Why I Tapped Out of the Pursuit of Happiness

Jessica Kim
Jul 11 · 4 min read
Photo by Eduardo Flores on Unsplash

Is happiness a choice or is it just overrated?

When it comes to the topic of happiness, it seems like people fall into two main camps. In one camp, there are activists who are advocating for your happiness. They say you have a right to be happy, and though it may not be through the things you expect, you can always choose to be happy. On the other side of the field, you’ll find people spreading the message of how happiness is overrated and that there are better things worth pursuing.

I couldn’t say that I knew better than the troopers who defended their sides, so I tried doing research to define happiness. In this search, I found that it’s really difficult to find a universal definition for something so subjective. Just try Googling happiness, and you’ll see everyone’s own definitions. It seems like what most people can agree on is that we know when we encounter happiness, but we can’t definitively explain it. It’s elusive and difficult to control.

That led me to think — maybe happiness isn’t something that’s meant to be intentionally pursued in the first place. And as I reflected on my own experiences with happiness and emotions as a whole, I ultimately decided to tap out of the pursuit of happiness.

I struggle to control what and when I feel.

There are some mornings where the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. The day hasn’t started yet but for whatever reason, I’ve woken up feeling vulnerable and insecure.

However, those emotions can suddenly disappear later that day. It can be after exchanging a small smile with a fellow commuter on the train or spoiling myself with a cup of good coffee from that high-end café that I can’t afford to visit on the daily.

To suppress or control these emotions always felt unnatural to me. They seemed to come whenever they wanted, and it was difficult to predict their length of stay. I also found that in most cases, pursuing one emotion also included being pursued by a different emotion.

Who is pursuing who anyway?

For example, in my past pursuits of happiness, I’d find loneliness nipping at my heels. Once it pounced and brought me down, I would realize that my chase for happiness was actually spurred by my desperation to run away from loneliness.

Similar cases could be seen with sadness. Whenever I’d sit with sadness for too long, empathy and compassion would usually find me and lift me to my feet.

With these experiences in mind, I’ve come to a point where it’s not so much about pursuing an emotion as it is about learning to sit with it and reflect on it. We feel things for a reason, and emotions can be a guide that reveals what is near and dear to us.

Can we dare to feel everything?

As human beings, we are gifted with a deep and wide range of emotions and choosing to pursue one over the other seems to be a disservice to our emotional wellbeing. Yes, certain negative emotions may be linked to physical health problems, but when expressed in a healthy way, these emotions seem to carry some good.

For example, healthily expressed anger could lead to action and justice. Healthy expressions of sadness could lead to empathy. Healthy fear keeps us safe and secure.

However, when expressed in an unhealthy manner, anger can lead to bitter revenge. Sadness can lead to depression. Fear can lead to crippling anxiety. Even happiness can be expressed unhealthily as mania and overindulgence.

So, I’ve come to a point where instead of pursuing emotions, I let them stay for a while whenever they choose to visit. I’m not saying I’m helpless in what I feel, but I can help myself by examining and reflecting, always digging deeper by asking why I’m feeling a certain way and what I can do to express this emotion in a healthy way. If it becomes too much, I can take a break. If I ever need help, I know I can always seek help from a counselor or therapist.

This approach has helped me in expanding and deepening my understanding of who I am, and I’ve learned a lot about what my core values are after studying my emotional reactions.

It’s okay to accept what you feel.

Sometimes, it feels like some emotions — especially the negative ones — have extended their stay, but I’ve learned to be patient with them and myself, knowing that they are fleeting. One day, they’ll be gone as suddenly as they arrived. And then, they’ll be back again.

After tapping out of my pursuit of happiness, life has definitely become more colorful. I’m no longer restricted to seeing through the yellow haze of happiness. Instead, my life has become a prism that reflects a spectrum of colors that add more meaning to life.

So, is happiness a choice? Is it overrated? To me, it doesn’t really matter anymore. I’m learning to welcome all sorts of feelings. I sit with them, study them, and then find a healthy outlet for them.

Tapping out of the pursuit of happiness freed me to pursue my goals and dreams. I’m also finding that I am not always the one doing the chasing. Some things will chase after me. I can’t choose what pursues me, but every once in a while, I’ll start to feel that familiar warmth and tingle in my soul. The path slowly gets brighter, and I can’t help but smile as I look back to see happiness pursuing me with the reminder that life is always worth celebrating, no matter what I’ve been feeling.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Jessica Kim

Written by

I love creating safe spaces for honesty and curiosity. I can spend all day talking about self-care and travel. | IG: @jes_scribbles

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.