In the times that we live in today, where social media has this insidious, persistent effect on our everyday lives, we are so much more aware of the goings-on of our fellow man than we ever were in the past. I have previously explored the effects of this comparison, and so I won’t go into detail again, but this does link up to another issue that arises – we start to place the responsibility for our own happiness, or own contentment, on those around us.
We live in a society that is increasingly individualistic, which means that the needs of the one are valued above the needs of the many. This is in contrast to a collectivistic culture, in which the good of the whole is more important than individual needs or desires. There is plenty of room for debate in terms of how this ties into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and self-actualization in particular; this term refers to the ultimate realization of the potential within an individual and is assumed to be the highest level at which an individual can function. But, it also places emphasis on the self, and not on that self-being someone who can actually do good for others. This, however, is an issue to be explored another day, in another post.
So, humans should set out to achieve this total self-sufficiency within themselves. While it is an elusive ideal to achieve, we all have the drive to achieve it, and we tend to engage in behaviors in order to make it happen. This brings me to the point of this entry – we place the responsibility on others to make us feel this way. We are externally motivated, and we need the approval of others in order to feel good. When others don’t place our happiness above their own, we feel rejected and angry. We give others so much power to make or break us.
We also tend to expect things to make us happy. We let these external things determine our level of life satisfaction. Weather, clothes, food, movies and TV series, cars, houses … These things make us happy, and so have the power to make us unhappy. We compare and contrast, and then judge ourselves based on the conclusions we draw, which are really based on flawed data in the first place. We measure our success based on the material things we have acquired, and the more we have, the more successful and happy we expect to be. But this reality is fraught with trouble, in that when things go amiss when hard times arise, our sense of self takes a dip as our material goods do; as what others think of us changes, our own perceptions of who we are and what we are worth change too.
The day that we realize that we are in charge of our own happiness, our own happiness will improve. We have the wherewithal to choose to do the things we like, the things that make us happy. We can choose who we want to spend time with, and we can choose people who make us laugh, people who love life, instead of people who are draining and choose only to complain about everything. We can choose where we want to go, why, when… We also have the capacity to choose to never be content with what we have, in which case we will aspire to something out of our reach. We can choose to focus on the negative things in our lives, or we can focus on the positive. We can look at our strengths and weaknesses and grow the former while trying to turn the latter into something positive too.
As human beings, we have so much power for choice, but we tend to think of ourselves as helpless victims of our circumstances. Have-nots, rather than the haves. We focus on what could have been, rather than what can be, or the reality of what is. My advice? Look on the bright side. Take what you need from every situation, and grow from every experience. Be determined to keep your head up. There will be bad times when it will be hard to live your life like this – give yourself a break. Allow yourself time to feel sad, to feel sorry, but make sure it’s a limited amount of time, followed by an activity, or a phone call with someone, that makes you feel good. Know the difference between people that add value, and those that don’t, and make sure you have more of the former; but more importantly, make sure that YOU are the former.