A list of 10 reasons why we shouldn’t let lists tell us how to be happy

You didn’t think I was ACTUALLY going to write a list, now did you? That would be too hypocritical. Come on, have a little more faith in me.

What has prompted this week’s post is the overwhelming number of self-help lists that have been popping up on my Facebook news feed. I’m not talking about those silly buzzfeed lists, because I could read about 18 ways Ryan Gosling has impregnated me with his eyes or 22 animals that will make me “awwwwwwe” until I lose my voice all day every day. The lists I’m talking about provide things I must do or know or say or think or feel in order to be happy or to succeed. These lists are often targeted to twenty-somethings, young adults, university students, or women, all of which are categories that I fall under, so of course they peak my interest. But believe me, I am not interested in a good way. I’ll be honest: I haven’t read many of these articles in full because I really don’t think they’re worth my time. And now that they are gaining such popularity, being liked and shared on a regular basis by my Facebook friends, I’m really becoming bothered by them.

Okay now you’re all going to hate happiness. I don’t hate happiness. I love happiness. I think it’s great when people are happy. I’m trying my best to be as happy as I can. I just feel that living by a list that minimizes your problems into 7 word subtitles is a toxic way of going about finding a truly happy place.

These posts love to use a lot of absolutes, like “every” and “must”, to suggest that members of age and gender groups all act the same. I don’t even feel the need to point out that that isn’t true. While you might find similarities over demographics of people, of course everyone is an individual with a unique personality and value system. Telling someone what EVERYONE in the group they are in MUST be experiencing can confuse or dishearten them when they don’t like or do what the article says they should. It could also inflict some paranoia in you, making you wonder, does my level of self worth and appreciation and confidence meet this article’s standards?

I recognize that the authors of these articles mean very well, and I praise them for their positive and helpful outlooks. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and I don’t want to tell them what to write on their blog any more than I want them to tell me. But what I think they need to remember is the importance of the difference between opinion and fact. A title like “Here are 10 things that I, a twenty-something woman, find helpful in the pursuit of personal happiness that maybe you’ll also find helpful, but hey don’t feel bad if they don’t work for you because we are all unique human beings and need to discover what works for us on our own time and that’s super cool too” is a little too long to fit in a Facebook link, but it’s leaning more towards the positive approach to these types of articles that I would like to see. It reminds the potential reader that it is the author’s opinion, not a fact of life, and they can take it with a grain of salt.

I think that the best possible advice you can give a person to encourage them to lead a happy life is that they should find their own happiness in their own way. Following a step-by-step guide that a fad website gives you will quite possibly make you happy, but how genuine is it and how long will it last? If eating healthy and exercising and laughing at yourself and surrounding yourself with good people and taking up fun hobbies and having a lot of self worth make you happy, that is just wonderful and I am so pleased for you. But I think you should discover this on your own, not through a blog post. Figure out what makes you feel like the best version of yourself on your own terms. Humans are complicated beings and your trials and tribulations are too important to be condensed in a line or two of Times New Roman font. Don’t let anyone make you feel simple, and don’t let anyone tell you what to do, even if they have good intentions.

Now I realize that I totally do sound like a hypocrite, which is the thing I intended not to do from the start. I’M NOT TRYING TO TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. Seriously, don’t listen to a word I write if you don’t want. These articles have just been getting on my nerves for a while and I needed to get my feels out. Ranting sometimes on this blog makes me happy, and I’ve yet to find that on a blog list.

You do you.

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