Vicarious Happiness

Ever since I was young, I have had a hard time being happy for other people. I could never understand how others seemed to feel genuine joy at the success and happiness of those around them. I’ve always felt guilty that my automatic emotional reaction was the exact opposite. I don’t know why, but I always felt threatened when those around me found the happiness that I was searching for. More than anything, I felt jealousy. Even when it was someone I dearly cared for.

Not only that, but it has always been hard for me to hide those shameful feelings and feint excitement. I doubt I was ever able to fool anyone. I feared I wasn’t being a good friend. I was being selfish. I wasn’t capable of sharing in their celebration. I’ve always hated that about myself. But even though I have long recognized it, I don’t know how to change it.

I noticed myself mulling over my sister’s positive life events recently. I seem to feel even more threatened, the closer I am to that person. It is almost like deep in the recesses of my reptilian brain something is telling me that happiness is finite. That the more someone around me has, the less that will be left for me to discover. I know logically that isn’t true. Happiness, like love, is infinite.

Looking back, I have made a small amount of improvement. Now I am genuinely glad for my friends and family when good things occur in their lives. However, it is still overshadowed by self-pity ultimately.

I feel bad that I am wasting so many chances to be happy. The successes of those I love, are also my successes. They are opportunities for me to rejoice at their good fortune, the good fortune of people I care about. I want to keep reminding myself of this. Sometimes I get so swallowed up in myself that I forget that life isn’t all about me. It’s wonderful that it isn’t all about me. I think I would suffer a lot less if I learned to focus more on others. I hope that is something I am able to teach myself. Something I will get better at with practice.


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