On the guilt of happiness….

At what point does it become necessary to concern oneself with personal happiness? And on the same token, does personal well-being ever intersect with personal happiness? I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately. What makes me happy, what I can do to be happy, that sort of thing.
I grew up in a world where personal happiness was a relatively secondary emotion. In my world, doing the right thing – regardless of how it makes you feel – is paramount. It’s not only an important thing to do, it’s THE MOST important thing to do. So when it comes to being happy, I often brush my own feelings aside in favor of either doing the right thing or making sure that someone else is happy before I am.
This M.O. has brought a lot of quizzical looks my way. People tend to wonder why I do certain things when it’s clear that I’m either miserable or just plain not happy. When I quit my last job, my giving two-weeks-notice was called into question on more occasion than one. Why would I stay there for any longer than absolutely necessary when doing so basically resulted in self-torture. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” I’d say. “I don’t want to screw anyone over because I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me.”
My own happiness has always sort of taken a back seat to me giving the perception of perfection. I don’t like people to think that anything is wrong with me. I’ve always been the strong one. I’m always the dependable, together one. I feel like if I’m not happy, I’m letting people down, in some weird fashion. We all have moments when we’re not happy and we’re all allowed to unleash that on our friends and people we trust. So why does it feel like I’m burdening my friends when I do that? I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how my life is going and I actually felt selfish for even talking about myself. Why? Because she had something happen to her that was far more painful and intense than my seemingly-petty issues could ever be. Yet she wanted to talk to and about me. I’m still not sure how to process that.
So do I think about happiness? Sure. Do I think about my own happiness? Not really. So maybe it’s time for me to start. It just seems like there are a few issues that come along with that. It feels really selfish. Concern for my own happiness could result in hurting another person. If I’m truly happy, that probably means there’s someone else out there that isn’t. Happiness almost seems like a good v. evil kind of thing. If I’m happy, that must mean someone else somewhere isn’t, right? Probably not, but sometimes, that’s what it feels like.
So I wonder why I often feel guilt for wanting to be as happy as I know I want to be?

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