Why we’re not going to be happy being and doing the things that make us unhappy

Aug 30, 2013People Pleasing

Whenever I ask people what they want, I invariably hear variations of, “I just want to be happy”. Many of us are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. Because we don’t, for instance, have a Brady Bunch family or a perfect past, or even a blemish-free relationship history, and we’re certainly not feeling happy all or most of the time, we feel as if we’re falling short.

We feel bad for not living up to some ideal that we’ve likely hoovered up from the media. We compare ourselves to our peers and imaginary people that we believe are so much better than us.


“I just want to be happy” often comes out of the mouths of people pleasers. We deprioritise our own needs, desires and expectations in the hope of receiving validation, love, attention and the like. We also hope that our efforts will minimise conflict, disappointment, criticism, rejection and basically anything unpleasant. Ironically, we tend to expect others to represent the very needs, expectations, wishes and identity that we don’t represent.

Here’s the thing though: we tend to be quite convoluted and complicated about ‘getting’ happy. We’re all built on habits and some of these patterns of thinking and behaviour run counter to the very things that we profess to need, want and expect.

We may ‘just’ want to be happy but change doesn’t happen without change. More importantly, we can’t expect to be happy by doing things that directly contribute to us being unhappy.

We say that we want to be happy. Unfortunately, we can often be more comfortable hanging onto bullshit than we are with getting out of that uncomfortable comfort zone. Striving for authenticity and being ourselves is something we avoid.

We want happiness while still clinging to the same unhealthy/unproductive patterns of thinking and behaviour. That’s pretty tricky when the backing track to our life is negative self-talk, we’re neglecting ourselves, or have toxic relationships. So is relying on external solutions to prop up our ‘self’-esteem. We avoid aspects of ourselves and life, and wind up in more pain.

We can’t expect happiness when our pleasing automatically treats much of what we think, feel and do as ‘facts’ and judgements about our worthiness.

Let’s imagine that you go to see a career advisor. They ask, ‘So, what is it that you want to do with your life?’, and you respond with, ‘I just want to, you know, have a job’. Or maybe you say, ‘I just want to earn money.’ Um, O-K. That’s a pretty vague pursuit and remit to work from.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy but break it down.

What does happiness look and feel like to you?

What would being happy involve?

Is what you’re doing now taking you closer to being and feeling like this or in the opposite direction?

Do your thoughts support your desire or are your thoughts affirming all sorts of negative crap?

Is a lot of what you envision as making you happy out of your hands due to it being reliant on a person changing or other external factors?

What can you do for you?