We live in a culture that is conditioned to look outside of ourselves.
It starts when we transition from children into adolescence, when we stop placing the emphasis on what’s true to us—what’s natural to us as children—and turn to external influences and opinions.
We learn that there is a certain look, feel and sound to what’s considered desirable and worthy. We see others looking up to these sources. We begin to tie our values and priorities to external influences.
Sometimes, we look everywhere else but internally for validation, confidence, happiness and the like—things that can only truly come from within. Hence, we have #5 of the myths of happiness:
Myth 5: Happiness is externally attained
This isn’t entirely misguided.
There is a certain level of external resources needed to be comfortable—so that there is assurance, not anxiety of having what you need to live. Necessities such as a safe shelter to call home, clean water to drink, healthy food to eat, accessible transportation to get around, clean clothes to wear, and a way of earning enough income to provide for all of that plus some.
Without this threshold, the lack of basic human necessities will make it more difficult to attain happiness, although it is definitely not impossible—as demonstrated by many people who live in poverty but keep their spirits high and their hearts full.
The problem is, many of us focus on continuing to build beyond what we need to comfortably live, save and have a bit of fun, and tie these material means to our happiness. High-end brands, large houses, fancy restaurants, luxurious vacations… pick your Achilles heel.
And there are plenty of companies and marketers who have incentive to keep it that way. After all, the more people think happiness is tied to external things—from everything to consumer goods to gross income—the more buying power and purchases there are.
After a certain point, there is no significant difference in the level of happiness when it comes to external resources, whether for income or physical items. A study showed that people who make over $75K are no happier than those who make more. There is only a temporary dopamine effect from an improvement or purchase, wearing off as quickly as it came.
Happiness needs to be driven from within.
As children, we were much better at following what is true to us. But we were told others knew better, that we had so much to learn, that we were dependent on others—and while most of this was true in our early years, many of us adults haven’t learned to take back the pen and write our own story.
Happiness comes from within, as an intentional choice in the present moment and work in the pursuit of what’s meaningful. Sometimes, there’s healing that needs to occur in the form of self-love and acceptance, for the personal growth to happen before the person is able to fully embrace internal happiness.
Whatever your personal situation is, only you can know what will make you truly happy and anything you try to compensate with external forms will inevitably fall short.
Are you guilty of relying on external means for your happiness? Stay tuned for more myths in The 7 Myths of Happiness series. If you missed the previous myths, check out Part 1, 2, 3 and 4.