Worrying about the happiness of someone else can deplete your own. There’s only one person you have control over: you! Making yourself happy is the best thing you can do to ensure the happiness of others. You can quote us on that. Joy is contagious.
Here are a few common objections people have to the statements above.
·Yes, joy is contagious. But I must admit I don’t know how to be thoughtful and considerate without caring about the happiness of others. I suppose not “worrying” does not preclude “caring,” but it is a fine line.
· I struggle with this idea of “making yourself happy” even though I do agree with the idea. It’s just that sometimes there’s a danger that this idea can foster self-centeredness, especially if we become too busy making ourselves happy while also not concerning ourselves with the welfare of others.
Nobody is advocating being self-centeredness or a suggesting a disregard for the welfare of others. However, it’s important to understand that being “thoughtful and considerate” of others is only thoughtful and considerate if there is no quid pro quo expectation attached to the caring. If you have expectations that someone will reciprocate, it’s a deal. And isn’t it more important to focus on what you know about and can actually control (your own happiness), before concerning yourself with the welfare of others? When, in truth, you can never really know what the “best interest” of others actually is?
Caring is not the same as worrying. Caring is a quality of the heart. It’s a way of behaving and feeling. Worrying stems from fear. It usually manifests as being afraid of how you perceive the situation at this moment or concern about what might transpire in the future.
This kind of behavior often falls into the category of co-dependency. It involves basing your own self worth on your perception of feeling needed. It usually entails trying to control the emotional well-being of others. When others need you, you feel validated. A typical behavior that illustrates this co-dependent dynamic is when parents inappropriately rescue adult children. This is known to have negative effects on their ability to solve problems and develop their own sense of responsibility.
Conversely, trusting in the ability of adult children (sometimes in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and yes, even 50s) to find their own solutions, though emotionally harder to do, brings about greater independence and self-confidence.
A joyous, responsible, and independently happy parent is a better model than an overly indulgent, helpful and controlling one. Though many issues start before entering adulthood, letting adult children bottom out and find their own strength may be the kindest thing that can be done for them. It may also bring better long-term results than repeatedly intervening and bailing them out.
Relationships, in which the happiness of one person is contingent on certain behavior or actions of the other is not healthy. Joyful and mature relationships thrive when each party assumes full responsibility for their own happiness. Blame, shame and guilt play no part in this model. A healthy caring person does not rely on others to make them happy. Nor do they make it their business to worry about the happiness of others.
Worry is not a substitute for caring, nor is it healthy behavior. A healthy person takes care to make sure their own needs are met so that others won’t have to step in and take care of them. How can you effectively help anyone else if you’re own needs have not been met? (As the flight attendant instructs, “Put your mask on yourself first before assisting others.”) If you are fulfilled, you can then offer your caring attention in a healthy way that requires nothing in return. Caring without expectation is unconditional love. And that is not the same as worrying.
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