What if my pursuit of happiness hurts other people?

In my last post, I wrote that we all have a right to be happy. But pursuing happiness can be tricky when our needs directly conflict with what other people want.

For example, I've said "no" to several people's requests to spend time with me lately, to allow me to focus more on other things I want to do.

I've done it to support my own happiness, but honestly it hasn't felt very good. It's made me feel kind of selfish and mean. So I've been working to resolve that, because I know that just continuing to say yes against my better judgment is not going to make me happy, either.

Here are four things that have been helpful to remember in working through my guilt and discomfort:

  1. There is a gap between how things are and how I wish they were -- I wish our needs and interests were better aligned, I wish time weren't so finite -- and it's okay to feel sad about that gap.
  2. I still want the other person to be happy. Realizing that helps me recognize other ways I could support them that would feel good to me.
  3. Human beings are resilient. A "no" might hurt someone's feelings, but it can't touch a person's essence. Thinking of them -- or myself -- as weak is unhelpful and inaccurate.
  4. The other person's happiness doesn't rest solely on me. There are plenty of other people who might gladly support them. I don't need to hog the opportunity. 

I guess a lot of this comes down to humility, and remembering that just because I want people to be happy doesn't mean it's my job to do it for them. 

"Not my job" doesn't mean "I don't care," though. In fact, I'm finding that the more I care, the happier I am.

Here's to continuing to care for the people in your life, whether your actions make them happy or not.