Don’t rely on others to be happy
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 25, 2014
We put a lot of pressure on other people—people we don’t even know: artists, athletes, and politicians, to name a few. When they succeed we cheer them on and when they fail we mope by their corner. We pay money to attend their movies, concerts, games, and conventions just so we can be in their presence. We make false idols out of these people and invest a lot of ourselves into their well-being and achievements. But is that healthy?
Living vicariously through other people is normal. I do it, you do it, and your mother definitely does it. But how far is too far? I still remember that story about a sports fan who struck his wife after the team lost. Whether the story is true or some exaggeration, the news was appalling; yet not that surprising, since sport fans are notorious for overreacting to something they won’t even get recognition for.
So why do we invest so much in, say, a team or an athlete? Well, because there is something in our brains that allows us to relate to athletes and other people we get enjoyment from. We feel the feats they perform, like we are performing them ourselves. We feel the jubilance of a goal and the pain of a loss. It’s through this emotional high and low that we end up getting invested. It’s like watching a movie or reading a book; we feel what the characters feel. This is totally healthy, but only if there is a balance between self and other.
For most of us, we aren’t athletes, we aren’t musicians, and we aren’t actors. We need others to break us out of the stress of our lives. Our exams, our job interviews, and our dates are all ordeals we have to go through on our own, and it’s not healthy to just focus on ourselves, either. It’s important to achieve our own goals, while cheering for others. You end up creating a community within yourself. You work for you, but you find inspiration in others, while never relying on other people to improve yourself.
Would Leonardo DiCaprio winning an Oscar really make you happy? Why should it? Would Team Canada losing the gold medal upset you? Were they going to share the goal medal with you? Should you have gone on the ice for Sidney Crosby and scored for him? Probably not.
But you can still be happy, and you don’t even need Leo or Sid. You can do it all by yourself. Create goals that don’t involve other people, goals that you can achieve without the help of anyone else. It could be as simple as a diet or a physical challenge, or to reach an academic or career goal. It’s nice to see other people succeed, but remember there are always people rooting for you, and they deserve to see you succeed as well—and you owe them nothing.