When you’re struggling and miserable, you’d do anything to get out of it.
But long-term unhappiness is different and can be much harder to recognize.
Sometimes we get so used to being dissatisfied and low-key unhappy that it becomes our everyday “normal.”
I know how this feels to wake up every day knowing there could be so much more to your life but pushing those feelings down and convincing yourself this is just life.
You tell yourself, “well I’m not doing that bad really!”
But is it true?
It’s crucial to look at these underlying signs that you’re actually much more unhappy with your life than you realize.
1) You’re constantly comparing yourself to other people
Let’s be honest:
There are people more successful than you, better looking than you and happier than you.
But there are also many on the opposite side of the line.
When you constantly find yourself comparing yourself to others and feeling lesser it’s rarely a reflection of objective reality.
Instead, it’s a reflection of your inner reality.
What to do about it: start comparing yourself to the you of yesterday.
Only compare yourself to other people in an aspirational way of what you want to achieve instead of what you don’t have or feel like you can’t have.
2) You feel like you’re not good enough and see evidence of it everywhere
This relates to the previous point.
A feeling of not being good enough often links back to early childhood experiences or trauma that occurred.
The problem is that it tends to confirm itself, because when you carry this feeling deep inside then you see evidence of it around you.
You’re trying your best to be positive and upbeat, but you feel lacking in some fundamental, painful way that you’re unsure how to rectify.
What to do about it: the belief in insufficiency feeds into itself because of confirmation bias.
Start focusing on all the ways in which you’re not only good enough but also even better than you previously realized.
3) You feel a craving for perfection and see your life as deeply flawed
When you’re secretly unhappy, you long for a person, situation, or accomplishment that will be “perfect” and will wipe the slate clean.
You daydream and fantasize about a sudden reversal of fortune because you know you’re not that happy, but you’re not sure what exactly to do about it.
(Or you feel unwilling to take the necessary steps to start dealing with it).
What to do about it: Stop chasing perfection, it’s an addiction that will only hurt you.
Find joy and purpose in the messy reality of your life instead of the abstract idealization in your mind.
4) You have so many strong fears that you find it hard to just relax
Fear can be a very difficult emotion and instinct to deal with.
The more you try to push it down the more it rises, but if you just ignore and accept it you might feel overwhelmed or want to scream.
When you’re secretly unhappy, your anxiety and sadness tend to mingle together.
You’re not satisfied, but you’re also really unsure what to do about it and really scared of almost everything.
What to do about it: Allow your fears to exist and don’t repress them.
At the same time, realize these fears you have are not your identity or your story, they are simply human experiences you are having that will pass and that you can also channel into productive endeavors.
5) You’re unsure where to start on your dreams and feel a lack of motivation
You may have big dreams, but you have no idea where to start on them!
Every time somebody gives you real-world advice you dismiss it or promise to get started “tomorrow.”
Then you just…don’t.
This is one of the worst things about being secretly unhappy is that you self-sabotage yourself by turning your dreams into abstract ideals instead of real goals you will work towards.
What to do about it: start somewhere even if it’s just a small step.
Think of this like starting an old motor: sometimes going to the gym when you don’t want to can be the first step to getting down to more work at your job later on. Movement creates momentum.
6) You’re pessimistic about your own life and about life in general
Pessimism isn’t always “bad,” and it has elements of truth.
But when it becomes an excuse and a way to feel like a helpless victim, pessimism can be very disempowering.
This is where it becomes a clear marker of unhappiness:
You’re unhappy and you’re sure that it’s just because life is sh*t.
But actually, your belief that life is sh*t is a big part of what’s making you unhappy!
What to do about it: Start focusing more on what you’re doing, not on thoughts or imaginations about the future.
Life is what it is: get out of your head and into your body and your actions.
7) You’re cynical about all types of relationships and block your emotions around them
When you get hurt by rejection and disappointment in love it feels like getting gut-punched.
We’ve all been there:
The certainty that love and finding somebody just isn’t “meant” for us.
It’s painful and saying everything will be fine or don’t worry about it is bad advice.
But it is true that even when you’ve been hurt it’s important to keep some openness to love and those who come into your life.
What to do about it: Open up slowly, but don’t force it.
Some caution about relationships is good, just make sure you start by being aware of what you’re doing and then consciously and cautiously begin opening yourself up to the possibility of love.
8) You feel alienated from those around you and don’t feel a sense of belonging in society
Despite your efforts, you realize that you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished your mission and that belonging doesn’t seem to come.
This isn’t easy to deal with and you can’t just “get over it.”
You’re secretly unhappy because at a fundamental level, you feel unneeded in society and uncommitted to its foundational principles and philosophies.
But what you can do is begin to focus on where you do feel more at home and spend time around those you connect with more.
Find a mission, even if it’s on a more local and close-to-home level.
What to do about it: Prioritize those close to you such as colleagues, friends, and family
Participate in a few activities or hobbies you enjoy instead of focusing on the big picture of society writ large and your alienation from it.
9) You struggle with near-constant physical exhaustion and lethargy
Often unhappiness is accompanied by physical exhaustion and lethargy.
Your body is designed for action, and responding to danger and opportunity.
When you hit the snooze button too many times your whole organism begins to instinctively shrug.
“Is this it? Fine.”
When you feel physically exhausted, it’s tempting to use that as an excuse, but until you force yourself to get up you’ll find you just get more and more exhausted!
What to do about it: do at least one activity such as going to the gym, washing dishes or cleaning your living space. The more you sleep and lay around the more you’ll feel addicted to giving in to the lethargy.
10) You feel anxiety about the future and wish you could just stop time and get off the ride for a minute
I think we all feel like this sometimes.
It’s natural to sometimes feel overwhelmed and truly a bit baffled by the pace and scope of life.
Existence is intense!
When you’re secretly unhappy you wish there was a third option between being alive or being dead:
A kind of paused, time-out zone where you can just reassess and switch off for a bit.
For some that is sleep, drugs, or alcohol, overuse of which is almost always a sign that you’re just not happy in yourself right now or feeling good about life.
What to do about it: None of us can control the future, which is part of why it’s key to focus on what is in your control and work to change that.
Ensure that you do take time to relax and switch your brain off now and then!