be content about 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Glad you can relate, Amanda! I agree, we definitely have many good reasons to be happy and content in the now! 🙂

  • Laura

    Perfectly said Julika! Is it the internet? The fact that it’s constantly in our faces that people are doing things that we feel incomplete, like we should be doing that too? I’m content 🙂 Thanks.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, Laura! I believe the internet does play such a big role in this! Glad you’re content though! 🙂

  • Eva

    I guess it’s human nature to want to be better than others and nowadays we can peek into people’s lives so easily and we believe they live a “more worthy” life than us. We often don’t realize that it’s just a very carefully selected portion of their lives that they show us. Being content these days is associated with being pretentious for some reason when the truth is that if we are never content with what we have, we will never, ever be happy, no matter how many of our goals we reach. And who says that being content means you want your life to stagnate and not achieve anything else? It’s a sad direction we’re headed if saying you’re happy with your life means you are worse than those who aren’t. Beautiful post, very thought-provoking and I agree with you 100%!

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you so much, Eva! I have to remind myself every day how very little about “the perfect Instagram lives” out there is actually true and that it is so wrong to pressure myself to make my own life look similarly perfect. Happiness should be defined by more than just good looks and reached goals!

  • I loved reading this and Completely relate. Thanks for sharing & good luck on embracing being content, I need to as well.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, Rachel! I’m glad you could relate!

  • Kathi

    Yes! I am so guilty of this too. I would say that I’m content but it’s still so hard for me to focus on the present – especially now that I know this year will bring me to so many new places. I’m allowed to be excited about this but shouldn’t forget to stay focused on all the good things I have here right now.
    It’s difficult not to compare yourself to others all the time. Maybe if we were all a bit more honest with each other about our feelings and wishes this would be less of an issue? So you’d (as in: people in general, not you) like to live abroad like me? Well, I’d like to be close to my family and have my own kitchen too! And so on… 😉

    • JulikaSarah

      “Focus on the present!” is something we should all say to ourselves more often, Kathi! 🙂

  • Shing

    Isn’t it kinda ironic that reading your blog makes me feel more content? 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks Shing 🙂

  • j j holland

    i love your honesty. and sincere words.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you!