Sunday Snippet: Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse)

“I often think you bring unhappiness on yourself, because if you don’t like yourself very much, you allow yourself to be influenced by people who reinforce that.”

We all want to be happy. That much is obvious, but the problem is that many of us look to external sources for that happiness. We lead ourselves to believe that when we land that high-paying job and we’re driving that expensive convertible around a mountain highway that we will be happy, but it really has to start from within. There is no single reality, because your perception of reality will always color your experience.

If you go into a situation where you “don’t like yourself very much,” you’re certainly going to face a lot of challenges when it comes to achieving happiness. You’re more likely to focus on the negative aspects of the experience, particularly as they pertain to your self-worth, and less likely to notice the more positive aspects. This is very much the philosophy that underpins the self-fulfilling prophecy, both positive and negative.

The quote above comes from Lynn Johnston, a cartoonist who may know best from her For Better or For Worse comic strip that was syndicated across many newspapers in its over 30-year history. Raised in North Vancouver, she became one of the best known cartoonists to come out of Canada. This is despite facing several personal issues in her life, including her abusive mother, her first husband, and her lack of preparation to be a mother to her first child. She was faced with a lot of negativity, but she was able to rise above it.

This isn’t to say that Lynn viewed the world through rose-tinted glasses. She was also very wary of being too positive, as reflected in this quote:

“In a way, a certain amount of self-criticism is a good thing, because it keeps you humble. Realizing that no matter what success you’ve achieved, you can still make enemies makes you humble, too.”

Life is about balance. We certainly don’t want to dwell on the negative, because all that’s going to do is fuel more negativity. At the same time, we need to be critical of ourselves, not only to keep us humble, but also to encourage continued growth. When you recognize the areas in your life in need of improvement, you can motivate yourself to get better, to do better, and to be better.

It’s amazing just how much insight we are able to derive from comic book artists and cartoonists. Society typically views comic strips as a mildly comical distraction from the real perils that affect the real world, but we can learn a lot from artists like Lynn Johnston, Jim Davis, Bill Watterson and Gary Larson. Indeed, I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist and I may one day achieve that goal. I just have to remain positive, while also remaining humble.