April 13, 2016

How we Sabotage our Happiness (& How to Stop it).

We all want to be happy, right?

This is why we work, why we engage in relationships, travel, and look for self-development activities.

We do our best to find reasons to be happy every single day of our lives, and yet we don’t seem to get it. But why is that? Shouldn’t all that effort give us some kind of reward?

I have been there myself: Hoping that the next day would be different, that happiness would just knock at my door at any minute. I had a decent job as a developer with a famous firm. I had a lovely girlfriend, and a place to live, I was healthy, but something was missing in my heart.

And took me a while to realize that the reason why I wasn’t feeling happy was that I was sabotaging my best chances of achieving it. I was doing things that potentially would cause me stress, sadness, anxiety—anything but happiness.

So I would like to share with you some things I have discovered so far—some of the reasons behind this kind of self-destructive behaviour—so you can take a different path from now on as I did.


1) We overthink

When we face a situation that challenges our happiness, we tend to overthink it—a famous curse of smart people. They can see all possible scenarios in a blink of an eye, and predict outcomes without much effort. The problem is that it can be very stressful as they will be dealing with threats longer before they actually happen. It also means a lot of waste of time and energy that should be better directed to their goals.

More than that: if you are the kind who likes to sabotage your own happiness, you will always choose the worst scenario in your mind as your truth, and you will get yourself ready for a war that might never happen, while making as many assumptions as you can manage. It will paralyse you, and make you so anxious about the future you created in your imagination that you won’t be able to recognize the happiness that you have today in front of you.

2) We don’t feel worthy

Sometimes we are happy but think that we don’t deserve it. Our low self-esteem, complexes and fears leave us suspicious and feeling unworthy. We look out there, and we see all those beautiful, successful people, and think that we can’t possibly compare ourselves to them. And we fear that we will fail if we try.

And even if we get all that happiness wrapped up like a Christmas present, we still think that someone will soon found out that we are just a fraud and take it away from us. And we do our best to ruin our chances of getting it, so we don’t have to deal with the pain caused by abandonment or failure in the future.

3) We make excuses and never learn

And what about that magical way to see ourselves that some of us like to indulge? That feeling of denial that makes us believe that we are perfect and that we don’t have any problem at all? Or that the problem is the others? And yet, even when we think like this, we still can’t sleep well at night.

We keep making the very same mistakes. We procrastinate. We don’t do our best to overcome our addictions, our bad habits. We say that it’s just too hard, too early, too late, that we will start on Monday—that life is just unfair anyway. That we can’t change. That the politicians, the system, the environment we lived when we were children, are the ones to blame. So then we can just feel sorry for ourselves when the consequences come, without having to deal with our mistakes, and we never learn.

4) We expect too much from ourselves

We set high expectations for ourselves knowing that we aren’t ready to accomplish them, and then become frustrated when we don’t make it. Even when we recognize that nobody could have managed it, we still feel like we could have done better. This isn’t a productive behaviour, and neither will it bring us any sort of happiness.

When we make a mistake, we find very hard to forgive ourselves. We think we should have known better, and don’t accept our inner learning process. We pine for as long as we can, beating ourselves up instead of trying to understand why you did it, and what we need to do so we won’t do it again.

5) We expect too much from others

If you expect a lot from yourself, you probably want the same response from the others. We think that, if we can do it, everybody can. That if we are supportive, everybody else should also be. We also expect them to behave in a certain way as if they were our toys. And when they don’t meet our expectations, we feel disappointed and betrayed.

We also believe that people are responsible for our happiness. We give too much power to them, a power that they never asked for. We become needy. We live in panic, concerned that if they break up with us, if they move abroad, if they die, our lives will be destroyed on the way. We forget that we are the ones in charge of putting a smile on our faces, so then we can share it with the world, not the other way around.

6) We are control-freaks

We want to know and control every single thing that happens in our lives, and in everyone else’ lives, thinking that it will ensure happiness. We take notes, we are always perfectly dressed for the occasion, we know everything about what is happening in the world, we plan and analyse every detail. We look for the perfect guide to happiness, full of checklists, step-by-steps, and more.

But the truth is it just makes us stressed, anxious and compulsive. We can barely control what we are going to eat in the next five minutes, or imagine what our girlfriend is doing while she is away—no matter how often you call, there is a time when you must hang up, and everything could happen from there. No matter how much you plan, unforeseen scenarios become reality everyday.

7) We don’t set boundaries

When we are unable to set boundaries, we end up doing more than we should. We take all the phone calls (and listen to pointless stories for hours), we go to every party (thrown by people that we don’t like), and do favours for everybody (including people that don’t really need any help). And, of course, we don’t enjoy it even a bit. Doesn’t sound a recipe for happiness, right?

And the worst part of it is that we know that by not saying “no”, we will be upset and stressed, and we still do it anyway. We bow to peer pressure, to demands, to fear, to the desire of being popular. And this is one of the best ways to sabotage our happiness for sure.

Long Story Short:

Sabotaging ourselves is a common thing among us, so if you realized that you have been doing some of the things listed above, don’t use it as extra ammunition so you can continue ruining your chances to be happy.

Just remember reason # 3, move forward and enjoy what you already have achieved so far.


Author: Norman Arvidsson

Editor: Erin Lawson

Images: Flickr/Bernard Goldbach  

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