Perfect Happiness is Bullshit. You can quote me.

I was going to talk about something else today but I changed my mind. I can do that. Because I’m like that (more on that on Friday).

I read my friend Scribbles’ post on happiness (even cantankerous hermits like to ponder the meanings and methods of happiness I guess.)

I was struck by two things. One, that people think that you must be “perfectly” happy for it to “count,” and two, that people seem to see happiness as a competition, a zero sum game, in fact, where people are only happy relative to how unhappy the people around them are.

This is bullshit.

I mean, how screwed up is it that, in the comments, I apologized for being a naturally happy person? Seriously? I’ve actually (and I did do this more-or-less consciously) hidden my basic contentedness, so as not to appear to be rubbing it in the faces of those less fortunate.

My happiness does not depend on my relative good fortune over those around me (that would include people who think that if they could only be rich, famous, good-looking or have a better job that they would be happy). I am happy because I’m happy.

There have been times in my life when I have been less happy than I am now, and perhaps also times when I have been more happy, but the happy is pretty constant. It’s an outlook, not a possession.

Also? This has nothing to do with other people. This has to do with how happy I am with myself. If you’re not happy with yourself, you’re not happy. Please feel free to argue this point with me; it’s an empirical theory, but by no means a proven one. If you’re not happy with yourself, and yet you are happy, please explain how that works. You can even email me. I really want to know.

And what the hell is “perfectly happy”? That’s a bullshit term if I ever heard one. As far as I’m concerned, “happy” is a relative term, not an absolute one. And even if it was, look at the way people misuse words like “unique” and “absolute”


You know what this is? This is out-and-out perfectionism. The perfect being the mortal fucking enemy of the good.

I see that with people and their health, too. They get a headache, they have a pain; a sniffly nose, a sore throat. ohnoes!Β I’m sick! Call the doctor! Quick, get me to the pharmacy!

Discomfort is not fatal. Imperfect happiness barely registers as a problem. You’re causing your own goddamn problems by demanding perfection. Why is this? Inferiority complex? The media skewing what you think you want? It doesn’t matter. It’s curable.

Get in touch with contentment. What does it feel like? Is it transient? Good. No reason why it should stick around.

Then, catch the next wave. It’s always there, you just have to get in sync with it. You’ll probably notice that some things you thought would make you happy, didn’t. That just means you’re not sufficiently in touch with what you really want.

I like ice cream, but when I eat it, it doesn’t taste good. So I don’t eat ice cream. When I want ice cream, I’ve come to realize it’s because I want a treat, I want to feel like IΒ deserve a treat. And so I let myself feel that way. And, sometimes, I make myself a mocha latte too. Because I deserve it.

There are lots of ways that the things we think we want only symbolize something else. Usually, that something else is fairly close at hand and readily available. Try it and see.

And leave a comment. Because I swore a lot in this one, and if nobody comments I’ll think I scared you all off.


21 thoughts on “Perfect Happiness is Bullshit. You can quote me.”


    (Totally not scared off.)

    (May not have much to say, though – I mostly agree with you and/or see where you’re coming from. And I do the same thing with treats.)

    (And I recently realized that 95% of my not-happy emotions arise when I look at the world outside my skin and some of the people in it; alone, in my head and in my flesh, I am totally happy.)

  2. I, personally, love the swearing.

    And I see this kind of perfectionism a lot around me and in me. The pressure to always be open and saying yes and thinking positive and accepting of everyone and everything without any defenses or judgements and be at peace and ecstatically happy.

    The theme of my work lately has been focused on building tolerance for discomfort and confusion – and by tolerance I mean a kind of acquaintance with it. breaking the fear and revulsion spell a bit.

    I can relate to feeling self-conscious about being a happy person. But I can also be pretty rueful and while I don’t want to be apologetic about my ability to be pleased or compromise the outlook I have that colors my life hopeful I intend to never be the kind of person who looks someone’s sorrow in the face and reduces their experience to the epithet that ‘happiness is a choice’. it’s the easy way out, instead of practicing the art of holding your own space while deeply empathizing and connecting to the space someone else is in.

    I personally prefer my happiness to have it’s edges tinged with poignancy. Brings out all the other emotional flavours for me to savour.


    1. That’s a beautiful comment. I think that you nailed the Scribbler’s point about bringing the artist’s perspective into your everyday life.

      There’s also a very good article currently on A Daring Adventure, Tim Brownson’s blog, mentioning that there’s new research that implies that about 50% of your ability to be happy is genetic. I should have chased him down for a citation, but I thought that was an interesting parallel. The same way that social butterflies cannot hold introverts to their own standards, it’s ridiculous for us “naturally happy” people to shoehorn others into our headspace.

      Looking forward to seeing you around again,

    2. Another ‘basically happy’ commenter, here! πŸ™‚

      I’ve realized the “Try harder to be happy” or similar so-called advice, is judgey in the extreme.

      “… building tolerance for discomfort and confusion…” Oh yeah!

      My list of ‘usual suspects’ (Bridget Pilloud, Mark Silver and Ken Bechtel) (oh, and Shanna!) all suggest learning to ‘just sit with’ your feelings — whatever they are — for a while, then release them to the Cosmos, and move on… to whatever is next for you. Give yourself permission to really feel whatever it is that you feel … That, ya can help someone else do, either with words or by example; everyone’s emotions are valid, no matter how different they are from ‘how you would feel, in the same situation’!

      Love and Blessings ~ Karen

      1. Hey Karen, this one slipped through the cracks.:)

        It’s so great to hear how you see language things. I hate that judgy tone too. It helps to not offer unsolicited advice, but even I occasionally have to say, “I don’t have a good answer for you.”

  3. … practicing the art of holding your own space while deeply empathizing and connecting to the space someone else is in.

    THIS. Yes. Exactly this. Absolutely.

  4. …your ability to be happy is genetic…
    Not surprising; it’s a survival adaptation. Motivation usually requires some unhappiness, so we’re stuck with this innate urge to be dissatisfied. I guess our happier predecessors watched the crops fail and didn’t let it bother them too much. Our ancestors are the ones who worried.
    Also, me too: what Erin said. But having empathy without letting others’ problems become your own can be a tough call. I want to save every stray dog I see, for example.

    1. I know, it’s a fine line. Like everything else, I suppose. I default to a rather laissez-faire attitude, almost fatalistic, wherein I’m not really convinced that interference will actually help the issue. It doesn’t usually stop me from helping, but it does stop me from taking on other people’s burdens. It’s sometimes hard not to take on just a little bit, in solidarity to their pain. But it doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help them, and if I can remain compassionate without being affected, I can hopefully share more insight. At the least, though, I’ve done no damage.

      But, I’m accustomed to people accusing me of being heartless, so that’s one possible interpretation as well πŸ™‚

    2. for me what makes that so hard is that boundaries are fluid – more like semi – permeable membranes than like walls you just build one time and then walk away from secure in knowing they’ll last for centuries.

      Walls like that exist in our psyches – but the relief they bring is short-lived considering how long they’re built to last – inevitably we end up wanting out from your own restrictions.

      so, shit. then what?

      I guess you could just take in every single stray dog and see what happens and then turn it into an extreme object lesson :). It’s what some people do – and then hope the mayhem ends up meaning something eventually…you know, in the name of science πŸ™‚

      those of us that aren’t really extremely walled – in or prone to insane extremism when it comes to unleashing our freedoms – we’re stuck with this thing that is new every time we get near it – let this in, or not? take this seriously, or not? accept this, or not? like this person, love this person, bring this person closer, or not? and so on…

      although this is now a bit of a digression from the original point, oops – so to bring it on home – that part where someone says that ‘suffering is a natural part of life and therefore counts as living, too – that’s profound work right there – to be the kind of healer that isn’t out trying to eradicate all suffering as a proof of being successful as a human being. not needing every client to walk away happier and livelier and less prone to suffer in the future – not because those aren’t wonderful things when they happen but just that as goals in and of themselves they….are….scribbles says it – it takes the art and point and meaning out of life.

      that’s a different kind of responsibility I don’t hear a lot from practitioners – especially when you consider that the fashionable marketing speak now is all about how this service or modality will bring your clients happiness and peace and freedom from suffering as though you can go somewhere and bargain with life on behalf of your future clients that because they choose to work with you life with spare them it’s usual indignities.

      …..sounds familiar….


      1. Hey Erin,

        Thanks for the compliments! It does make it hard to market. Especially with the mostly mental/emotional work I do, I can’t promise anything; those walls are there for a reason. Once I really noticed and let go of my savior complex, and really, truly believed that people are fine whereever they’re at, life got both harder and easier.

        On one hand, it hurts the ego a bit to tell people you probably won’t fix their problems. I consider it a tremendous win if ONE problem gets resolved and the client seems really clear on things and aware of the dynamics in their life.

        Mostly I educate my clients and teach them to identify or even anticipate dynamics. (Geez, I feel like I’m giving away trade secrets here. Onward!) A lot of bodytalkers don’t do the discussion thing, but I think it’s crucial to bring conscious awareness to the situation. Otherwise, I might as well be faith healing, for all that the client learns. How can I say what you’ll learn? I can’t. It depends on far too many factors. So I just cop out and say you’ll be transformed.

        But thank you so much for your kind words. They’re going into the Happiness file for when I need a reminder about why I’m doing this the hard way πŸ™‚
        Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
        EnvoyΓ© sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le rΓ©seau de Bell.

  5. I’ve seen that information on happiness being innate to a particular person. It even goes so far as pointing to a “resetting” of the happiness level after both positive and negative life changes to roughly the same as it was.

    I’m a happy person – have been all my life with the occasional shifts but it usually comes back to being basically happy with myself and my life.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge pain and discomfort – they’re as present in my life as most folks – but they don’t make me unhappy, they’re more like counterpoints to better times.

    Thoughtful post…

  6. oh, saviour complex making me think people just wont make it if I don’t say something brilliant, how do I wish you would evaporate permanently?


    I’m honored to be in your happy files! And to know of someone willing to work the hard way to help people instead of becoming another faith healer – it’s good to not be alone!


    1. pssst! I’ll let you in on my super-secret Om mantra (repeat as needed.) “Take your ego out of the equation” I love my ego and I want her to be happy, but geez she is high maintenance! =)

      You’re never alone here! Welcome!

      1. πŸ™‚ my super secret technique is turn her antics into my psyche’s comedy show – or poetry – give it some outlet. I might try out the mantra one now and then when something more stern is needed.

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