“Once I do/have x, I will be happy” is a phrase all of us are to familiar with. We rarely say “be happy” at the end. It’s mostly replaced with “I will be able to take time off”, “I will be able to spend more time with my family” etc. We never even admit to ourselves that we have placed conditions under which we can be happy. Why can’t we be happy where we are and with who we are? Doesn’t linking our happiness to external factors make it so much harder to reach it? Are we like this because deep down we do not believe that we deserve happiness?
Looking at how we live today and how people lived before us, it seems as if we have perverted the basics of human existence. Evolution put us here to live, eat, procreate and die but we have turned that process into grow, education, work, work, work, buy, buy, buy, have, have, have, die. We placed prices on food, water and shelter as if they weren’t our human birthright and somewhere along the way we placed a price tag on happiness.
Happiness and well-being are packaged and sold to us on social media and in stores. We constantly see people with perfect bodies, perfect careers, perfect families, perfect clothes and perfect houses who are happy in contrast to, well, the rest of us. Society created a certain list of milestones you need to achieve to make yourself believe you are happy and this has given birth to economy as we know it at the expense of the only place that can sustain human life – the Earth.
“Once I finish school and have a higher education, I will be able to get a good job and a comfortable life” was one of my phrases and then I quit grad school with a deteriorating mental health and no perspective about my future. Happiness was nowhere in sight but even after quitting, I believed that I will continue my education somewhere else because formal education is a prerequisite to being successful. I never went back to school and I am educating myself online while working a job I never planned or believed I would have but I am still unhappy because I haven’t reached this certain destination like everyone else did. Nothing is ever good enough for me no matter how far I go because there’s always more to reach, have or do.
I always had a lot of love for clothes and shoes, developing my personal, individual style as a form of self-expression but then I came to social media as a teenager and realized that personal style has to match the general style of everyone else because it’s not good enough if I don’t have the latest trends in my closet. Now I have a closet full of clothes I do not wear, have nowhere to put and that do not match my personal style. To be honest, my personal style is a blur even to me now because I am yet to find a way of expressing it in a society that values uniformity. I pretty much quit social media for a few weeks and now I am working on creating a content feed that doesn’t make me miserable and I am still unhappy because I cannot escape the misery-inducing content of social media. And I love social media so I don’t want to quit it completely.
And let’s not forget that I also do not have the coveted body which creates a whole array of different problems that keep happiness far away from me. I don’t think about the fact that I have a body that’s a vessel for my soul, a body that is healthy to a certain extent and helps me get places. That is less important to me because I don’t have some unrealistic body proportions that are being marketed towards women as being natural by other women who go under the knife to look the way they look. I devalued my body for being a human body and not an Instagram-approved sculpture.
Oh, I could go on. I could pick apart every single aspect of my life and write for days about the ways in which I turned everything I loved into barricades between me and happiness.
And what about the spiritual and our mental health?
Good mental health is a luxury not everyone can afford. We built a society that actively destroys our mental health and deteriorates our spiritual world and then we started selling therapy, self-help books, seminars, medications and “once you” phrases to keep most humans submissive. The most deplorable thing that we have done is somehow labeled happiness as a choice, as something you can just decide to have and the fine print of that choice and that decision to be happy is consumerism in which you can participate only if you have the money to do it so your happiness is again linked to outside factors.
Can we win in these conditions?
I don’t have an answer or a magic formula because I am in this endless loop and it doesn’t get easier by acknowledging it and being consciously stuck in it.
But just imagine a world in which people accepted and internalized food, shelter, water and air as our birthright and not something we had to earn and pay for. Would that clear our paths towards happiness and restore us back into a state of living in harmony with nature and the Earth?
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