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Happiness is something we all strive for, for better or for worse. It may not be the singular most important thing to seek out in life, but it is a legitimate and central part of living. However, recently, I’ve noticed that an increasingly popular belief, especially in more privileged communities in the Western world, is that happiness is an unworthy and childish goal. Many argue that seeking individual pleasures is selfish and unattainable when so many others out there are suffering; it should be our duty to help those more in need before indulging ourselves.

I won’t argue that this isn’t a noble view, but why do these things have to cancel out? To be happy ourselves or to make others happy? Of course, it’s good to think about the bigger picture when making decisions but it’s really not necessary to sacrifice all of our wants. At my graduation, one of the speakers specifically stated that acting charitably for the good of others is the one and only path to true personal happiness and a worthy life. Is that really fair to say? To always put others before our own needs? To spend time working solely for the improvement of others as opposed to working for personal growth?

Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”, although generally acclaimed, received some negative reviews on the basis that her work was “the epitomy of self-absorption”. Perhaps so, but that is hard to avoid in the stunt genre. Blogging, likewise, would also be considered such. Are all of these things selfish? I wouldn’t say so. Experiences, however mundane, are meant to be shared because everyone can take something different from it. That is, after all, the whole point of literature and the internet. Focusing on ourselves and sharing is something that should be encouraged, as it is a win-win situation. It’s not as though personal enjoyment is something that has to take away from the enjoyment of others.

More importantly, as Rubin herself stated as her Second Splendid Truth, “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Independence is a huge virtue and skill. If you can’t pick yourself up, and make yourself happy, who can you rely on to baby you? Of course, there are always family and friends to offer support and encouragement, but I strongly believe that in the end, it is all up to the individual to know and to do what’s best for him/herself personally.

By being happy, we are able to spread that positivity more effectively. We are more energetic, and more motivated to help others. Putting our needs first makes us better people, more equipped and willing to give back. It becomes a cycle of happiness as opposed to a matter of duty cancelling out personal desires.

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