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Why you aren't as happy as you could be - #2

Reason #2: You’re upset with yourself for not being happier.

A curious thing we humans tend to do is beat ourselves up for not feeling a certain way. We have a real talent for adding more suffering onto the natural suffering that is just part of the human condition. 

Part of the human experience is happiness, and part of the human experience is unhappiness. It’s just the way it is. We are never going to eliminate all the unhappiness. As discussed in the previous post, we actually need this contrast in order to experience happiness at all. Yet, when we feel that we should be happier, like we have certain circumstances that should be making us happy most of the time, then we judge ourselves for not feeling happy most of the time.

This can sound like, “I have a stable job and an income that meets my needs, I’m healthy and my partner and kids are healthy… but I just feel like something is missing in my life, I have this feeling that things could be better somehow… but as soon as I start thinking that, I can’t even believe what I’m saying. How can I even say that? My friend just lost her job and income, my cousin was recently diagnosed with cancer, and a student at my kid’s school was just in an accident… What is wrong with me, that I am not super happy all the time given that I have things so good?”

First of all -- as noted in the previous post -- circumstances, no matter how great they are, simply do not result in lasting happiness. You got the job, it made you happy, and then you went back to your “set-point”. That’s just the way it works. Now, can you spend some time reflecting on the positive circumstances in your life and being grateful for them? Yes, definitely! (And that usually does increase feelings of happiness.) But one thing that’s not going to make you happier is beating yourself up for not being happier. 

Notice when you do that. 

When you catch yourself doing it, remind yourself that you are human, and humans are susceptible to the hedonic treadmill, and it’s not something inherently wrong with you.

It’s also normal to want to be happier; most people report that more than anything else they want increased happiness, or they want other things because they think it will bring them increased happiness. 

Then remember, the thing that is going to make you feel more content with your life is living your life in line with your values, doing the things that are truly important to you, that give you meaning and that help you grow and that make you feel like you are truly living. 

I repeat, beating yourself up for not being happier is not going to make you happier. 

Complete the values work I discussed in my previous blog post, and take one action step within one value domain.


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