Consider: The only person’s happiness you’re responsible for is your own.
This has been a big learning for me. I suspect it’s a big learning for most (if not all) of us — and our teens need to learn this too.
Teen Speak: Make Me Happy
I used to say my “fatal flaw” was that I valued others over myself more often than I should (and sometimes I still do). Who would have ever thought that being too selfless would be a problem but alas, here we are. I am that person who will always pay for others, offer food and water, or give a granola bar to a person sitting on the side of the road. Personally, I have offered up my bed to multiple people when they were in need. Just last night, I brought my blanket and pillow out to our lounge to make a friend of mine more comfortable who ended up sleeping in there because he had given up his bed to his friend who was visiting. I stayed the entire night out there so he would not wake up alone.
Now, I’m learning there is a very thin line between doing things to make others happy at your detriment and doing things to make others happy that actually contribute to your happiness as well. I find that that line begins with being happy with yourself. Maybe it sounds preachy, but stay with me here. If you are not secure in yourself and what makes you feel good, you may try to “crowd-please” too much, which is how people usually end up changing themselves for others in a way that leads to their personal unhappiness. This usually looks something like: “everyone is wearing this brand of clothes that I really can’t afford but I’m going to buy it anyway so as to fit in and not stand out,” or some other version of peer pressure. (And interestingly enough, nobody needs to actually pressure you directly for you to feel it.)
Regardless of what you call it, changing yourself to make someone else happy ends up crashing in the long run because you cannot maintain something that goes against your grain, and another person may never be completely satisfied anyway even with every change you make. You cannot force someone else to be happy, and if you try, it will only lead to your own decreased happiness levels along with it (lose-lose situation).
So enough of what doesn’t work though — looking to yourself for happiness is a far more sustainable solution. Only you can know what makes you truly tick, and I’m continuing to find what that is for me. In reworking my “fatal flaw,” I’m figuring out the boundary so it can be a positive attribute to hold. I enjoy doing what makes others feel good within my limits, and I pay attention to how I feel. If I truly feel good, it’s probably a useful thing for me to do. If it feels like a “should,” I’m likely crossing a boundary and need to choose differently. I felt pure happiness seeing my friend cuddle up with the blanket and pillow even if it was not a real bed, so I knew that offer of help was a yes for me. Taking note of when you feel that spurt of pure contentedness is crucial to discovering what makes you happy so that you can replicate that for yourself again and again and again.
Only I can make myself happy and the only person’s happiness I’m responsible for is my own. And for me, this can include helping someone else when doing so feels good to me.