Long before I understood happiness in the way I do now, I moved towards my personal happiness by doing everything I could to make other people in my life happy. When anyone asked me what made me happy, I’d enthusiastically respond, “Making others happy.”
Twenty-five years later, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that other people’s happiness is not my responsibility, nor is it within my power.
Growing up I was taught that sacrificing yourself and your needs was virtuous. I believed it made me a better person, and I noticed I seemed to be better liked when I didn’t speak up for my own needs and prioritized others happiness over my own.
Over time, I began to take responsibility for the moods, challenges and unhappiness of others in my life.
When I started my journey of self-growth, I soon became aware that this outdated way of operating was not the path to personal fulfilment.
Everyone has someone in their life — family member, friend or co-worker — who no matter what you do, you can’t seem to help. Here are some things I’ve learned about happiness as I’ve grown:
>> Happiness can only be experienced personally. This means that no matter what you think, see or feel about life or a situation, you can’t force someone to experience things your way.
No matter how happy you are, you can’t give anyone your happiness. It’s like health. Just because you are healthy, you can’t give them a part of your health and make them healthier. Trying to do so only drains your own energy. You can offer a healthy and safe environment for others to experience happiness in, but the ultimate choice to be happy is theirs.
>> The more energy you spend trying to make another happy, the worse it is. It’s wonderful to be the one who is there for a loved one, helping them see a new perspective and supporting them positively in life.
However, if you have to constantly be available to cheer them up or be there for them at all hours, it can be exhausting.
When they depend on you for their emotional support, then they become addicted to you for their emotional high.
This is not only fleeting for them, it’s draining for you, and ultimately it weakens them as you become their life crutch.
>> Protect your own energy so you can rise to your full potential. Inspiring others, being there for them and supporting them toward finding their own path is loving. However, when you sacrifice your own energy without return, you drain your limited and precious life force.
The best way to inspire others is to focus on your own joy and fulfillment. By doing so, you empower others to do the same. Contrary to what many of us have been taught growing up, living for yourself is not selfish. It’s the best way to lead others toward a happy and fulfilling life.
Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit YourHappinessU.com