Where’s the line between your happiness and the happiness of others?
A lot of people blur the boundary and hang their happiness on others. Unfortunately by doing so, they pretty much guarantee unhappiness for everyone involved. No matter who is in your life, whether it’s children, spouse, friends or family members, your happiness has to come from within first. And then once you’re happy, you can help others work on their happiness in a healthy way.
But isn’t it better to give of yourself and make sure others are happy? Isn’t that the selfless thing to do?
Nope. And I’m going to go as far as saying that hanging your happiness on the happiness of others isn’t selfless at all – it’s totally selfish and puts unfair and unrealistic expectations on others.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a couple of examples.
People who have a very selfish idea of happiness are only happy when everyone around them is happy. They also believe that unhappy people should make more of an effort to be happy because it’s not fair to inflict their unhappiness on others.
By hanging your happiness on others in this way, you basically sign yourself up to a roller coaster of emotions as you ride the moods of people around you. You can also make things worse, telling the people around you to be happier because it hurts you to see them unhappy.
Holy pressure, Batman! By telling others this, you’re being way selfish and saying: you are now responsible for my happiness. Too much of this unasked-for responsibility and you’ll end up pushing away all your close relationships, because honestly, who wants to deal with that kind of responsibility?
Rose Nielund from Golden Girls is a classic example of this type. She needed everyone around her to like her and to be happy all the time. If not she would hound them, doing nice things for them and pushing them to be happier so that she could be happy. Of course the opposite usually happened, with people just getting frustrated with her and telling her to leave them alone.
I used to be a Rose but once I learned to find my happiness from within and to not hang my happiness on others, everyone around me (including me!) became a whole lot happier. My close friends and my partner no longer felt responsible for my happiness. They could be themselves, including cranky, irritable, or whatever emotion they were feeling, without having to consider how their mood would affect me. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re free to take bad moods out on me, but if they’re having a bad day, I’m no longer pushing them to cheer me up.
The happiness pusher takes responsibility for everyone’s happiness and get hurt when everyone isn’t all smiles and kittens.
This type often appears in one half of a couple or in parents. They always do things for the other, “taking care” of partners or children, but in reality they’re not paying any attention to what their partner or children really want, nor do they understand that what’s going on in the other person’s world has nothing to do with them.
They push their idea of happiness on the people in their lives. An extreme example of this would be Bree Van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives. She has a very clear idea of what would make everyone happy and she sees it as her duty to tell everyone exactly how they need to behave and what actions to take to be happy. Of course this makes for great television full of laughs and drama, but in real life it’s a bit stressful.
A typical real life example would be parents who stick their kids into activities that they would have loved to do as children but didn’t get the chance to. And while parenting does require taking some responsibility for the happiness of your children, it does not give you free reign to tell them what will make them happy.
Like people who have a selfish happiness, happiness pushers get offended when the people around them aren’t happy. They see it as a personal failing in themselves for not being able to please others, to keep them happy, so they start pushing more, coming up with ways to make others happy without asking what the other person wants and without giving the other person any space to deal with their happiness on their own.
If you’re a happiness pusher, here are two tips that might help you internalize your happiness instead of pushing it on others.
- The world won’t end if the people around you aren’t always happy. It’s okay to be sad, angry, depressed, or whatever every once in a while.
- Everyone is different. What might make you happy won’t necessarily make others happy. Let people choose for themselves what dreams to pursue and what to feel at any given moment.
Of course, there’s an extreme on the other side where the happiness of others doesn’t matter at all and you’re selfish and pushy in a completely different manner. Like all extremes though, there’s a middle ground to be found, a happy medium if you will.
If you really want to make other people happy, be a happy person yourself. Most people like to be happy and studies have shown happiness is catchy. You don’t need to push your happiness on others, or demand that they be happy to keep you happy.
You just need to be happy on your own. That’ll go a long way to making others happy.
And if they’re having a bad day, then go ahead and try to cheer them up, but recognize that sometimes people need to be unhappy for whatever reason. They need to feel blue. That’s not a bad thing – the so-called negative emotions are a part of human existence and shouldn’t be shunned. So let them have a good wallow and continue to be happy on your own. They’ll eventually break out of it and come join in on the fun.
Unfortunately sometimes the unhappiness of others does affect your own. After all, human beings are also social creatures and if you want to go do something fun but your partner or friend is being a total downer, you’re likely going to feel a little blue as well. Sometimes, however, for the sake of the relationship you simply have to accept this other-person-induced sadness for a little while as they work their way through what’s bothering them.
And at other times you may need to go off and do your own thing. Yes, they might get mad at you for “abandoning them” but they’ll get over it. And if they don’t, then you might need to ask yourself what sort of relationship do you have with them?
As for how to find happiness within? Well, that’s a whole other post…
Photo by Jenna Carver
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21 thoughts on “Don’t Hang Your Happiness On Others”
I agree with you Alex. Sometimes when you push happiness onto others or expect others to be happy in order for you to be happy, it puts pressure on them to do so… This pressure doesn’t cause them to become happier, it causes them to become more uncomfortable.
This is from experience because I used to expect others to be happy in order for me to be happy, and I have had people done this to me before. This is more like contrived happiness rather than genuine, spontaneous happiness, which, in my opinion, is one of the best feelings we can experience with each other.
If we are naturally happy ourselves, without worrying about forcing others to be happy, then our happiness will naturally be contagious to everyone around us, like you said in healthy happiness. Also, instead of feeling awkward, it will just feel more comfortable all around.
Funny how posts like these seem to crop up exactly when I need them…
I just recently learned how to be “Healthy Happy,” and it’s been incredibly freeing. I’m happier, my partner is happier, my child is happier, and I don’t have any of the pressure of having to “make” people happy. However, every now and then I need a reminder, and this post has been just that. Thanks!
Its frustrating and fruitless to make others happy. I’ve done it and its a lost cause because you explain to a person to look on the bright side and he/she continues to whine and moan about their problems. But then there are some people who appreciate your efforts and try to elevate their moods. It’s a catch 22.
I really, really like this post. I firmly believe happiness comes from within and hanging it on others can have very negative consequences. Great write up!
Awesome post Alex! I look forward to publishing the follow up on finding happiness within next week.
Well-said Alex. Hanging one’s happiness on others is in fact another form of basing happiness on the external, be it a person, a fast car, a big house or a branded bag.
I’ve also written a similar post where I talked about how to find lasting happiness. I hope it’ll be useful to the readers of this website.
All i can say is eyeopener, thank you so much for these words of wisdom !! :)
It’s a delicate balance. While it’s vital not to base our happiness on others, it’s also important to understand that choosing to spend most of our time in the company of happy people improves our own chances of being happy.
Hi Ali .. we’re responsible for ourselves .. and we shouldn’t rely on others, or wait for others to do things – that might make us happy (depending how they do it) .. if we make others happy then we absorb some of that cheer back.
Thanks – happiness is so important to our general wellbeing and being more appreciative of things around us, able to react more positively as we live each day.
All the best – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
I’m guilty of all of these in my past:
Selfish happiness…being happy only when others are. My mom was good at this too!
Happiness pusher…who doesn’t want their kids to be happy? I still do but now realize they’re responsible for their own happiness.
Healthy happiness: It’s what I have now. I never put those two words together…healthy happiness. It has a nice ring to it don’t you think?
I like your differentiating between genuine and contrived happiness. Contrived happiness comes from outside expectations of what is supposed to make us happy rather than what really does.
I love when that happens! It’s amazing how quickly everyone gets a whole lot happier when we disconnect our happiness from theirs, eh? Feels counter-intuitive, but it works!
My partner/friends and I amuse and entertain each other when we’re low (or give a quick boot in the butt if necessary) and that’s not telling people how to be happy – it’s been a good friend. And for each it’s not the same thing. My friends know what I want to make me happy and it’s different from what they want and so I don’t do the same thing they do to improve the mood.
@Positively Present & @Peter
Glad you like the post! It was a hard lesson for me to learn (it too many years) and yet now that I have, it all seems so clear to me (as it often does).
@The Conscious Life
Thanks for the link – I plan to go check it out!
Glad you like the post – I enjoy opening eyes to new ideas.
Being around happy people is definitely the way to go. I made the move a long time ago to cut down people out of my life and it made a huge difference!
I agree – totally responsible for ourselves. Yes we interact with other people, but we are responsible for our own happiness.
It’s so much less stress having a healthy happiness, eh? I’m so glad I figured it out and can spend that energy on more productive things!
Nice post alex , i always believed that hanging happiness on external factors only results in sadness , true happiness comes from within
Glad you enjoyed the post!
Great post. I loved the part about not being a happiness pusher. I totally agree. I think that it does more harm than good if we try to push our ideas of happiness on others.
It’s such a hard thing to remember though, isn’t it? We want people we love to be happy and all too often people have a narrow idea of what happiness is…
It’s been a month since this blog has been posted but I have to chime in to say that I love post, Alex! :) I know a lot of people whose happiness highly depends on others that’s why they at the end of the day, they find themselves lonelier than ever.
One has to practice self-love to before you can love others. One way to do that is to know what you really want; know what you value in life. If you try to focus on YOUR needs first, you’ll find it easier to achieve authentic happiness. You’ll find yourself getting rid of those negative feelings easier because you’ll notice parts of you that you can easily like.
And unfortunately so many people, especially women, are socialized to put everyone else before themselves. Or others are taught to be so selfish that they have no idea that others exist at all. Such a hard balance to achieve…
Glad you enjoyed the post.
Hey, I been reading your blog, and this one really help me alot. For the past several years, I been having emotional troubles with my mother. I always felt like I was letting her down in someway by my actions. I doubted myself continuous because I wasn’t doing what felt like my responsibility to do. After reading this blog, I realize nothing I even would do will make my mom happy, but it’s not my duty to make her happy! That is such a freeing thought. It feels like the heavy chains that been burdening my heart for years have been unlock and my heart is ready to heal.
I have never thought of how selfish my mother’s happiness is. I have always thought that the problem lie with me and that I needed to change myself to improve my relationship with my mother. I know now that’s not true. My only trouble is: how do I improve my relationship with my mother without giving up my happiness for her’s?
Agree with all the points mentioned in the post. Just a small question – what about those who are happy at the cost of someone’s unhappiness or even misery? which category would such people be put in? Not being dependent on anybody’s happiness is a point well accepted, but being totally inconsiderate about the other person’s unhappiness and the fact that that unhappiness may be caused by the happy person’s actions – what about that?
Great article Alex. I am so glad you wrote it because it brought me face to face with the ‘happiness pusher’ in me.
After reading this article I realise how much of a pain in the a$$ I’ve been over the last few years in this particular respect. I am going to focus on the middle ground from today and not hang my hat on other’s anymore.
Wish me luck!
I appreciate the points raised but still struggle with my own situation. The people in my family life are people I love, respect and admire and know that this is mutual. They have been there for me when things were tough & I just want & need to do the same for them – is this selfish? However, the situation is now one of ill-health & incapacity affecting my beloved parents & I feel responsible for their unhappiness & pain – that is – I should be able to do something to make it better for them?