Sometimes, life can be maddeningly complex, and when people find themselves drowning in rough waters along the way, they tend to be rude, thoughtless, and pathologically myopic.
And while it’s commendable to have compassion for other folks’ hardships, you should never let anyone steal your joy.
So what do you do when someone steals your joy?
Today, we’re exploring seven powerful ways to protect your joie de vivre.
What Can Rob You of Your Joy?
Many things have the potential to rob you of joy. The six most common categories of happiness sapping include:
- Comparison: “Comparison,” they say, “is the thief of joy.” And they’re right! Envy and perfectionism can be downright corrosive. They have the power to warp perceptions and increase your capacity for anger and judgment — toward yourself and others.
- Bad Relationships: Bad relationships cause so many problems, not the least of which is joy-snatching. We tend to internalize unhealthy unions and blame ourselves for the discord, which keeps us from thriving.
- Meanness: It stinks when people are mean, and it hurts when the ire is directed at you. It’s belittling and has the power to throw you into a shame spiral. Since our culture grooms us to avoid embarrassment — using judgment and gossip as the enforcers — meanness can be an emotional, joy-stealing succubus.
- Guilt or Shame: As mentioned above, people sprint away from embarrassment like it’s a pandemic. The same holds true for guilt and shame. It mangles our viewpoints, self-esteem, and mental health when we’re infested with either.
- Holding Grudges: Have you ever seen the fitness YouTuber who walks around with 100-pound chains hanging around his shoulders? That’s what it’s like to hold onto grudges. It’s added weight that catapults your mind and body into stress states, zapping the joy right out of you.
- Body Chemicals: Some peoples’ bodies don’t produce enough serotonin, and they’re plagued with constant sadness. The good news is that an SSRI can fix the problem for many people and elevate you to a much happier place.
Can Someone Steal Your Joy?
The correct answer is conditional.
Yes, someone can make you feel miserable — if you let them! In most cases, folks who try to steal other people’s joy fall into one of five categories:
- Trauma Victims: People who’ve dealt with serious trauma and cannot afford psychological counseling — since many healthcare plans don’t include it — tend to be angry, and angry folks tend to be negative. More often than not, it’s unintentional, but it happens.
- Envious Folks: Do you know someone who bows down to the green-eyed monster and constantly flings barbs at people they perceive as having more than themselves? Folks like this are notorious for cutting people down — which is a major joy stealer.
- Hyper-Competitive People: Individuals who strive to win at all costs can be exceptionally nasty when they don’t come in first — whether it’s a sports competition or a status one. They get off on belittling people to make themselves feel better.
- Bullies: Some folks are bullies. Often, the root of their problematic behavior is linked to how someone in their life treats them. Other times, they’re just individuals lugging around superiority complexes. Whichever the case, they find satisfaction in making folks feel bad about themselves.
- People With NPD: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition linked to childhood trauma. It affects about 5% of the population, and people with it behave in ways that hurt themselves and others.
Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy: 7 Powerful Ways to Protect Yourself
What do you do when someone steals your joy? Having a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms can make a world of difference. To that end, we’ve outlined seven ways to protect yourself and safeguard your happiness.
1. Give Yourself Permission To Be Selfish
From a young age, we — especially women — are taught that selflessness is best.
But is it the right lesson?
In some ways, yes. Compassion, sharing, generosity, and putting the greater good before personal gain are all virtues. However, it’s also OK to be a bit selfish. Make time to do the things you love.
Furthermore, when you’re thriving and living a genuinely enjoyable life, you’re more impervious to jealousy, pettiness, and other peoples’ anger.
As the saying goes: It’s better to thrive than merely survive.
2. Practice Radical Compassion
Compassion rocks, and extending it feels fantastic! It’s a natural high. We’re not talking about performative kindness, which can leave you feeling empty and phony when you’re stuck alone with your thoughts and feelings. We’re talking about genuine, unadulterated solicitude.
When you practice radical compassion, it’s easy to recognize when someone’s nastiness stems from personal difficulties. As a result, you’re less likely to take their words or actions to heart and internalize the pain.
3. Pull Back on Social Media
The studies are in, and social media — while addicting — isn’t the best for our mental health. Scrolling through post after post of (to borrow a phrase from writer Laura Turner) “curated imperfection” can corrode our psyches.
Often, it feels like everyone is more successful, happier, and better looking than you. Even if you don’t think that way on a conscious level, it’s registered subconsciously.
But it’s all an illusion. Nobody posts about the gnarly parts of their lives — which everybody has.
When people pull back from social media, they report feeling happier, less stressed, and more confident. Calmer people with self-esteem who see the glass half-full are more equipped to hang on to their internal joy.
4. Embrace Time Alone
Spending time alone can be difficult, especially for certain personality types. But it’s also an excellent way to build your resolve and cultivate self-love.
Valuing and adoring yourself — faults and all — boosts your mental health. When you are firing on all cylinders, it’s much easier to hold on to your joy.
5. Learn More About Sociology and Psychology
It may be a cliche, but it’s true: Knowledge is power. Learning about societal forces and how the human brain ticks sheds valuable light on other people’s behavior and motivations.
It breeds compassion and understanding, which better equips us to “not sweat the small stuff.”
6. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is never a bad idea. They give our lives structure and help define our values. People who prioritize the well-being of themselves and others tend to have formidable resolve and can dodge joy-stealing barbs.
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7. Cultivate Self-Confidence
Self-confidence will carry you far. It’s a boon companion and a mighty shield, a hedge against misery and guiding inner light.
No, you shouldn’t let self-confidence mushroom into arrogance, but nurturing yourself will help guard against life’s frustrations.
We’re not suggesting that you lean into toxic positivity. Life has its bumps, and it’s perfectly fine — healthy, even — to acknowledge, feel, and work through them.
But letting every insult knock you down is also no way to live. Don’t let others steal your joy. Hang onto it like a precious gem — because it’s certainly worth more.