Their happiness is not your happiness.
My wonderful friend, Beth, spoke these words to me until I believed them. In our lows though, it can still be hard for our hearts to believe them. It doesn’t make sense — it’s not fair — that people who hurt us so deeply are allowed to experience such joy while we’re left here tending to the wounds that they left behind. Why do they get to be happy when we are so clearly not okay? How can they feel no remorse? How can they move on without guilt or shame? If you’ve ever been dealt with, what you feel to be, a huge and unfair blow, perhaps these thoughts feel familiar. Religions and cultures and the justice system — at its core, though, not the way it is manipulated and abused — function largely in the idea of retribution. When people do horrible things, they deserve to pay for it.
Ultimately though, who am we to be the arbiter over whether or not they people deserve happiness? We don’t get to decide which hurtful and purposefully dishonesty behavior deserves what repercussions. It’s the answer we may not want to hear but it is the truth. We don’t get to decide how their lives play out.
The thing we do get to decide is how we’ll move forward. Comparing one person’s joy to our own is a pointless waste of time. Though social media makes it easier than ever to compare perceived lives, ultimately what we receive from social media is what other people want us to think about their lives. What we don’t often see is the experience from the inside. Each person, just like us, goes through tremendous ups and downs. They stumble and fall and take huge leaps of faith and get turned around at some point. Just like us. It is hard to remember that, though, when all we see is the highs. I’ve made a point of it on my own social media to express that both highs and lows exist. The lows do not tarnish the peaks, the successes, the moments of joy. The hard moments in life don’t make us bad people. In fact, it is the adversity that makes the moments of fulfillment so sweet.
So how do we get out of the cycle of comparing our happinesses? We must define, honestly and truthfully, for ourselves what the terms of our happiness and fulfillment are. It is not someone else’s life. It is not someone else’s relationship and their perceived happiness in it. It is not someone else’s career path. It is not someone else’s family structure. While those things might look nice from the outside, what we don’t see is the struggle that happens behind closed doors.
To define your own happiness, get to writing. If there was nothing holding you back from living your best life, being on your own thing, what would your life look like? Would it include partnership? Maybe lots of travel. Perhaps you are the best dog parent around! Get specific about the things that make your best life, well, the best. What qualities are the foundation of your ideal relationship? Honesty, integrity, mutual respect, support in the dark times, support in the light times. The list could go on.
Without our own definition of happiness, we leave our joy to be controlled and manipulated by people who don’t know us as intimately as we know ourselves. Write your own terms. Decide how and what will allow you look back on your life proud of your choices. Live a life you are proud of.
And Remember: your happiness is not their happiness.