Why Everybody Else Is Happier Than You

I have a big house, a husband who sees to my needs, a boy I adore, and friends who’ve got my back. But these things are just the facts of a fuller story that no one in the know would envy. Who would think that I who have it all, by appearances, can understand why Facebook famously feeds depression? The Happiest Virtual Place On Earth can feel like one endless reminder of the Things That Are Missing in your life. After a ginger foray into that part of social media this year, I found myself leaving the screen disturbed – and sad – and eventually realized the feelings came from wounds that have yet to heal. Offline, I look at the people around me. My single friends would give an arm to be married. Those with families of their own each have their burden, ones I am grateful to have been spared. So why do we remain convinced others were dealt better cards, when we are every one of us in need of support and understanding?

happier-disney-castle

Reasons We’re Sure Everybody Is Happier Than Us*

1. We are unsatisfied with our lot, no matter how it turns. The human condition is not, in the language of mathematicians, an equation but an inequality: My life < The Ideal. A literary metaphor would make us an unfinished story, which is why our hearts beat for more. More money, more time, more joy, more toys, more love. We bring to the table our fractured perspective, limited understanding, hopes conceived of an unresolved past. We will never, by the bootstraps of our humanness, be able to complete our relationships because we can’t complete ourselves.

2. Our sense of entitlement. Conflict in these imperfect relationships gives us away and pride declares, “I deserve better. He owes me appreciation, recognition. She should’ve given me the benefit of the doubt.” Disgruntled where we are, how nice and green is the grass on the other side.

3. The myth of perfectionism. I borrow some insights from Alain Botton, author of the NY Times article Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, on our misguided notions of love because nowhere else do we so generously spin our fantasies of happiness. In a recent roundtable entitled How We Choose Our Spouses, Botton spoke of the reaction his article had garnered:

What was interesting was that people were overwhelming relieved. Look, it’s like telling people you will have an unhappy life…I think that often we suffer from a burden of shame around how difficult it is that we find it to live, to love, to make good choices…And the reason that there is something oppressive in being told that only perfection will do as the basis of marriage, is that so many of our marriages, under that kind of judgment, have to seem below par and it can seem rather punitive and oppressive as if we have failed to measure up to a standard which most of us simply cannot measure up to.

We allow Facebook and blogs to perpetuate the hope in fairy tales, the expectation that we grow up and live happy, photogenic lives.

We should learn to accommodate ourselves to ”wrongness,” striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners…We don’t need people to be perfect in love. We need people to be good enough.

4. Love, according to Botton, is not an impulse of feeling but a skill. It isn’t pay dirt at emotional Roulette but “with all of us deeply broken, a chance of success in love means being able to deal with our brokenness, both inside ourselves and in a partner.” I’d say this truth holds for all our relationships. “Compatibility is ultimately an achievement of love. It shouldn’t be…the precondition of falling in love.” Love is something you work, and often work hard, at. You manage expectations of spouse, friend, self, and life, being able to explain your craziness as you grow in self-awareness. But we somehow believe life doesn’t exact so much effort of those around us.

Jumping off track a bit, let me share that my About page earned 2000 likes this weekend. I didn’t get to the celebration video, a toss-up between Yours Truly kicking up heels to Great Balls of Fire or crooning into the mic in a red dress. So hopefully this will do. Your gestures of affection and regard have meant a great deal to me and I appreciate every one of you. When Facebook gets me down, psh, I’ll just come back to my blog.

*HW won out in the argument with her twin The Grammar Mafia and managed to keep the vernacular with the objective pronoun.

141 thoughts on “Why Everybody Else Is Happier Than You

  1. Thank you for guiding me to a post that speaks such truths to me. One of the reasons I left Facebook (two and half years ago) was because I had developed that ‘grass is greener’ mentality, thus, seeing my own life as bleak in comparison. But we only show what we choose to show on these social sites and, of course, we aren’t going to bare ‘warts and all’. Fairytales are much more fun! Is everyone else happier than us? Hmm… no, they just appear to be. As you said, no one knows what lurks behind closed doors. And since distancing myself from the likes of Facebook and other social media, I feel liberated and free…. and most importantly, able to FOCUS on my OWN life…in the here and now…without getting distracted by the lives of others.

    A great post, my dear. One that many will be able to relate to!

    Right! I’m off to read this Alain Botton article. I’ll let you know my thoughts! xx

  2. I read the first and last sentence… as usual, of your post. “I have a big house, a husband who sees to my needs, a boy I adore, and friends who’ve got my back. When Facebook gets me down, psh, I’ll just come back to my blog.” And I am totally confused…

  3. A really interesting read, I can completely relate to what you describe – especially the sadness, irritation, inferiority and disappointment that social media can breed. And I love Alan de Botton. I have read a number of his books and heard him speak in London. A fascinating guy. I think over the years (and in relation to my marriage) I have been learning that actually the only things in the world that will make me happy are already within me waiting to come out. My husband can try his best (and he does bless him) but he will never succeed – partly because he is not the other half of me. I am a whole me, but there is a half that needs drawing out, cultivating, nurturing, encouraging and occasionally coercing. Only then will I become fully whole, and my husband be able to breath a sigh of relief 🙂

    • “the only things in the world that will make me happy are already within me waiting to come out.” Most interesting. Many would say it is God who completes us, which is why we come up short in seeking fulfillment in others (humans). But I do think happiness is often like the glasses we’re searching for…that’s sitting on our head. Ha ha ha, hope Hubby gets to breathe well soon.

      • So does he 🙂

        And yes, as you say, many would say that God completes us. My question might be, perhaps he already did? We just haven’t caught on yet, and we need his help throughout life to show us the way to the person we were always born to be and had within us – and to recognise that wholeness is not to be found outside of ourselves. Asking another person to complete us is a tough gig for anyone to live up to, and I fear will ultimately fail. We can only do that for ourselves I believe. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They make a great deal of sense to me 🙂

      • I agree with how you framed this (God, wholeness, awareness). “Asking another person to complete us is a tough gig for anyone to live up to” I have to hit myself on the head for constant reminders that my husband is HUMAN and I’m supposed to be his helper because…he needs it. Here’s another angle: We discovered I am emotionally independent. I feel quite satisfied with myself (ha ha ha ha!) and emotionally don’t look to him to fill me. But he is a different story, esp in light of his sad upbringing. And so I need to remember compassion (and that thing called love) to try and provide the creaturely comfort he was meant to feel coming from his wife.

  4. This article lifted my spirits up. I was feeling very depressed about life and marriage. Compromises, adjustments and accomodationism will provide the strengths to make marriage perfect. Anand Bose from Kerala

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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