“Why am I so unhappy?”: Five possible reasons

In this blog post, I lay out five common sources of unhappiness. Then I tell you how to fix them.

By Ed Latimore Last modified

Everyone wants to be happy.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say that no one wants to be unhappy.

Happiness is subjective and difficult to define. Unhappiness is straightforward and simple.

This is why it’s easier for me to tell you why you’re so unhappy and what you can do to fix it.

If you already know why you’re unhappy, then you want to know how to feel better. If you don’t know why your mood is low, or you need a fix for your sadness and melancholy…

This article will tell you why you’re so unhappy and how to get back up. Let’s begin.

Loss aversion has robbed the joy from your life

“Yo my n*gga why you actin’ like a bitch? If you scared to take a chance, how the fuck we gon’ get rich?” — J.Cole, “Firing Squad”

Loss aversion is a cognitive bias that means we try harder to avoid negative emotions than we do seeking positive emotions. Assuming the emotions are of the same amplitude or intensity:

  • Criticism demoralizes more than praise energizes
  • Pain is more avoided than pleasure is sought
  • Loss saddens more than gain boosts morale
  • Losing hurts more than winning feels good

As Charles Darwin once said, “Everyone feels blame more acutely than praise.” Put differently, avoiding the loss of $5 motivates us more than making an extra $5. People work harder to avoid a $20 penalty than they do to receive a $20 bonus.

It’s been theorized that this behavior evolved as a survival mechanism. If food is scarce, missing a day’s worth of calories could end your life, but getting an extra day’s worth of calories doesn’t guarantee you’ll gain a full extra day of life. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Today we no longer have to deal with such extreme trade-offs, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have our own version of loss aversion-inspired survival mechanisms. If you’re paid an hourly wage, losing 5 hours can mean not having enough money to pay your all your bills. On the flip side, an extra 5 hours won’t give you more utilities or a nicer place to live.

Loss aversion is a useful mental model to filter our decisions through, but it often works against us. It often causes us to get comfortable in our current position and keeps us from making moves to have a happier, fuller life.

When I started to get my life in order, I always wondered if doing this work was going to be worthwhile. Even though I didn’t like being broke and having an alcohol problem, it was the life I knew.

(Read: “How To Turn Your Life Around”)

Familiarity is dangerous because it’s so gradual and subtle. I don’t remember the exact moment everything in my life went to shit, but I do remember feeling an odd attachment to my degenerate life. It seems silly, but I remember worrying about leaving the old unsatisfactory me behind for the new and improved version of me now.

When it comes to the detrimental effect that loss aversion can have on your life, a popular saying comes to mind; “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” But of course, it’s usually not better.

You won’t be happy sitting still. You need to make moves and go after stuff. But, if you’re afraid of losing what you already have, you can never gain what you want.

You're unhappy because you don't take risks

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you don’t take risks, you’ll stay the same

Happiness is a bi-product of change. Change means that you have to leave things behind so that you can experience something new.

If you’re afraid to go after what you want because you’re afraid of losing, then you’ve already lost. You just don’t know it yet.

But your emotions do. That’s why you’re so unhappy.

How this makes you unhappy: Feelings of being in a rut, unsatisfied with your position in life, and filling time with meaningless distraction rather than self-improvement.

How to become happier: Happiness is a rate of change and a static position. Though this appears contradictory, you can’t have one without the other. You have to take risks and make moves, which means leaving things behind.

The comfort you cling to will ruin you and make your life more uncomfortable than failure ever could.

You worry about what you can’t control

Life is like poker.

You can’t control the hand you’re dealt, but you can control how you play it.

Poker teaches many valuable lessons about the role of luck in our lives and our emotional response to it. Getting excited when you have bad luck can be just as harmful as getting sad when it gets bad.

Some players make money. Some players lose it. It helps if you have pocket aces, but that’s rare. Even then, sometimes even the best starting hand loses to bad luck and timing.

Even when you play well, you’ll sometimes lose. Even when you have an advantage, you sometimes fail. While skill undoubtedly plays an important role, a large part of the game is beyond your control.

You don’t control the cards. You don’t control the other players. The only thing you can control is how well you play your hand. You’re only master of your own life.

I experienced significant increases in my mood and productivity when I started focusing on what I could actually do something about. For example, when it comes to making money online, there is a lot I can’t do anything about.

I can’t make a potential customer see the value in one of my books or guides. I can’t control if one of my posts on social media is going to bring in a lot of traffic. I can’t control the open rate of my emails or if people resonate with what I say in the newsletter.

I can control the quality of the work I produce. That’s it. I believe that if I do that, then it’s impossible to lose. More importantly, I can focus my energy on what I can actually control.

I can stop worrying about meaningless metrics and instead focus on producing quality. I can control the quality and authenticity of my post. I can’t control the actions that the user takes in response to them.

No one likes to admit this, but our lives are heavily governed by random events and probabilities. While we can do things to put more of these odds in our favor, there is nothing we can do about many parts of our lives.

(Read: “How To Get Lucky: 9 Easy Ways To Seduce The Goddess Of Fate”)

We can’t control the fickle forces in life. Thinking we should be able to accomplishes nothing. It only frustrates us.

Unhappiness from bad luck

Your fortunes PROBABLY won’t change here.

In life, as is the case in poker, the player who wins doesn’t always have the best hand. It’s the player with the tightest game who can turn chicken shit into chicken salad. This is the player who wins big in cards and in life.

Focus on tightening up your life game.

Don’t worry about shit you can’t control because the only thing you can control is yourself.

How this makes you unhappy: Placing blame, getting angry or disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you imagined them, and frustration with human nature.

How to be happier: Great peace of mind can be attained if you focus only on what you can control. This doesn’t mean you should completely ignore everything else, but realize that your energy is finite. The quality of your life is determined by how well you leverage your energy in places where you can actually make a difference.

Get Your Life Together With The Essays of Power

I don’t know you, but I know you.

I know that you’re tired of feeling weak, being a victim, and having no control over the direction of your life.

I know you because I was once you.

I used to be stuck on the hedonistic treadmill of mediocrity. Always drunk, always broke, and always looking for the next piece of cheap entertainment and distraction.

Then one day, I changed my entire life around.

I took responsibility for my personal development and started living the best life I possibly could. I learned how to:

  • Live with purpose
  • Think with clarity 
  • Face the my demons
  • Fix my finances

Unlike a lot of other motivational gurus, I’ve been to the bottom and I clawed my way back out. It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t sure if I’d just become another statistic along the way, but I think I have made tremendous progress.

I learned the hard way, but I can break it down so you can learn it the easy way…

Get The Mind And Fist Essays Of Power

You’re passive and indecisive

Most people don’t make any real decisions in their life.

Some of these people get lucky and life turns out great for them, but most of them will forever remain unhappy.

Happiness starts with deciding what you want out of life. Once you’ve made the decision, then it comes down to following through.

It’s easy to imagine the life you want. Following through on what it takes to make it happen is where most people fail.

The life you want isn’t going to just happen if you play along with the “rules” society gives you.

That’s because the life you want probably entails a large degree of autonomy. Autonomy is the last thing the machine wants its cogs to have.

It starts when you’re young.

You’re told which school to go to, which classes to take, and even who your friends should be.

Then it continues in college.

You form bad habits, which atrophy your thinking and make you dependent on the system. But you think this is what you’re supposed to do. After all, all the other cogs are doing it and they seem alright.

(Read: “How To Have Fun And Socialize Sober”)

The pressure from your friends and family lead you to an “acceptable” field of study. Deep down, you hate it, but you don’t pursue something that would have made you a lot happier.

By this point, you’ve forfeited the ability to think for yourself anyway.

Then you you meet someone who is as programmed and dependant as you. You’re expected to get married and produce more cogs for the machine.

While I’m happy how my life has turned out, I always think back to my senior year of high school and a lesson I learned about not thinking for myself. Instead of following my dream of trying to walk on to a college football program, I instead let my peers talk me into going to a different school because of its academic reputation.

I don’t know if I would have been a success. I don’t know if I would have been a failure. All I know is that I’ll never know.

It seemed like I made a choice, but the reality is I never really considered my options.

I believe this type of thing is why people experience quarter-life and mid-life crises. They realize they’ve spent their lives following someone else’s rules, program, and agenda.

When they realize this, they experience a slew of negative emotions that either spurns them to change or forces them to double down and ignore the truth; that they’ve wasted precious life not doing what’s best for them.

How this makes you unhappy: Anxiety, worry, lethargy, lack of motivation, decreased interest and performance in life.

How to become happier: If you let someone or something else make decisions for you, it’s almost a guarantee that those decisions will not be in your best interest. Even indifference is deciding to relinquish control and direction of your life.

What do you want to experience? What skills do you want? Where do you want to live? How do you want to serve the world? Start making decisions and living them out. Your happiness will follow.

You’re missing the big picture

The “big picture” is simple:

You’re going to die and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. And when you die, it will only take two generations for there to be no one around who interacted with you.

Life has almost no meaning by itself.

You are born, get to kid around for a while, you hit puberty and then sex becomes your driving force. You may or may not reproduce, and then you die.

You make whatever you want out of everything else.

By remembering this, you free yourself to do whatever you want to, knowing that it won’t matter in the long term. As long as you don’t hurt others, you’re free to pursue whatever you want in this life.

You can live a life of service to others or one of self-serving hedonism.

You can produce or consume.

You can be a loner or the life of the party.

The only thing that matters is that it brings you satisfaction and enjoyment.

You don’t have to follow anyone else’s approach for living if the life you have now makes you happy.

Even though life itself has no meaning, I place more value on it because I know that it’s a one-shot deal. However, it wasn’t always like this for me.

(Read: “No One Gives A Shit About You”)

I currently live to share my knowledge and experiences to help people avoid wasting their lives so they can get more out of it. This requires me to live as an example and to walk with humility.

Prior to making serious changes in my life, I was more concerned about looking cool and being perceived as a bad-ass who didn’t give a damn. I wanted to be seen one way, although my true personality and interests conflicted with the image I tried to project.

I can choose to drink, party, and womanize. But I’m happier training, learning, and being in a romantic relationship of consequence.

I wasted a lot of years of my life being unhappy because I was making the wrong meaning of my life. I can’t tell you what your personal meaning is, but if you’re unhappy, there’s a good chance that you aren’t living true it.

Life is too short for unhappiness. There’s a countdown timer on your life — do you realize that? You can’t waste time on bullshit that doesn’t make you happy.

Even people who believe in heaven don’t want to die to get there.

How this makes you unhappy: Pettiness, argumentative, and justifying your life to others.

How to become happier: Selfishness gets a bad rap, but at some point you have to start valuing your time. Unless something dramatic happens in science, you don’t have a lot of time on this planet.

As the old saying goes, stop counting the days and start making the days count. When you’re busy doing whatever it is that adds meaning and purpose to your life, it’s impossible to be unhappy.

You have low self-esteem

Realizing that life is meaningless made me want to create value.

It’s like I realized I have the last diamond on earth, but I’m in a bidding against myself.

If you’re unhappy and it’s from none of the above causes, chances are you don’t believe you’re worth a damn thing.

Self-worth is a combination of two things:

  • Your societal contributions
  • Your alignment with your life purpose

Most of the unhappy people I’ve met are lacking in one of those areas.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re busy working in the world. Working in the world requires you to make contributions of your time, energy, and effort to something which may not give you anything in return. However, that’s the entire point.

We get so used to working in exchange for money that many of us forget the joy of doing what we love. When you do what you love and you see how it positively affects the world, you don’t think about yourself or the things that make you sad.

When you contribute to society in a way that brings you more than a paycheck, you inoculate yourself against the insidious effects of unhappiness and depression.

This type of work is even more powerful when you align it with a purpose that’s important to you. There are many problems in the world, which means there are just as many solutions. There is bound to be an issue that you personally resonate with, and working on solutions to it in a way that forces you to contribute to society will do wonders for your mood.

(Read: “How To Build Confidence in 10 Steps”)

You can’t pump up your self-worth without doing work. It only happens when you believe in your right to be alive and enjoy life.

You get this feeling from building relationships and excelling at things you love.

When your affairs are in order, it’s difficult to be unhappy.

When your affairs are in order, you’ll think well of yourself.

When you think well of yourself, nothing can bring you down. At the very least, you have the tools and support system in place to recover should you ever stumble.

How this makes you unhappy: Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear, anxiety, and being pushed around by the world

How to be happier: The fastest way to build self-esteem is to become esteemed at something.

In other words, develop a skill. Build a reputation as a solid and trustworthy friend. Help others and in doing so, you will help yourself.

A summary of why you’re so unhappy

  • You let loss aversion ruin your life
  • You worry about what you can’t control
  • You’re passive and indecisive
  • You’re missing the big picture
  • You have low self-esteem

Once you know why a thing happens, it’s easy for you to fix it. This article gave you both the tools to self-diagnosis and the cure.

The rest is up to you.

Get Your Life Together With The Essays of Power

I don’t know you, but I know you.

I know that you’re tired of feeling weak, being a victim, and having no control over the direction of your life.

I know you because I was once you.

I used to be stuck on the hedonistic treadmill of mediocrity. Always drunk, always broke, and always looking for the next piece of cheap entertainment and distraction.

Then one day, I changed my entire life around.

I took responsibility for my personal development and started living the best life I possibly could. I learned how to:

  • Live with purpose
  • Think with clarity 
  • Face the my demons
  • Fix my finances

Unlike a lot of other motivational gurus, I’ve been to the bottom and I clawed my way back out. It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t sure if I’d just become another statistic along the way, but I think I have made tremendous progress.

I learned the hard way, but I can break it down so you can learn it the easy way…

Get The Mind And Fist Essays Of Power
And next, read this: How to turn your life around