Happiness could mean different things to different people. It could mean reading a nice book in solitude for one while eating a hearty meal for another. It is a short moment of immense joy at times, while a state of mind that even helps you sail through long periods of difficulties on other occasions. But for an Indian woman, happiness is mostly a communal thing. A feeling to be drawn from the success and achievements of her loved ones, in endless sacrifices she makes for them. Her happiness lies in keeping those around her happy. How many women in our society seek individual joy, which may come at the cost of upsetting those in her life? Why do women see individual happiness as a selfish act? Why does the prospect of individual bliss intimidate us?
- For a woman, happiness lies in keeping those around her happy.
- How many women in our society seek individual joy, which may come at the cost of upsetting those in her life?
- Why do women see individual happiness as a selfish act?
- It is okay to prioritise your individual happiness, as the act of giving joy to others can be draining, leaving you with a sense of emptiness.
Research has found a steep rise in mental health issues among women in our country. Could it be because we are never encouraged to do what makes us, just us, happy?
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It is a taboo for women in our society to think about their individual happiness. Every girl is brought up to believe that it is her duty to think of the wellbeing of those around her, and only when she succeeds to do so, does she have the right to be happy. The compulsion to appease everyone, an impossible task naturally, means that women live with this constant knot in their stomach, fearing how they may end up upsetting anyone around them with their words or actions. When the focus is on keeping others happy, individual needs and desires take a backseat.
The result is that as years go by, women grow increasingly dissatisfied with their lives. The emptiness, resentment and sheer joylessness of life bewilders them. I am doing everything by the rule book…I keep everyone around me happy. But then why does happiness elude me? A research published by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry has pointed out the prevalence of mental health issues among women in our country, which often go unnoticed. According to it, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and unspecified psychological distress are 2–3 times more common among women than among men. It further reveals that unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by next year, is twice as common in women than men.
According to a research, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and unspecified psychological distress are 2–3 times more common among women than among men.
Could it be because we are never encouraged to do what makes us, just us, happy? Or because when we do so, it leaves us with this unbearable burden of guilt?
Individual happiness can be a promotion that you have always wanted, but kept turning down because it will make your in-laws unhappy since you’ll be earning a bigger paycheck than their son. It could mean reclaiming your sexual agency in a relationship and demanding pleasure from your partner. It could be something as uncomplicated as a night out with your girlfriends, not having to worry about your children or who’ll cook the dinner. Or perhaps a one hour Zumba class five days a week that’ll both help you stay fit and have some time away from the chaos and duties that await you at home. It could also mean simply saying “no” to things that make you unhappy.
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Don’t be afraid to claim the happiness that rightly belongs to you. Women need to understand that it is impossible to appease everyone around you and to always find happiness in that of others all the time. On some days, it is okay to be selfish. To do and say what you want and not what others want you to. And it is okay if your quest for happiness upsets others. The act of giving joy to others is a draining process. How can you then bring happiness to others, when you none left to give within you?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.