Happiness Busters

May 23, 2011

If you’re like me, you know what makes you happy. You probably sprinkle those things through your days, like chocolate chips in a cookie (speaking of things that make me happy…) to make life sweeter. But what about things that make you unhappy—your happiness busters?

Photo courtesy D. Sharon Pruitt, Pink Sherbet Photography
Some happiness busters you can’t do anything about. Unpleasant situations and tragedies strike us all from time to time. Fortunately, there are some you can change, and thus boost your level of happiness. Here are three to think about:

Comparisons. I can be feeling perfectly fine about myself and suddenly crash and burn because I started comparing myself to someone else…my neighbor, a fellow freelancer, a friend, even my husband! I look at my personality and accomplishments and feel inferior. How does she achieve so much in the same time I have? It sure looks like he is having a great time while I’m over here tongue-tied and sweating. You get the picture.

This is where my shaky self-esteem reveals itself. I tend to denigrate what I’ve done—“Oh, it’s not that hard to do such-and-such (because if I’m able to do it, anyone can)”—or compare what I perceive to be my weakness with someone else’s strength.

Comparisons in which I come out ahead can be dangerous, too. I become less empathetic—because, once again, if I can do it, anyone can! It’s easy to become critical of others when you “compare down.”

Guilt. I must have some sort of overactive guilt gene, because I fight guilt feelings all the time. Even when I’m occupied in something “productive” I find myself feeling guilty about not doing something else that’s productive. Crazy, huh? And the guilt alarm bells really go off when I do something just for me, which I do quite frequently despite the guilt. I may do whatever-it-is, but the guilty feelings shadow my happiness. It’s far too easy to let guilt become too large a part of the emotional landscape.

“What people think.” How many times do we do things—or avoid doing them—because of what other people think? Women especially have a hard time with this because we’re often raised to be people-pleasers. We want to be liked and we want to fit in. That’s not bad unless it causes us to give up essential dreams and parts of ourselves to do so.

I wish I could say I’ve conquered these happiness busters, but I’m still working on it. At least I’ve learned to recognize when they appear, and sometimes I even manage to banish them. It helps when I remember my belief that we’re basically all doing the best we can. Sure, we fail and make mistakes, but we’re human. At times, failures and mistakes are the best we can do while we stretch outside our comfort zones.

What are some of your happiness busters? How do you handle them?

You Might Also Like


  1. Some of my happiness busters are being overly tired, too much "news" that I can't do anything about, and some of the ones you mention.

    The words to one of the Eagles' song, Already Gone, keeps running through my mind,
    "...so oftentimes it happens we leave our life in chains
    That we never even know we have the key....."

    How often do we hold ourselves down, back, under, less than, not good enough, not enough and so on, when really......we are more than enough and far more? We just don't understand we are the key.

  2. I don't think any of us have conquered these, but at least you're learning to recognize them. And that's a very important first step.

  3. Laure--Both of the ones you mentioned are problems for me. They combine to make me feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I like the words from that song--good way to remember that we have a choice in how we feel!

  4. Hi Kathy,

    I have found more freedom in my 50's to be happier and to let go of some of the "self-imposed shoulds". I don't know if I am happier, but I've doing better at not feeling guilty and have given myself permission to not put up with other folks bad behavior. It takes awhile, but I think that taking care of myself makes me happier.

    Have a great week!

    Kathy M.

  5. Kathy--I think the 50s are going to be great! I can see that when we get our son out on his own (and we pray that that will happen one day!), there will be more time and freedom for me. I think you describe what happens to a lot of women: they're "done" with shoulds and with putting up with others' bad behavior.

  6. for me, its a lack of time management, and being exhausted after working a full day that I don't feel like doing anything. Need to conquer those things, but that being said, I've heard that there will NEVER be enough time in the day to do what you want, so just pick the top priorities. As for being a people pleaser, I think that ties in with worry. I'm not like that so much anymore - maybe it diminishes with age?

  7. Krista--I think many of us expect to do more than is even physcially possible every day--I know I do. I also agree that as I get older I don't care as much what other people think. One of the benefits of maturing!