I won’t pretend to have the secret to happiness, and if you’ve read one listicle on how to be happier or more successful, you’ve probably read them all. I decided to write this simply because I get so tired of hearing people complain and play victim. It’s almost as if people enjoy being miserable or think by posting endless statuses about how awful their life is, the social media gods will fly in and save their day (and their egos) with likes and double taps of encouragement. It’s like any attention is good attention even if it’s sympathy.
A lot of problems in our lives are easy to eliminate because they were made by us in the first place, so get off your friends’ timelines with all of your complaining and start working on some solutions. Here are 12 ways your problems are your own fault:
1. You’re always instantly defensive or mean.
Are you the girl always asking, “Who gon’ check me, Boo?” One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is that if you treat people with courtesy and respect, people will more than likely mirror your actions. I used to walk to the subway wearing a mean mug with my lip gloss, never making eye contact and never greeting anyone. I think sometimes when you’re living in the city especially, it’s a defense mechanism. If you’re walking around smiling and telling people “Good day,” you’re either insane or a sucka. Looking constantly pissed off means you’re not to be messed with. But I made a friend who made it habit to regularly tell those she encountered, “Good morning,” and make small talk and I noticed she would make the most useful connections and people just generally enjoyed her company.
So I tried it and soon I felt generally warmer about people. I no longer stressed about the guy not holding the door being the downfall of mankind. You begin to realize life is so much more than flipping out on that person who took your parking spot. Your positivity rules regardless of how rude others can be. So the next time someone tells you to smile, try it. It might be more about making you feel better than them.
2. You make assumptions.
Think about all of the negative assumptions and stereotypes that pass through your head on a daily basis. Your boss is just bitching because she’s lonely and doesn’t have a man. Here come these teen baby makers on the bus filling up the aisle with their strollers. I hate to sound like a cheesy self-help book, but focusing on the good qualities in others and not taking life so seriously says more about your character than anyone you’re passing judgment on. Everyone has a story, and no one is perfect. Think of what people could be assuming about you as you walk by and how wrong they probably are.
3. Dwelling and not doing.
I’m always confused at how easily people allow themselves to be stuck in their problems. If they spent 25% of the energy thinking about solutions as they do obsessing about their problems, they’d be surprised at how easy it is to solve them. It’s healthy to take time occasionally to throw yourself a pity party, and take a few shots of tequila while you torture yourself with thoughts on how all the bad things in life happen to you. But then it’s time to get over it and get working on a solution.
4. Choosing comfort over change.
Change is hard. It takes time and sometimes it hurts. But the best thing is about it is once you’re through it, you usually end up looking back like, “What was I so afraid of?” Too often people would rather get comfortable in the hell they know than take a chance on the happiness they don’t because that happiness is often disguised as hell because it’s so different. If you’re in a situation that is making you unhappy, why not take a chance on something else? Stop trying to convince yourself you’re just staying safe. In certain situations safely is the most dangerous way to live.
5. Having faith in people who have proven to be unreliable.
I secretly believe on some level that the only one who has my back is me. It’s kind of sad, but I know when it comes to making myself happy, I will never disappoint me. That’s not to say there aren’t people in this life who I have faith will work until their last breath to see me smile, but it is possible to have too much faith in people. Stop investing in people who can’t see two feet past their own selfishness until they give you a reason to think otherwise.
6.OPP: Obsessing about other people’s problems.
It’s easier to spend time obsessing why so and so can’t keep a man, instead of focusing on your own problems. It’s enough to stress about your own challenges, so why the hell are you obsessing about other people’s problems? Everyone has to learn in their own way, so all you can do is be there and offer support and advice when asked. But you shouldn’t be raising your blood pressure over problems that don’t affect your well-being.
7. Giving people material to use against you.
Everyone doesn’t deserve to know the fine details of your life. The truth is some of them are envious and only want to hold your hand through the bad times so they can take have a front row seat watching you fall. Use discretion on who you allow into the private parts of your life. And don’t reveal anything about your situation that you’re not prepared to hear someone else’s opinion on.
8. Repeating actions you know don’t yield good results.
We all have heard insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. When it comes to certain situations you need to silence the second grade teacher in your head who says you’re special. Don’t rely on the hope that THIS time things will be different. Time is valuable and the time you spend trying to force a situation to work is time you could be spending discovering something different that will.
9. Depending on others to determine your happiness.
You have to be able to enjoy your own company and be confident that your life will be great without anyone else’s influence. Friends and romantic relationships are meant to enhance your life and not to complete it and you can’t depend on others to determine your whole outlook on life.
10. Avoiding your problems altogether.
Serial dating, accusing everyone of being a hater or jealous, getting instantly defensive instead of taking constructive criticism in: These are all ways people avoid their problems and working on themselves. When you avoid your problems they don’t just go away. Sometimes they even create more problems. Being happy requires regularly humbling yourself so you can grow to be better and you can’t do that by acting like some flaws aren’t you fault or non-existent.
11. Not having accountability.
I came across a quote today that read, “You are the CEO of your own life.” It’s not like life works over time saving the seat with gum in it just for you. You can only play victim for so long. Happiness is a choice and after a certain point if your life sucks, it’s your fault. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you choose to respond to it.
12. Waiting on the world to change.
There’s plenty in this world to be angry about: A whole plane full of passengers disappeared and a most people’s income can’t cover their student loans. But there will always be something in the world to be angry about and you have two choices: Work to change it or work on your own world. You can’t control Malaysian air space, but you can appreciate the little things in your life that make it worth living even if it’s only the fact that Netflix just got your favorite show. There are things in this life to be happy about it, you just have to find them and most times that means getting off the internet.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.