Is Happiness A Privilege?




Let me tell you a story. During the first full-time job I had, the boss always asked me "are you happy?" and I always replied, "no". Then he would proceed to ask "Why?". This happens many times and out of that many times, I don't think I answered correctly. By correctly, I mean it is not really what truly made me unhappy. I answered work-related reason when I actually have a personal problem that I hide cause just think he wouldn't care. Sometimes, I didn't realize what the problem is but I was sure it is not because of work. Sure, my work makes me unhappy at times but there are also times when I was unhappy because of other problems. The bottom line is I am not sure. I am just not happy.


That was 3 years ago back in 2017 to mid-2018. Fast forward to today, I am slightly happier but still miserable inside. I am sure not just me having this problem. I talked to people same age as me, younger than me, older than me, they are not completely happy. Sometimes I try to think, "Oh maybe they just having a bad day", but then I thought, the bad day that happens almost every day? Really?


I can probably tell you that most of the people I know are generally unhappy. I met very few people who claimed to be happy but the amount of unhappy people I know makes me doubt their happiness as if it is just not normal to be happy.


But isn't happiness a choice?

Isn't happiness a universal right?


If this is a choice, then isn't it an easy choice to make? To be happy? Who would choose to be miserable?

If this is a universal right, then shouldn't many people have that right? Just like having the right to live, get access to education, and having a religion?


There is a movie that I like the script, it was very straightforward and plain, I love it. One day the man asked the girl if he hurt her because she has a sad outlook and then the girl replied "No", so he asked again "then why are you sad?" and then the girl replied, "I don't know, I am just always a little sad."


Don't we all have that feeling? We always feel sad, but usually, we don't know why. Sometimes we may try to rationalize it by saying "I'm sad because I don't have money" or "I am sad because my work stressed me out"


I always say something like that when people asked me why I am sad. I would probably still say that because it is such a simple answer and people would understand right away. Furthermore, I am not obligated to say truthfully what's on my mind for such casual talk, and likewise for you.





I like this article that tried to decide whether happiness is a basic need because of Maslows's Hierarchy of Needs and the WHO's constitution. It gives an interesting point that "Happiness just does not seem like the right sort of thing to proclaim as a right in itself.", but it can be understood better as a right to pursue happiness.


So,

we don't know why we are not happy.

We are not happy most of the time.

Happiness is not a choice.

The right to be happy is actually a right to achieve happiness.


That makes me think, then, what is happiness?

I guess defining happiness is opinion-based. It depends on whoever thinks of it and their reason why. So why not, I try.





In my opinion, happiness is a privilege. And this is why I think so.


I am not saying that only rich people will be happy.

I am not saying that only healthy people deserve to be happy.

Or anything you would think it to be.


I am saying that happiness is the ultimate prize that not many of us will get. It really is a privilege, it is either you have it or you don't. The question is, how can we qualify for that privilege?


Do you have to be famous to be happy?

Do you have to be a president to be happy?

Do you have to have loving family/friends to be happy?


While it is easy to imagine that if we are famous, rich, an important figure, or have a loving people around us will solve the problem. But unfortunately, that is not exactly true. Some people have loving family, lots of money, but still unhappy.


Not to mention, some people would have some condition that makes them unhappy. Some people have seasonal affective disorder, or depression, or anxiety. Also, even if you don't have that mental illness, our brain have the ability to scan potential problem and threats, which is inconvenient for many of us.


In my opinion, if one wants to be qualified for that privilege to be happy, there are terms and conditions to fulfill. Think of it as being a "member of happiness". The members will get a privilege, which is happiness. So to register as a member, you have to do several things :

  • be grateful no matter what

  • Cured from depression, SAD, anxiety, bipolar, or any other mental illness that might cause stress or sadness.

  • have a fit and healthy lifestyle, as well as a healthy body

  • have money enough to smoothen problems, prevent problems, and to enjoy fine things

  • have all the basic needs covered, such as food, shelter, etc.

  • made few mistakes and if they do, they have repented and became a better person.

  • realize that mistakes are the way to a better ones

  • love themselves and endure from all the negative things people talk/think about you

  • give love and have positive outlook on others

  • receive love from others

  • have a pleasant living condition

I think there are so many many terms and conditions, but I can't name them all.

My opinion is that if you don't have at least one of these qualifications, then you might not have that privilege to be happy.


These conditions are very difficult to do because of how challenging the society can be.


The reason why I think it is a privilege that comes with a long list of terms and conditions is because some people ticks a lot of boxes, but they still did not fulfill all therefore they are still not happy. Some people apparently checks all the boxes, therefore they are happy.


By having this list and defining that happiness is a privilege, it makes sense to me why "I am just always a little sad". Maybe this is my coping mechanism, maybe this is the real definition of happiness. Either way, I am content.


-Leni



References :

https://www.theperspective.com/debates/living/is-happiness-a-choice/

https://www.idareact.org/is-happiness-a-basic-need-or-a-universal-human-right/


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I have to stress again that this is just my opinion and this writing is just for entertainment purposes. This writing is definitely not educational so please don't take this as a guideline to happiness and don't accuse me of sharing misinformation.



Leni Tjahjadi

UX Design, Copywriting, UX Writing, Marketing Visual, and Branding

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