Ditulis oleh: Fariha Qorinatuz Zahra
Disunting oleh: Fanya Tarissa
Ilustrasi oleh: Bima Oktavian
Common teenagers constantly want to be recognized. No doubt that almost all of us are, at some points, attention-thirsty and we always want to have more—to be known by more people, hanging along with more friends, having more likes on our social media posts, more pocket money, more everything. Taking me back to middle school, a friend of mine used to lift her skirt up, hold her breath so she can look thinner, and play with her hair once our senior comes. Innocent me would rant on and on about how flirty and bouncy she was around the guy in an effort to impress people and meet the beauty standard. Now, as I reflect back on those early teenage days, I question myself again: what was that for? Setting herself to suit the social stigma that constructs which one is deemed pretty?
Then after getting what she wanted, she strived for more—like a dog chasing its tail. She continued to look for acceptance and recognition—to be seen as pretty, smart, or even the ‘Sharpay Evans’ of the school. From her, I learned the lesson that we always seek to have a perfect life where we feel fulfilled by the never-ending pleasure and when no more trouble is seemingly standing on our way. But then we question ourselves: Are we just simply desperate and ungrateful of ourselves? When will this ill-mindset come to its finish line? When will we stop wishing for more? And most importantly, why do we keep on wanting more instead of just being satisfied with what we have and all the troubles that life entails us with?
We Simply Never Feel Enough
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We are never satisfied with what we have, instead we envy others because they always seem to have it better. What good will it bring if we hold on to these assumptions? The internet has become a wild space for us to surf in. Everyone, from your classmates to your idol, Heather—the foolproof, flawless version of someone we sought to be—on the other side of the internet, is living the perfect life. Things like this convince our view even more that we are, indeed, not as perfect as them. Isn’t it ironic? We both cry in the corner of our rooms at night wishing to be one another while we despise ourselves.
But why exactly do we feel this way? Turns out, there are several psychological reasons to why we continuously feel less worthy or underperform. One of them is, according to the Attachment Theory that we may have lack of confidence as a result of the absence of affection and trust from our significant others, especially during the first seven years of our childhood. Developing a good relationship with a caregiver is crucial for the emotional growth of one as it will last long in their minds. Therefore the beliefs that our younger self hold is claimed to dominate the reason why we tend to never feel good enough when we’re older. Childhood memories, experiences of traumas, underconfidence, and the premises we adopted as a child become the roots of our behavior in daily life since most of us have the tendency to carry them as our inner values when we grow up. If one assumed that they performed worse than their siblings and peers as a child or that they ever let their parents down, for instance,that person will likely hold on to this assumption—that they keep on failing in life—as they grow up.Consequently, the lack of confidence and self-esteem leads to feeling not being enough in the long run.
Additionally, the uncontrolled conditions of our surrounding and the nature of one’s personality, of being highly-sensitive over subtle things, for example, affects how we perceive our inner self. Persons that have a deeper and stronger sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli—meaning those who are often told of being “too sensitive” over others’ words or deeds—are known as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). While being HSPs are often related to overthinking, it is proven that this personality trait is basically more responsive to both positive and negative situations happening around them. Being a highly sensitive person may lead someone to aggressively take other people’s action as insulting even when they don’t mean, to put it in any way, stressing the person. Being aware and valuing the existence of subtle things strongly, is another (often exhausting) feature of HSPs whereas overwhelming demands are continuously perceived as necessary, even obligatory, to improve themselves, especially in the eyes of others. Their critics to themselves usually restrain their courage most and push them to doubt themselves more. Which one do you think you belong to?
We Ought To Fit into the society
Feeling the need to meet expectations of the surroundings, a lot of people are inclined to experience pressure to follow others’ values to be considered part of a certain group. Our self criticism and comparison often encourage us to believe that we’re not enough just by being ourselves. To cover up our fear of disappointing others, we try our best to fit in the society. Although not meeting social standards doesn’t necessarily mean we fail ourselves and the society, the feeling of not being enough haunts us to the very least hence we constantly try to match the society’s expectations.
When we aren’t updated with the latest K-pop hits or the latest celebrity drama, for instance, we’re afraid of being left out in a conversation with our friends. Doing TikTok dances for hours seems to be the prevalent (and easiest) way to present ourselves and socialize with others virtually meanwhile exposing our privacy for public consumption is being normalized by the society nowadays. The absurd stigmas are stacked up and what we do now is not run from it, we feed it for the sake of fitting into society. We want to be “normal”, even if it means we have to follow the trends we are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable doing.
Starting up as curiosity, ending up as an unhealthy obsession. That is how the craze of new trends can be described among youngsters. In reality, modern trends can pose both dangers and goods—spending multiple hours making TikTok videos or sharing stories and educational messages to raise awareness, for examples. With the latter trend, young people will be more interested in participating in various activism and help themselves grow with novel experiences and diverse perspectives.
But with the former—the fairly bad trend—things can be tricky. What we consider proper does not mean true just because most people consider it so, yet we always get back to what the society assumes to be right or at least more “dominant” in value. One of the reasons for that is the unwillingness to explore the reasonings behind a trend and its whole occurrence which can actually lead to toxicity. The Black Lives Matters movement which has gone viral in the last months, for example, is only used for some social media users to bandwagon in a trend in order to be perceived as progressive, politically woke, cool, or impressive without embodying the main goal of the movement. What makes it dangerous is not necessarily the trend, it is how we act towards it.
Or… We’re Probably on a Hedonic treadmill!
Happiness researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, suggests that what we think will please us does not make us as happy and does not linger as long as we imagined. For instance, take the case of getting into an ivy league school that we’ve always wanted to go to. Undoubtedly,, we’d feel happy and excited for the new jump start—to make new friends, to look for a new place to live on our own, to experience new experiences, and to endlessly learn new things. But over time, what we’re doing will not be as interesting and fun as it used to be when we first came in. This is what experts call the hedonic treadmill.
The idea is that when we either fulfill our goals or quickly plunge into misery, we will shortly return to the stable level of happiness. This, in fact, can be beneficial for a traumatic and shocking experience, as the sadness we felt would disappear in a relative ease as time passes by. But without practicing mindfulness—processing experiences reflective to what is happening in the present—and so feeling grateful towards it, it is tough to get out of the cycle.
In result, we will never obtain the so-called happiness we imagine as we think that there is no finish line. We’re then forever stuck in the hole of dissatisfaction and jealousy.
So, What Do We Do Then?
And finally, the solution. I may not have the complete psychological instructions on how to live a free-from-hedonic treadmill-toxicity life other than a few simple tips to practice daily. First, always try to be present, be in the moment, and be conscious. Focus more and embrace our own feelings. If what makes us happy lies within us, why look for it in others’ opinion? Second, try to express ourselves freely through, for examples journaling, performing arts, or other kinds of activities, that we really enjoy. Occasionally taking breaks from social media is also a good way to free our minds from the toxic thoughts of the perfect life that everyone is “told” to live and to start doing the brand new creative activities we’ve been wanting to try. Third, design a healthier and simple routine that will help us feel better day by day—as simple as starting the day with greeting our family members first thing in the morning instead of checking up on our phones. Stacking up our own type of happiness to be able to climb out of the hole of dissatisfaction is necessary; don’t let the dissatisfaction ploy rule our inner peace out, instead invite it back to our lives! Lastly, pour kindness to people around us and express gratitude for the simple things we’ve earned so far. Because even if we realize that, in certain phases of our lives, we’re going through a hedonic treadmill and it gets harder to sneak our way out of the delicately cunning scheme, being grateful for what we already have will always make the distress bearable.
“Always Left Feeling Not Good Enough? The Real Reasons Why.” 13 Nov. 2018, https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/feeling-not-good-enough.htm. Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
“Attachment Theory | Simply Psychology.” 5 Feb. 2017, https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html. Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
“What Is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? – Verywell Mind.” https://www.verywellmind.com/highly-sensitive-persons-traits-that-create-more-stress-4126393. Accessed 17 Nov. 2020.
“The Science Behind Why People Follow the Crowd ….” 24 May. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/after-service/201705/the-science-behind-why-people-follow-the-crowd. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.
“The Hedonic Treadmill – Are We Forever Chasing Rainbows?.” 9 Jan. 2020, https://positivepsychology.com/hedonic-treadmill/. Accessed 6 Sep. 2020.
“The Hedonic Treadmill: Why People Are Never Truly Happy ….” 23 Apr. 2020, https://medium.com/mind-cafe/the-hedonic-treadmill-why-people-are-never-truly-happy-and-how-you-can-change-that-c1743ee9f7e5. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.