I keep seeing this piece of “inspiration” popping up around Pinterest:
At the surface, it seems harmless enough. Who doesn’t want to avoid stressful situations and/or people? Wouldn’t doing so make one less stressed out and thus happier?
But I see three fundamental flaws in it.
1. True happiness is an internal thing and is not necessarily dependent on external circumstances. This is, of course, easier said than done, but advising people to make their lives easier in order to be happier seems like telling them they can’t be happy until things are less stressful in their lives, and that’s simply not true.
2. No one can avoid all stressful people and situations, nor would one truly want to. My children, for example, are some of the most stress-inducing people I know, but I wouldn’t want to avoid them. Likewise, people’s jobs often provide some of the most stressful situations they encounter in their lives, but avoiding work is usually a bad idea. Relationships with parents, siblings, and spouses can be stressful at times because the closer people get to each other, the more likely they are to encounter the parts of each other that are annoying and unpleasant. But these relationships can be the most fulfilling of all if, instead of avoiding them, we invest in them. Of course, I’m not saying that one should never avoid a toxic relationship, but stressful does not equal toxic.
3. Dealing with hard things makes us stronger and more compassionate, which makes us more capable of happiness. So far in my life, dealing with hard things has taught me 1) that I am strong enough to deal with hard things, which makes me feel confident in my abilities, and 2) that hard stuff is hard, and I never know what other people are going through, so I should give them the benefit of the doubt and show kindness when I can. Both of these have ultimately led to me becoming a better, happier person. By dealing with difficult people, I’ve learned to understand where they’re coming from, even if I don’t agree with it. And I’ve learned to appreciate the people I love even more.
This isn’t the only bit of advice I’ve seen that was terrible, but I actually felt like I could respond to this one without hurting anyone’s feelings. Can we all collectively decide to let this one die?