On The Rat Race That Is Trying To Make People Happy


99% of the frustrations I have in my life are a direct result of trying to make others happy. I get frustrated about my appearance because it’s not what people want. I have a bad day in my social life because I didn’t meet someone’s expectations or they didn’t meet mine. I have a bad day at work because I feel I am letting someone down.

Having people like you is so addicting — and I’m not even a person who needs everyone to like me. I’m fine with mean commenters or being more controversial than beloved. But I always think, if I’m going to be a bear, I’m going to be a grizzly. If I’m going to be in a relationship, I’m going to be the best girlfriend. The best friend. The best employee.

Why do anything if you’re not going to do too much of it? If you’re not going to live it and breathe it and come out the other side knowing whether or not it’s for you?

99% feels like an insane percentage but I’m cycling through my problems now and I’m having difficulty finding ones that are truly organic, like, I specifically am unhappy about a reality that has only to do with myself. Maybe it’s because those are the ones that are easily solvable. What other people think of you is completely out of your control.

I was on an anger hike last week. I had a super bad day with one of my relationships and then I woke up to go to the DMV downtown and ended up on the other side of the river on an impromptu hike trying to get in a better state of mind. At one of the stops to admire the scenic views this voice inside me said, “just let it go.” And I think that’s the truth of the matter. What people think about you isn’t irrelevant, it has real world consequences, but there’s not much you can do about it and even less that you should do about it.

There’s always an incentive to compete in the race, it feels good to know you are the best, but being well-liked is a rat race in it’s truest sense — it never ends. Peoples feelings are always changing, you never reach a threshold or a finish line where you can relax. It requires a constant stream of effort on your part to maintain the work you’ve put in, even if the work is as unrealistic as the other person’s expectations. It’s not a democracy.

As impossible as it seems, and as many real world consequences as there are we (and by this I mean I) need to let go of the concept that people will judge us based on our good intentions and not by how our actions measure up against their expectations (which have nothing to do with you). For now, I am going to focus on letting go. I am drinking wine and listening to Neil Young and if I need an extra push I will watch this YouTube clip. In the morning I will do what I always do — figure out how to make myself happy. Maybe I will go to the lake near my apartment and take a nap on the dock because when you close your eyes and all you hear are the waves and the boats rocking against the bumpers you can think about how everything is meaningless that isn’t that moment.

I think that’s the only thing you can do to remove yourself from the rat race — realize what makes you happy and try to give it to yourself. Get out of your head and look at the big picture, recognize that you have traveled your current course of actions a million times and it’s never amounted to anything. If you are like me you will get caught up in it again and again and again but trying still works. And I’d like to think that my conscious incompetence will one day give way to unconscious competence.