11 subconscious behaviors of people who are secretly unhappy with their lives

It’s honestly surprising how many people are unhappy with their lives.

I’ve always believed that if there’s something in your life that makes you unhappy, you should change it. At the same time, I know it’s not that simple for everyone.

Sometimes, we may not even realize how unhappy we are. Other times, we know when we are not happy, but we try to hide it because we live in a world that values optimism and putting on a show.

Still, these powerful emotions will find a way to come out one way or another.

There are lots of behaviors that show a person isn’t happy with their lives that they may not even be aware of themselves.

Here are the signs to look for.

1) Pessimistic outlook

I once had a friend who had a very pessimistic outlook on life

It’s true that he’d had a lot of misfortune, so in some ways, he was entitled to think that life is a difficult ordeal. 

But this outlook shaped his life and, as pessimism often does, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I called him out on it, he said something very interesting.

“If you’re a pessimist, you’re only ever pleasantly surprised. If things go badly, well, you expected that. If they go well, it’s a surprise, but you’re happy about it.”

I don’t agree.

Pessimists have a way of finding the worst in any given situation, and even when good things happen, they can’t enjoy them because they are just waiting for everything to go wrong.

However, it did give me an insight into why some people have a pessimistic outlook. Often, it’s a form of psychological self-defense.

If someone is used to disappointment, they may think expecting it can help protect them from it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Instead, pessimists find the worst in everything and often find it impossible to be happy.

2) Complaining

This is one of the more obvious signs of someone who is not happy with the life they are living.

Look, life can be difficult, and we all have reason to complain sometimes. I’d like to be stoic and bear misfortune with the same tranquility I greet good luck, but it doesn’t always work that way.

On the other hand, there’s a difference between occasionally venting when things go wrong and constantly complaining about everything.

Psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener writes that there are three types of complaining:

  • occasional venting
  • chronic complaining
  • instrumental complaints

 Occasional venting is something that we all do when frustrated. And instrumental complaints are aimed at fixing a particular problem. When the problem is fixed, the complaining stops.

Chronic complaining, on the other hand, is what people do when they are not happy with their lives. 

They find the worst in everything, and no matter what happens to them, they find something to complain about.

3) Anger

Anger is common in people who aren’t happy with their lives. 

Whether they realize their unhappiness is causing their anger or not, anger is a very common reaction to an unfulfilling life.

Angry people often feel like they are victims, and that the world is conspiring against them to keep them in a situation they don’t like. They blame others for their circumstances and their unhappiness.

Sometimes, anger is a way for people to try to prevent their feelings of sadness. By being angry at the world and everything that happens to them, they try to avoid confronting whatever it is that is making them sad.

4) Projection

People who are unhappy with their lives often engage in projection.

This means they will project their own negative feelings onto others.

For example, they may point out the unhappiness in other people’s lives. Even if they see other people who seem to have enjoyable lives, they will argue that they can’t really be happy, and that it’s all an act.

As Dr. Cynthia Vinney points out, projection is often a defense mechanism, too. Projecting their own worst traits and behaviors onto other people subconsciously allows them to avoid recognizing those behaviors in themselves.

5) Lack of motivation

One of the worst traits of people who are unhappy with their lives is that they begin to lack motivation to do anything about it.

That’s how people get stuck in bad situations.

Often, being unhappy with your life can lead to depression, which destroys your motivation to improve things.

Other times, it may just be that the person who is unhappy with their life has developed a negative outlook that makes them think it’s not worth trying to improve things.

You can see this lack of motivation in many different areas of their life. 

They may stop trying to achieve things at work. They may abandon hobbies they used to enjoy. They may even take less time and effort over their personal appearance.

These can all be signs of depression, so if you or someone you know starts showing these behaviors, it’s worth considering seeking professional help.

6) Isolation

detach negative thoughts 11 subconscious behaviors of people who are secretly unhappy with their lives

Another behavior of people unhappy with their lives is that they often isolate themselves from others.

This can often be subconscious behavior that they don’t realize they are doing. But they will break off engagements, avoid social interaction, and do everything they can to avoid spending time around others.

Often, this isolation can be a sign of mental illness.

But at other times, it may just be a subconscious action on the part of someone unhappy with their life who doesn’t have the energy to deal with other people.

7) Health issues

Unfortunately, anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms of unhappy life can start to have a negative effect on your physical health.

Issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can reveal themselves with symptoms like:

  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • muscle pain
  • digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea
  • skin rashes
  • sudden weight gain or loss
  • difficulty breathing

As if that’s not enough, having these health issues makes it even harder to be happy.

8) Unhealthy behaviors

Often, people unhappy with their lives make things worse for themselves with unhealthy behaviors.

Because they aren’t happy, they try to escape their unhappiness by distracting themselves with alcohol or drugs.

They may also try to make themselves happier by binge eating unhealthy foods, engaging in risky sexual activities, or other behaviors that can cause long-term damage to both body and mind.

As researcher H.S. Friedman found in this study, they may also visit the doctor less, be less likely to use condoms, wear less sunscreen, and engage in countless other unhealthy behaviors.

9) Putting others down

This is similar to the projection I talked about earlier.

Some people who are unhappy with their lives are bothered by the fact that other people are happy. And so they can’t keep themselves from putting other people down.

Do you know someone who constantly thinks the worst of everyone? Someone who is always trying to diminish the achievements of others?

If so, it’s probably because they are not happy in their own life, and so they try to make it seem as though nobody else is happy, either.

10) Being judgmental

One form of putting others down is being judgmental.

Because they have a pessimistic worldview, unhappy people often ascribe the worst possible motives to other people.

That makes them harshly judge the behavior of others.

Being unhappy themselves, they are constantly looking for ways to criticize other people. Whether it’s their clothes, their looks, their job, or anything else, people who are unhappy with their lives often subconsciously judge other people very harshly.

As this study shows, your own happiness and emotional stability is a great predictor of how you view others. 

The less happy you are, the more likely you are to think worse of other people.

11) Showing off

This one may seem a little surprising.

But many people who are unhappy and insecure try to make themselves feel better by bragging and showing off.

That’s because subconsciously, they know their life isn’t going the way they want it to. And they hope that by convincing other people that everything is great, they will start to believe it themselves.

Unfortunately, this never works. You can’t lie to your subconscious, after all.

The signs of unhappiness

When people aren’t living the life they want, it can show itself in a number of ways. 

But because we live in a world that prizes achievement and confidence, people often won’t come out and tell you if they are unhappy.

Instead, it can show itself in these ways.

And sometimes, people may not even realize how unhappy they are.

Take a look at your own behaviors. If you exhibit some of the behaviors on this list, it may be because you aren’t completely happy with the life you are living. And if that’s the case, it may be time to make some changes.

Picture of Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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