5 Ways You're Tricking Yourself Into Not Being Happy
Are you not happy? Is it for reasons other than external forces out of your control? Do you already hate me for asking? Then read on. Because having stared at the Internet for a while now, nothing is more obvious to me than the sheer number of viciously angry, angry people online. And anger is only a symptom of unhappiness, and there are two paths leading from it, and you don't want to take the wrong one.
Of course, some people never sucked, but we don't talk about them.
You know how I know you suck and are miserable? Because you're about to read the rest of this article, for one thing. Beyond that, here are a few more reasons you're an unhappy mess ...
Comments And Social Media Posts Are A Counterproductive Way To Express Yourself
Happiness comes from accomplishment and purpose, and those come from Doing Shit. And we get shit done and accomplish things because we have to, and I know you're not happy because you haven't been forced to accomplish anything. And the best example of this is the angry comment you're already writing, despite not having read this entire article. You don't need to write articles to have your say online, because you can simply write comments. As a result, a website might have, like, 20 columnists but thousands of commenters.
But what if there were no comment sections? Well, you'd have put the time in to turn your thoughts into an article, then try to get it published, and then maybe you'd get paid, and that might lead to other things or give you the confidence to try something else, and then you might end up successful and/or happy. But we do have comments, and Twitter, and so on, and so we have a release valve for people who HAVE to say something. But that valve prevents the buildup of the internal pressure necessary to drive you to have your say in a more fulfilling manner.
Look how sad you're making the dog in this metaphor.
Everyone leaves a few Internet comments here and there, but if you're doing it INSTEAD OF writing articles or books or screenplays or crazy manifestos, then I know you're not happy, because there are only so many hours in the day (more on that later) and so many ideas in your head. If a comment tree gets 1,000 upvotes, does it make a sound? Media and the arts are ultimately the comment section of real life ...
I want royalties when this actually happens.
... so anything below that is probably doing you a disservice if you spend too much energy on it. Or think of it this way: If everything you've ever said can be blinked out of existence by a browser extension, then you may not have that much of a voice. Is the Internet preventing YOU from being happy by not forcing you to work to be heard? Let me know in the comments ...
You Think You're The Same As Successful People
The worst way to get anywhere is to think you're already there (I showed my imaginary girlfriend that line and she loved it!). And one reason you suck is that you think you're generally on the same level as actually successful people. You know how I can tell you're not happy and productive? Well, for one thing, you get mad about stuff that should be ten millionth on one's list of personal priorities. (Have you ever unironically typed the phrase "anti-consumer" in a comment? Here's a simple test: Get out your birth certificate and check what it says under "Name." Unless it reads "Ralph Nader," you're a dumbass.) For another thing, you accuse successful people of doing things that YOU do. You, who notably suck and are a failure.
For example, if one foolishly spends enough time online, one will quickly pick up on the absolute plague of idiots accusing video game designers of "laziness" when it comes to some trivial aspect of their work. It's THE modern cliche of online dumbassery. But semantics matter, and any working creative professional is officially living in the Post-Lazy Realm, because laziness is the thing which prevents people from becoming working professionals in the first place -- that thing you're doing right now.
I was gonna just say this, but then I made the mistake of imagining it as a drawing.
Working pros can be compromised, or run out of time or resources, or simply make mistakes, but professionalism precludes laziness as you think of it -- that's the deal. And so accusing professionals of laziness is so very revealing, because we assume of others what we know of ourselves, and laziness is why YOU would do it.
See you later, extrapolator.
People who have put the time in to make something of themselves are not like you, but you erroneously think professionals do things for the same reason you would, in the same way that your cat thinks that you're also a cat. You see laziness in others because you just sit around and think you're entitled to have an equal voice in the public sphere with no actual effort on your part. So you don't put in the effort, so you don't accomplish anything, so you're not happy. Because you're fucking lazy.
It's Not Cool To Be Happy
This isn't all your fault. One of the impediments to happiness is an absence of inspiration, and one of the impediments to inspiration is how, for whatever reason, the Inspiration section of any bookstore is by far the least inspiring thing in there. You may not be happy because the language of telling people things will be okay seems to have long ago been co-opted by idiots, the insincere, Hallmark, and Chicken Soup For The Money-Liking Fucking Liar Who Wrote This Best-Selling Book.
Pictured: Poe's law.
Inspiration as we know it seems to work on the theory that you can simply tell people what to do and they will instantly do it, which is frankly not even true of dogs. It's empty phrases and easy answers and telling people to quit their job and become a _______, because that sure is easy to say when you don't have to do it. Most inspiration is just the IDEA of inspiration, as opposed to meaningful advice. You likely fucking noticed all this shit and learned to ignore it long ago. You may be miserable, but you're not an idiot.
There's a reason these things are like 40 percent of the Internet.
So due to its tiresome association with glibness and moronity, is it easy to see happiness as kind of ... lame? Possibly? It does feel like the only people trying to sell happiness are also selling books and posters and fucking Scientology, so it's unsurprising that cynical people seem to stay cynical. What the rest of us can do is try to lead by example, and by god Make Stuff which inspires by example rather than by artificially trying to Be Inspirational, and give advice that takes, uh, reality into account, and try to sell success better, and not make people hate themselves by making it sound as if happiness is the fucking absence of misery, because it's not -- it's when you sometimes have a really bad day, as opposed to the opposite. You know how I know you're not happy? Because a lot of the people telling you about happiness are lame as shit.
You Think You'll Live Forever
People occasionally make the mistake of asking me for artistic advice, but there's only one hint you'll ever need to be a good artist (or a good anything else): Nobody who knows they're going to die is capable of not trying their best. You know why nobody is reading your comic strip about two dudes who sit on a couch and play video games? Because that's been done ten trillion times before, and nobody who knows they don't have forever spends their time on something that doesn't prove they existed as an individual. You know how I know you're not happy? Because considering how unlikely it was for you to exist in the first place, you are now wasting the few short decades of that existence, and nobody who wastes their time ends up being happy about it.
The skeleton represents death.
I remember being younger and reading about a photo exhibit about people before and after their deaths, and things just kind of terrifyingly clicking for me that like sands through the hourglass, so are the, uh, something of our lives. And while I don't think that being relentlessly haunted by a terrifying hyper-awareness of the looming horror of mortality is essential to being fulfilled in your daily life, there are way too many people writing about nothing, and way too many people not being inspired by it.
So by contrast, let me posit the following metaphor. You're in a movie theater. You've got your seat and snacks and everything (which is more than a lot of people get, incidentally). The curtain has gone up and the show has started. You're sitting there enjoying the show, and it's only been like half an hour and it feels like there's just tons of movie left. But at the same time, you know it's going to end eventually. That is you, now. The curtain went up a while ago and the previews ended and we're well into Act 1, and you're still just sitting there eating snacks, even though the clock is ticking and this is not a double feature (unless you're a Buddhist, I guess).
That's you, and all of us. We're all in here together, and it seems like it's gonna last forever, but it fucking isn't. You look to your left and some people are scribbling stories and journaling furiously on pads of paper before the movie ends. You look to your right and people are screwing like mad so their kids can take over their seats. You look at the back of the seat in front of you, and whoever was sitting here before you has etched something about how he wasn't happy until he realized he had to make some kind of lasting mark while he still had time.
Bette also wishes you'd used your time.
You're Supposed To Be Unhappy
I think there are two kinds of lives that most of us are likely to have. There's the one where you start happy and the one that's the opposite, and the latter is of course bitterly envious of the former all through high school. But each has its pros and cons, and the good part of being a late bloomer is that you give yourself a chance to bloom. So if you're young and Not Happy, then don't be too jealous, because at least the one thing you'll never do is get entrenched in a life you then outgrow.
Of course, some people were always content, but we don't talk about them.
I think that for most of us, the ONLY way to happiness is through The Shit. That's why it's happiness, and why it's so rewarding and hard to lose it once you have it. There are only two shortcuts for people who want to feel good all the time, but don't have the patience to play the same game that the rest of society does. They are hard drugs and organized crime, and those have terrible entry fees. There are no legitimate shortcuts, in other words. Which is the entire point. As a wise man once said, nothing worth having is easy to get.
You know how I know you're not happy? Because you're young and virginy, and many a happy person started out as a miserable fuck who wanted something but didn't have it yet. And boy do I ever speak from experience, because no one was less happy than me when I was younger and online.
To be fair, they were totally wrong about Tomb Raider.
But no one's more improved than me now, and that's the point here: It's fucking GREAT that you're not happy, because that's step one on the path to something way better. So fucking use it, because anger is a gift, and if you're angry and in it for the long haul, then eventually it'll be YOU getting paid to lecture people in lieu of entertainment (instead of writing comments for free with just as valid an opinion). I just want you to be happy, so I'll leave you with an actually useful bit of inspiration (aka Common Sense). It's the one thing that helped me out the most: If you want it bad enough, you'll get it. Because that's who gets shit. And judging by how unhappy you are, you probably want it pretty badly.
Winston Rowntree is also available in webcomic form. Like him on Facebook too, or he'll get you ...
Still need an extra kick in the pants to go out there and be your best self? Check out David Wong's 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person. And according to science, watching Schindler's List can make you happier (even if you aren't a Nazi). See why in 7 Things You Won't Believe Science Says Make You Happy.
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