Dear daughter,

Some people are just born smiling. Everyone else has to work at it.

Learn how to take charge of your own happiness.

No one can make you happy. No one can make you fulfilled or content. Not a partner, not a job, not money and not even children you love more than life itself.

Happiness is a choice you have to make, and it is hard.

In order to be happy you have to fight off feelings of guilt and inadequacy and the desire to please. You have to let go of the idea of perfection and see the beauty in the chaos of your life. You have to take responsibility—for your actions, for your words, for your mistakes. And you can’t try to control everything either (trust me on this one), which only leads to disappointment.

Happiness won’t just come to you. You have to reach out and take it. Even be a little greedy with it. You have to fill your life with things that bring YOU joy, and sometimes that means ignoring what others want you to do. That sounds easy in theory, but it is so difficult for most women.

Strive for connection—to people, to passions, to art, to anything that brings you peace and contentment. Work hard at creating deeper relationships with friends and family and finding gratitude for the little things.

But please don’t try to fill a happiness void in your life with another tangible such as food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc. These are short-term fixes and will never solve your problems. 

You won’t be happy every moment or even every day. We all face bad times. But when you know how to make yourself happy, you can always find happiness again (and again.)

The best part of achieving happiness as a woman? When you’re happy, you want to lift others up as well. You can spread compliments and compassion and grace around like confetti—which makes everyone feel good.

Sometimes your happiness will mean cutting out the negativity in your life. This might mean less social media or putting boundaries up to toxic people. Do not believe it when someone says this is selfish. You have to protect your happiness.

Because a happy person often surrounds herself with happy people. 

If you learn anything from me, sweet girl, I want you to learn how I found my happiness. You bring me so much joy, but being happy? That comes from deep within myself and it took me a long time to get here.

Find out what makes you the happiest, dear daughter, and then do that. A lot.

You deserve all the happiness you can get out of this life.

As do we all.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.