10 Things You’re Prioritizing Over Your Own Happiness (That You Shouldn’t)

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Do you feel resentful that the people around you seem to be happier than you are?

How about feeling like your interests, preferences, and goals take a backseat over duty and others’ expectations?

Below are 10 things that you may be prioritizing over your own happiness. If any of them resonate with you, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.

1. Other people’s happiness.

Are you constantly putting your preferences aside to make other people happy?

Maybe you’d rather chill and read a book on the weekend instead of going to brunch or shopping, but you do it to make your partner happy.

Or perhaps you despise the favorite meal they cook a few times a week but choke it down because they don’t like the dishes you’d prefer.

Basically, you perpetually sacrifice your own joy to keep other people happy, but they don’t do the same thing for you in return.

Furthermore, you may never have a chance to follow your own pursuits or even spend time in your own head because you’re expected to perform in ways that keep those around you content.

2. Family obligations.

A lot of people find themselves taking part in things they have no interest in just to make their family happy.

This may involve pursuing a career that they’re not passionate about or having kids that they never wanted because their parents demanded grandchildren or their spouse wanted babies.

These obligations are usually powered by guilt, which is used by people to manipulate others into doing what they want.

Parents often remind their adult children of all the sacrifices they made for them and now it’s “their turn” to reap the rewards. In cases like this, it’s important to remember that these people chose to have children. As such, they don’t “deserve” to get what they want from those who had no say in being born in the first place.

Additionally, “family” is often found and assembled as we go through life.

We may have zero connection to those we’re bound to by blood, so any perceived obligation toward them is negatively magnified a thousandfold.

Some people mistakenly use the “blood is thicker than water” adage to manipulate their family members, forgetting that the actual phrase is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” (in other words, the bonds we choose are stronger than those of DNA).

3. Societal expectations.

We’re constantly barraged by ideas of how we should behave, look like, or even think.

As a result, most people can’t honestly answer questions regarding how they feel about a particular topic—they simply echo what their peers or celebrities have been saying.

Doing so offers less risk of social alienation, but it may come with feelings of self-loathing and shame about not speaking their truth.

Too often, we diminish ourselves in order to fit in, even though the result is not liking or respecting the people we see in the mirror.

There are also situations in which people feel that they must adhere to particular religious or cultural expectations in order to fit in with their peers.

This may include adhering to practices or traditions instead of prioritizing personal happiness and fulfillment.

Actions can range from agreeing to an arranged marriage to taking part in religious services that don’t resonate with one’s beliefs, or avoiding eating foods that they absolutely love because a deity they don’t believe in told them not to.

4. Material possessions.

There’s a difference between material possessions that will actually fulfill you and those that will “fill the void” to make you feel less empty.

The same goes for items that you’re purchasing in order to keep up with the crowd.

For example, would you love to get a cool sword or antique musical instrument but feel like you need to keep up with your peers by buying the latest iPhone?

Would you feel perfectly happy with basic IKEA furniture but feel obligated to buy “cool” pieces so your friends and family members don’t judge you poorly?

Then there are those people who use retail therapy to help them feel better when they’re going through a crisis, but who don’t really care about anything they purchase.

Consider getting rid of items you have that don’t bring you joy, and replace them with pieces that are special or important to you.

If other people in your life don’t approve, ask yourself why you associate with them rather than those who support and accept you as you are.

5. Unrealistic perceptions of health or perfectionism.

Have you ever had a kale smoothie? Of all the people who drink them, it’s likely that only a tiny percentage actually like the taste and texture, while the rest drink them for their purported health benefits and to virtue signal about how terribly health conscious they are.

A lot of people have unrealistic ideas about what constitutes “health,” and they try to adhere to them as perfectly and devoutly as humanly possible.

Furthermore, they often sacrifice their happiness, well-being, and even their sanity in the pursuit of a perfect ideal that either doesn’t exist, or is utterly fleeting.

You can be strong and healthy without having 2% body fat, living on wheatgrass elixirs and artisanal yak jerky. You don’t need to be perfectly “cut” to be attractive and masculine, nor do you have to try to be forever youthful in order to be beautiful in other people’s eyes.

Does starving yourself or spending every waking hour in the gym truly make you happy? How about filling your body with chemicals and implants in an attempt to stave off the natural aging process?

What would you be doing if you weren’t obsessed with being seen as “perfect” in other people’s eyes?

6. Status.

This can refer to career success or your popularity level in a particular group. It can also refer to accolades that you’ve earned in a chosen hobby or pursuit.

Ultimately, it places external validation from others as a higher priority than being truly happy with what you do and who you are.

Many people chase insincere ambitions for the sake of being held in high esteem by others, without realizing one very simple, but very profound truth:

Nobody really gives a damn about what you do.

You might earn several degrees or medals and be admired by a scant few peers for a few seconds until their attention gets pulled elsewhere, and the temporary endorphin rush you may get from “feeling seen” for those few seconds will fade quickly.

Then you’re left realizing that you’ve spent years doing things you don’t actually care about to receive accolades from those who’ll forget about you before the ink dries on your certificate.

All the status you’ve achieved will disappear the moment you’re gone, along with all the happiness you could have been focusing on instead.

Do you talk about Milo of Croton often in your daily life? How about Ibn al-Haytham or Kassiani?


7. “Fitting in”.

Do you feel that you’re able to express your honest thoughts and opinions freely?

Or do you censor your expressions so you aren’t made fun of or ostracized?

A lot of people tailor their thoughts so as to please the largest possible number of others. They’ll post on social media about The Thing that everyone else is supporting, and they won’t speak their minds if it means that their argument might upset or alienate someone they like.

Similarly, they’ll dress or behave the same way everyone else is, afraid that their authentic selves will be mocked or outright rejected by those they respect or want to be admired by.

If you find that you’re falling into these behavioral patterns rather than being the most authentic version of yourself—the type of person who would make you happiest and most fulfilled—it’s important to ask yourself why.

Do you want to spend your life pandering to others who only care about you as long as you’re being the version of yourself that they want?

Or do you want to find the “tribe” that loves you and accepts the magical, amazing version of you that you’re capable of becoming?

8. Fear.

Everywhere we turn, there’s some type of propaganda informing us of what we’re supposed to be afraid of today.

There’s an old Bill Hicks sketch in which he’s talking about news broadcasts that announce MURDER, DEATH, WAR over and over again… yet if you crack a window open and listen, you’ll hear crickets and birdsong.

The future hasn’t happened yet.

Sure, it’s good to prepare for potential pitfalls, but living in a constant siege mentality where you think something awful is going to happen at every given moment is sure to sabotage a lot of your pleasant life experience.

Bad things will happen—trust me on that—but never close your eyes to the potential of the good within the storm, or even if the storm is anywhere as bad as others think it is.

That terrifying tornado that’s spinning on the horizon may be a simple little dust devil that’ll disappear in a moment.

What I often do is make a game out of the terrible things that go on around me. The next time you feel fear about something, see if you can remain in a calm (or even buoyant) mood when everything is going to hell.

9. How other people live their lives.

If you were asked to talk about the things in your life that make you happy, would you have a list of the awesome aspects all around you?

Or would you compare them to what other people have or are doing with their lives?

For example, would you say that you really love the thing and leave it at that? Or say something like, “I know it’s not as cool as what Joe does, but I like it,” or, “Jane’s is much more expensive and nicer than mine, but it’ll do”?

If you do this kind of thing, ask yourself why you feel the need to naysay the items that bring you joy.

Do you feel worried that others will judge you for liking things that aren’t “cool,” or for making life choices that are different from the peers in your social group?

When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we end up prioritizing their measures of success instead of appreciating things on our own terms.

Just because your friend’s car makes them happy doesn’t mean the same vehicle will bring you the same joy. Follow your own bliss—not somebody else’s.

10. The perceived nobility of selflessness.

A lot of people call others “selfish” in order to manipulate them into doing what they want.

Additionally, our society tends to put self-sacrifice on a pedestal, lauding those who set aside their own dreams and goals for the sake of tending to someone else’s needs.

Take a look at people who have dedicated their lives to taking care of others rather than pursuing their own goals, or donating their life savings to a cause instead of taking care of themselves and their families.

They’re admired and praised for being such noble, selfless beings… and are then quickly forgotten about.

Furthermore, when those same people turn to others for help once their own energy or financial reserves have been exhausted, they’re generally admonished for not having put plans into place for their own self-preservation.

It’s fine to put others’ needs ahead of your own on occasion, but it’s just as important to take care of yourself and your loved ones—especially if you know that you’ll end up depleted if you throw yourself under the bus for others’ benefit.

Your happiness and well-being are just as important as theirs, so why should yours take a backseat?


If any of these things resonate with you, take some time to ask yourself why you’re placing them above your own joy.

Have you been raised with the idea that your happiness isn’t as important as satisfying others’ wants or expectations?

Once you’ve figured out why you’re prioritizing these things over your own happiness, you can take action to counterbalance that accordingly.

Life is short, so find your joy and pursue it however you can.

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About The Author

Finn Robinson has spent the past few decades travelling the globe and honing his skills in bodywork, holistic health, and environmental stewardship. In his role as a personal trainer and fitness coach, he’s acted as an informal counselor to clients and friends alike, drawing upon his own life experience as well as his studies in both Eastern and Western philosophies. For him, every day is an opportunity to be of service to others in the hope of sowing seeds for a better world.