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7 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Happiness

Amita Patel, LMSW
Licensed Social Worker By Amita Patel, LMSW
Licensed Social Worker
Amita Patel, LMSW, is the owner and founder of, a coaching services company that empowers individuals to achieve their goals and make them stick. She received master's degrees from New York University in both philanthropy and fundraising, and clinical and medical social work. Her unique, no-nonsense, holistic approach combines nutrition, physical activity, relationships, career, and personal philosophy. Patel has been featured on CBS, NBC, and the Huffington Post.

I was in a nine-year relationship with a man I loved, but we fought way too much. We couldn't seem to agree on anything as a couple: how to eat, where to live, or even whose turn it was to take out the recycling. Don’t get me wrong, he was my best friend and still is, but we were WRONG for each other, romantically-speaking. Having “invested” all that time, we were convinced we’d get married. But since we weren’t all that compatible, I did what many people try to do: I tried to change him.

Sometimes we think that by controlling things we can control our happiness. Whether we do this by trying to change others, manipulating a situation, or simply denying the truth, we think that the key to happiness is having power over our environment. After all, if things were different, then we’d be happy, right?

You’re dead wrong.

In my life, and in my work with clients, I’ve seen a ga-ba-jillion attempts to gain happiness by going outward instead of in. And without fail, it backfires. Yet we keep doing it because we have more faith in our fear than our truth. Sabotaging our happiness by trying to influence our surroundings is more common than we think. In fact, for most of us, it’s part of our everyday lives:

1. Jealousy

Whether it's in relationships, work, or any other aspect of life, jealousy is less about what the other person has and more about what you perceive you do not. This misplaced anger hurts you more than it helps you to get what you want.

2. Resentment

It might seem like holding onto anger will keep you safe from getting hurt again, but it actually weakens you. Forgiveness is a much stronger and healthier “F-bomb” to drop on those who have wronged you.

3. Dependence

When we rely on others for happiness, we block our ability to give it to ourselves. Your relationships with others should mirror the happiness and self-love you already hold within you.

4. The need to “fix” people

Even if you could change others, you still wouldn’t be happy. Why? Because it’s not them you’re trying to fix. Accept others for where they are in their journey. This doesn’t mean accept all the crap that comes your way. Quite the opposite. If a toxic person is bringing you down, trying to change them would be like swimming with an anchor, you’ll only sink faster. Change what you can control: You. That means adjust your expectations or let them go.

5. Perfectionism

It’s great to strive to do your best, but if your happiness is dependent on the outcome, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. Nothing is perfect. This symptom of black-and-white thinking is often what holds us back from taking initial action or being happy with the end result.

6. Self-doubt

If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. Whatever limits you perceive are the ones you’ve placed on yourself. Consciously or unconsciously, it’s a choice.

7. The belief that you’re better

The moment you think you’re above anyone or anything is the moment you prevent yourself from learning. If you think you're done learning, you’re right.

So what gives? Why do we go outward instead of inward? Cause it’s freakin’ scary as hell! Our ego has us convinced that we’re separate, that it’s all a big game of “me against the world.” The problem is that just like a muscle, every time that we address our issues externally instead of internally, we strengthen our belief in fear. The solution is simple: Change what you can, surrender what you can’t, and know the difference.

What can you surrender to start being happy today?

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