I have felt, in myself, that a great source of my unhappiness comes from my desires. This post will discuss the struggles of combating one's unhealthy desires, and I will use examples from my own life. This is a somewhat intimate topic for me, but I hope that opening up will help you, the reader, feel more open with yourself, and hopefully encourage you to reflect on your own desires and how some of them may be unhealthy.
In particular, I want to tackle 2 topics: Social validation (especially in relation to social media) and obsession with the future.
Your happiness shouldn't belong to others.
Do not seek popularity or other forms of validation as a form of happiness.
I care way too much about how many likes, retweets, shares I get. After working for 20+ hours on a single project, and getting 14 likes, it feels like my work and the time invested in it was pointless. This is only magnified when looking at other profiles, who seemingly (extra emphasis on "seemingly") make something in an hour and got thousands of likes. Then, when I get likes and retweets, I feel elated with validation - for a couple of hours. Then I want more. This is, without a doubt, addictive behavior. We are social animals, and social media has exploited our desire for group acceptance.
Social media is a meritocracy, but not in the way you or I wish it was. The popularity you get is proportional to the work you put into it, but when I say this I mean the work you put into social media, not necessarily the content you produce. Popular users have consistent posting habits, more accessible media (ex. audio is typically harder to share on Twitter than visuals), target specific audiences, and stay consistent in their media production to hit a niche. But, at the end of the day, the quality of the content you make has much less to do with your popularity than your strategic use of social media.
Not to mention, social media is all fake. And I really mean all. It is curated highlight content. It isn't the painful 100+ hours that led up to the result, or the intimate pain felt during the work, or the roller coaster of emotions behind a big plan. It also isn't a genuine one-to-one conversation with nuanced exploration of a topic. I don't trust anything on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram anymore. And this is true for Slack or Discord servers, too. Only because it isn't on a timeline doesn't mean anything. Any large group, even in the physical world, is going to have trouble going beyond the superficial. And why do we want all these likes?
You and I both know that things like going on vacation, finishing a big project, spending meaningful time with your friends are all great activities in of themselves. If those activities are so nice, why do we need to constantly share them online looking for more approval? This addictive behavior took a serious toll on my happiness. I took breaks on and off from social media, but felt that I needed to take another step beyond that. One positive I had experienced through social media was professional opportunities, and I didn't want to lose that. So, I unfollowed everyone and stopped visiting big chat servers, and simply kept posting my content while browsing nothing from others (except on rare occasions when I genuinely wanted to check up on certain people). Of course, adopting this one-way interaction with social media would be hypocritical if I didn't expect the same from others. So, in a weird way, by unfollowing all these people, I felt much more comfortable with nobody following me back. I mean, why should they if I'm not?
This decision has noticeably lifted my mood, and encouraged me to further invest myself in relationships with friends. But like a healthy lifestyle, this is not a finished solution, but a form of maintenance. Keeping unhealthy habits like this in check is a lifestyle, and not a singular decision. We need to regularly remind ourselves that the reason why love what we do is not because of the validation we get from others. Looking to others to fuel your happiness will only result in disappointment, because most people don't care about your happiness, nor are they dependable enough to give it to you regularly. Do you want to trust people like that with your happiness?
In summary, fuck social media, big online groups, the superficiality of it all, and seeking validation at large. Focus on what you like and remind yourself of these values. Take a step away from social media's perversion of your interests, and enjoy them for what they are.
The goal only enables a journey.
We are caught up in visions of the future, but the present is the only place we will ever exist.
As big decisions about my life come my way, I find myself simulating, in great detail, what life will be like with each choice. But this is a waste of time, because I only have one brain, and it's nowhere near powerful enough to predict anything with any meaningful accuracy. So why am I bothering?
As humans, we're both blessed and cursed with the ability to create our own realities, and we look for the best option by simulating the outcomes of decisions. We have the ability to partially exist in hypothetical futures, but it's so easy to get lost in this thinking when we are constantly encouraged to envision our future instead of focusing on what we're doing in the moment.
As I move from job to job, I feel anxious that I will be stuck with the decision I make, while fully aware that I could just... Quit and find another job. This anxiety is crippling for some people, and I've time and time again been proven wrong about my ability to predict how things will turn out.
So, when thinking of goals, or destinations, I believe that being overly concerned with reaching them can pull our attention away from doing things that make us feel fulfilled. These goals should really only be an excuse to move in a direction, as opposed to an absolute purpose. Another reason for this is the fact that getting to your destination - a new job, a new possession, more money - will not make you happy. That's not to say those are bad goals, but it seems we have a trend of growing accustomed to our lives and eventually seeking more, regardless of what we already have. Such is the human condition.
But this isn't bad news, it only means if you set goals that involve doing engaging and fulfilling activities, you will fill your days with joy, instead of dread and working towards an ephemeral goal with fake promises of happiness. Choose your goals not exclusively by what they grant you, but more so by your enjoyment of the activities necessary to achieve them.
I might add more to this list, but for now these are the topics I'm confident in talking about.