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OliverYoung's avatar

Do you need to be happy yourself, to make others happy?

Asked by OliverYoung (382points) May 10th, 2010

I had a discussion the other day with a friend of mine. She kept saying, that I had to think of myself (I’m known as quite the do-gooder, and I absolutely hate doing stuff for my own sake), and that I couldn’t help anyone, if I myself wasn’t happy.
She told me, that to put others needs before my own, I had to think of myself first (yea, that’s what she said, and I think it’s rubbish). That I had to be happy to make other people happy.
So, basically, my question is: Do you think she is right? That you to be happy yourself to make others happy?
The reason she says this, is because I told her that I, myself, found my own happiness quite .. irrelevant, so to say. It doesn’t really do much for other people, and I believe that the happiness I could gain for something would be much better “in the mind” of someone else, if that makes sense.

So, do you think you can make others happy, without being happy yourself?

And sorry Fluther, it’s late and I can’t seem to phrase this the best possible way…

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23 Answers

ducky_dnl's avatar

I think your friend is wrong. Almost Every day I feel really depressed and I have no problem cheering someone up. I think cheering people up is something I’m really good at. :)

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think you can make others happy even if you aren’t happy, but if you continue to disregard your own feeling, you can become jaded and eventually not even want to make others happy anymore. In healthcare, we tell our patient’s family members that, while taking care of a loved one, they have to take care of themselves first. This is because if they allow their health and well-being to slip and they become unhealthy, they may find that they are physically no longer to care for their family member.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, it is true.

If your tank is on empty you really can’t travel very far in aide of another.

Sure, you can be the rescuer and savior of others but without a healthy regard for yourself you are not ultimately a loving person.

Like charity, love begins at home.

A lot of people that like to see themselves as giving are really very selfish, co-dependant, they are giving to make themselves feel better about themselves, to be seen in a particular way to enhance their own sense of self worth.

Trust me on this, neglecting your own wants, needs and health for the sake of another is not altruistic it is martyrdom.

free_fallin's avatar

While you should never neglect yourself, I think it is possible to make others happy if you aren’t happy. This typically would apply to strangers, I imagine, since they have nothing invested in you so whatever action you take to make them happy is great and they most likely wouldn’t see an underlining unhappiness in you. Now your close friends and family may see this underlining issue and so whatever you do to make them happy may not make them completely happy, but still….it is certainly possible and probably to make someone else happy even if you aren’t happy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

The individual is in control of whether or not they are happy.It hasn’t much to do with what other people do.

Coloma's avatar


Yes, happiness is ones own responsability, the rest is frosting on the cake you bake. ;-)

slick44's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille .. sorry no disrespect but i gotta disagree with you on this one. Bad things happen to good people, which in many cases you have no control.

phoebusg's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille sure. I mostly agree with your comment. But I’d like to bring to light that given our social nature as humans – we pick up the emotions of those around us. You don’t have to be happy to make one so, but being happy and communicating that emotions reflects in another that observes it very easily. Similar to many other emotions, for example anger in a rioting crowd etc.

frolix's avatar

Regardless whether we are happy or not, surely we can make others happy. However, I believe that the weight of happiness would be exponential when a (sincerely) happy person attempts to make others happy.

Similar to the fact that we need to put on our own oxygen mask before we help put on the small child’s oxygen mask. Because, by putting on your mask first, you increase your child’s survival rate and it saves your life in the process. Just like what @Coloma said: If your tank is on empty you really can’t travel very far in aide of another.

So yeah, be sure to include yourself in your act of kindness. :)

lillycoyote's avatar

No, I don’t think so. You can make others happy even if you are unhappy but that leaves you in the position where the only one that isn’t happy is you. That doesn’t seem like a place anyone would want to be.

slick44's avatar

You no you are all right, i do try to make others happy. Even when my life seems so bad. I guess it makes me feel like at least i have some purpose, and it makes me feel good,

meagan's avatar

What do you owe to the world to make it happy?

cazzie's avatar

The world has a history or depressed clowns. You certainly don’t need to be happy yourself to please other people. But I’ll tell you one thing I know for absolute certainty. If you work on your own happiness, you’ll have more energy and last a whole lot longer to make other people happy. I’m not particularity Buddist, but the Dali Lama has written some GREAT stuff on inner happiness and serving the world.

So,... my answer… No, you don’t need to be happy yourself, but you’ll last longer if you are.

Disc2021's avatar

Not necessarily – happiness could be derived from helping other people. If you’re like me, being around happy people makes me feel happy. I suppose from that you could argue that if you make people happy, you yourself will feel happier.

Your friend could argue that the happiness of others is dependent on your own happiness, I guess. It’s neither a right or wrong statement – both philosophies could be applied, couldn’t they? It’s not really that strict or solid because “Happiness” doesn’t really have a set strict or solid definition.

SamIAm's avatar

I think you should be happy yourself, and put yourself first – “do you” butttt it is possible to make others happy without being happy yourself. I’ve always felt like you can’t really love anyone else until you love yourself, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t be in love with you…

susanc's avatar

I don’t exactly think in terms of Being Happy. I have happiness stored up inside me, though; and kindness toward other people, interest in other people, comes from the happiness that’s always in there, even when I’m also feeling one of the other things inside me, like envy or bitterness or sorrow or fear. I think that when I draw on my well of happiness in order to attend to someone else, then I’m refreshed and I flourish. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I don’t like the model of choosing between my own happiness and other people’s. I think that’s a spectre of capitalism applied to the wrong area of life.

perspicacious's avatar

Don’t think you can’t make another person happy. Each of us finds our own happiness.

OliverYoung's avatar

Thanks for all the helpful answers!

As far as I can tell, most of you do agree. That it IS possible to make others happy, although you aren’t yourself.

All of you say some great things, and I mostly agree. I do think of myself; I take care of my health and make sure i get sleep and stuff (most of the time anyway). That’s a must, since I got diabetes a year ago, so I do take care of my body.
I just don’t think, that I “need” to be happy. I’m quite young (no pun intended) and I have my whole life in front of me. I just don’t think that living for my own sake is worth anything. I take pleasure in nature, and in music, in art, in the people around me, and well, in other peoples happiness. I don’t lack happiness, I just don’t really regard it as a .. important.
My life is going to end sometime anyway, and well .. I just think that the more people I can make happy and the more people I can help have and lead a great and fulfilling life, the more everything I have is worth.
But I guess I really suck at explaining…
Thanks for all the answers!

LostInParadise's avatar

Actually, it can work the other way around. Making others happy can make you happy. Link

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@slick44-Bad things happen to good people all the time but a smart individual finds a way to be happy in spite of it.You only live once,you know ;)
@phoebus-Thankfully,there are people that can resist mob mentality,Individual thought rocks!;))

charlie_salazar's avatar

I also agree with lostinparadise, making others happy is extremely fulfilling and can lead to happiness in itself!

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SamuelArnold's avatar

Well in a way i must say that we all may try and make other people happy whether or not we are happy ourselves, but you may only make them happy until they hit another bump in their life. I know from personal experience that making other people happy before you can be a good thing to a certain extent, but you can only get so far till, like i read in an earlier comment, your tank becomes empty. I don’t have an answer to your question because i live on both sides. You pursue happiness all throughout life, whether you catch it or not depends on what you define as happiness.

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