4 Self-Defeating Attitudes That Stand in the Way of Happiness


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ~Unknown

I grew up believing that nothing I did was ever good enough, and this is something that I still carry with me.

It affects every aspect of my life: my hobbies, skills, my relationships, and even the understanding I have of my body, physical appearance, and my mental health. I often think that I must have done something quite terrible in a past life to go through any of this, to not be good enough.

As certain as I’ve been of this, I’ve been sure I wasn't responsible for these attitudes and beliefs. That other people did this to me, so I literally can’t let go of the pain they caused. They hurt me too much, did too much damage for me to confront them, stand up to them, and forgive them.

But blaming others hasn’t helped me move on and become the person I want to be.

It’s helped me stay a victim, sure—got me some sympathetic ears along the way—but it hasn't helped me get out of bed with a smile every morning for the past twenty-odd years. It’s made me feel sluggish and sick to my stomach whenever the thoughts and memories worked their way into my consciousness.

There’s no mystery to the way I think. Negative thinking is exactly that: negative. However, understanding negative thoughts is paramount to overcoming them.It’s taken me a while to connect with the idea that the harmful actions of others has shaped my thinking; and it’s taken me just as long to realize that it’s time to let go.

Change can come quickly but more often it’s a gradual process in which we endure and learn many lessons. I don’t want to feel like this anymore so I have to start changing my attitudes.

Attitudes I’m Changing

1. I’m a waste of time.

Not true. I make a difference simply by being; and because I’m a strict vegetarian and an environmental and animal welfare campaigner, I know I make a positive difference. My close friends wouldn’t consider me a waste of time. Even though I find it difficult to believe sometimes, they do value my ideas and opinions and they love my company.

2. Nothing that I do is good enough.

My ideas of perfection aren’t mine; those ideas belong to other people. How can I ever live up to someone else’s perfection? I can’t. There are many things I can do with great success, but in order to make those achievements real for me, I have to define my own perfection: peanut butter on toast, growing my own fruit and vegetables, the smell of freshly baked vegan cookies, writing off the cuff and producing lucid prose.

3. I deserve pain.

No, I don’t. Nobody does. There’s a difference between accepting responsibility for how you think about hurtful things other people have done, and taking the blame for those actions. I’ve not done anything to deserve the things that have happened to me.

4. I’ll never be happy.

Not with that attitude I won’t, but then aren’t I already happy? I may not have all the things I want yet, like my dream job, but I do have a lot of other things in my life that mean a lot to me: my friends, my home, my cat, my family, waking up to the river every morning, my floating garden (I live on a boat), my creativity.

Happiness comes from the small things—it comes from inside of me. I don’t buy happiness or find it or receive it; I make it, for myself and others.

The fact that people sometimes hurt other people won’t change. My attitudes that have left me open to suffering —my attitudes—will change.

It’s taking time to work through these things and I don’t expect to be finished by next Monday, but that’s what I love about change and self-improvement—there’s no pressure to be complete tomorrow. I can do it all at my own pace, in a way that suits me. I’m a work in progress. And that gives me a lot of hope.

Photo here

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at

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  • benreyna

    i love the the work-in-progress statement. we can all feel better about how we see ourselves, i think, if we can see ourselves as a work-in-progress.

  • Paulina

    Thank you so much for this article. You took my thoughts and made them comprehensible.

  • Chrissy

    I loved this post and it really helped me just now at a time when I'm struggling with study. Also I am insanely jealous that you live on a boat! If that isn't a reason to wake up happy every morning I don't know what is.

  • There's a lot I can identify with here especially your penultimate paragraph. You're right, expecting other people to change their behaviour is usually useless, but you can change your reactions to them.

  • Living on a boat is particuarly awesome, especially in the summer! It is a fantastic reason to wake up and feel happy, so I make sure to remind myself of that at least once a week 😉

    I hope your struggles with studying ease up. Take it from a real veteran of studying (I hold three professional qualifications and a 4th is on it's way – I'm only 25…) perseverance is worth it in the end, especially when you do it for yourself and nobody else.

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • It always makes me smile when I find out I've communicated the incommunicable. Thanks for letting me know that I've done something to make your day better, even if by just a smidge, and thanks for reading 🙂

  • Aquashell

    Wow your comments have brought tears to my eyes… I realize I've been feeling alot of these negative thoughts and thinking that life at times seems so hopeless… I am going to take each point and try my hardest to make them part of my new positive thinking!!!

  • I like being a work-in-progress; I've been trying to be 'complete' for years on the basis of other people's expecations. The best thing about being a W-I-P? I can change my mind whenever I want. It's my choice. I don't have to settle and that suits me. I'm flighty and spend most of my time day-dreaming. Isn't that so much cooler than being completely established? I think it is…

  • I like to think that if people see I've changed and that their efforts to damage me have gone stale, they might change too. But I don't hold my breath. That's why I'm a cynic; it's not that I don't believe people like that can't change, it's that I'm beyond caring.

    What matters now is how I pick myself up and become the person who can treat the world kindly and work to prevent the things that happened to me from happening to someone else.

    Which is why I write for TB 🙂

    Thanks for reading and your comment.

  • I wish you luck, friend. Practice makes the perfect partner to positive thinking – take up a random new hobby and work hard at it. That's how I've come to play the Sax.

    Initially I was terrible but after a lot of concentration and dedication in the past 3 months, I now play as decent as a seven-year-old in their school band and that makes me feel great ^_^

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Paul

    Wow. This is something I very much identify with. There are times I downright hate myself. I feel conflicted a lot of the time, this great internal struggle. I know I need to change my attitude but it is REALLY hard to say words like “I'm worth it” and believe them. Not have them feel like empty words, you know?

  • aquashell

    I can TOTALLY relate Paul!!! Internal conflict is so tiring isn't' it? It's difficult to stop playing the old negative tapes that we play in our heads over and over. I'm trying a new approach to help think more positive – treat myself as I would a new friend. Good luck with your journey! 🙂

  • Paul

    Yes it IS tiring, but at the same time these habits are comfortable, like a worn in pair of jeans. You're used to them, you know what to expect with them, and you can “relax” in them.

    Changing one's thinking is an active task. Like crossing a river against the current. Let your guard down and you get wash away again.

    Thank you for the well wishes. I'm going to need them today. =)

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  • Thank you for writing this post…I stumbled across it on a day that I very much needed to read these words.

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  • Thank you so much. I have grown up with those same feelings and it is very hard to overcome them. I am working so hard to break the old habits of feeling worthless. I will try to remember your words here.

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  • Sabala

    This is so true and the ONE for which I am searching for…
    Thank You!!

  • Sabala

    How true and beautiful your statement is..”Happiness comes from the small things- It comes from inside of me”….And this I end up forgetting all the time and waste my time in going back n forth of the all the hurtful and cynical attitude of others, trying to alter them…I becoming cynical at the end…

    I will try to remember this….Pain is inevitable…but suffering is optional!!!…
    Thanksss alott Sam!!! 🙂

  • You’re welcome Katrina. I hope you stumble across here again!


  • April,

    I think the fact that you’re trying to change proves that you’re totally worth it.

    Good luck, friend.


  • No problemo Sabala, glad I can be of service to you 🙂

    Nowt wrong with a bit of cynicism! It can be quite constructive but you’re right – when it starts damaging things, it’s time to reign it in.



    Hi-Sam, i liked your blog and have shared it to some. Keep up the goodwork! NING from Philippines


    hi Sam-how are you? I liked your blog and have shared it to some. Keep up the good work! NING from Philippines

  • Deebers Pappi

    Inciteful! Speaking the truth regarding Behavior and mental thoughts. Emotions are inevitable but they do not have to control us.