People who have successful lives, but are miserable inside

You ever heard of the theory that you do not need to put a lid on a case full of lobsters since the second one tries to climb out to a better life, the others will pull it back in? Then just call me Dr. Pinchie.

A big part of self compassion is recognizing common humanity, the fact that everyone suffers and has setbacks which helps people realize life is not a dysfunctional ‘you’ vs a perfect ‘them’ but a dysfunctional ‘you and them’ since we all have pain and setbacks and are all trying to achieve our goals and guard our weaknesses, and fail miserably at it at times. And even though most of us give a good impression of who we are to others (because we are afraid of negative reactions and a lack of social status) many people struggle with intrapersonal and interpersonal troubles. And vulnerabilities never go away.

As an example we are in a recession and tons of people (myself included) are unemployed. However I know people making 300k+ household incomes who are miserable.

People bright enough to go to MIT still can suffer from mental health problems.

People can have a great job, family, career, etc and lose a kid to an illness and it changes everything.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this. Mostly just examples that people still and always will have pain, vulnerabilities and problems, no matter how successful they are in other areas.

I’m not looking to drag people down, just to remind myself of our common humanity as physically and psychologically vulnerable organic creatures no matter how accomplished we are in other areas (status, income, intelligence, education, social bonds, etc).

If anyone has examples, feel free to post them. If not, I’d take some youtube videos of fat kids making motorboat sounds as they run around their backyards as silver medals.

Howard Hughes. William Randolph Hearst.

How about a poem instead?:

ISTR that the English photographer David Bailey, who enjoyed a long and lucrative celebrity career doing a job he loved, and bedding countless models in the process, admitted in an interview that he was terrified of dying and thought about it every day. If everything in life is tickety-boo, there’s always that to worry about.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately.

I live a life of dreams compared to the people that I know. I have no real money problems. I’ve spent years travelling the world and it just gets more and more jet set. I’m about to take a freaking month long vacation on a tropical island, just for the hell of it. I’m still relatively young. I’m cute enough and naturally slender. Although it’d mostly be for curiosity value, I could get most any guy in town (I live abroad, people are curious). I’m applying to Ivy League schools and stand a good chance of getting in. I do meaningful work that I love, and amazingly I only really work twelve hours a week, so I have all the time in the world to relax, spend time with friends, pursue hobbies, travel, whatever I want.

And I’ve been freaking miserable lately.

Pretty stupid, huh?


One thing we forget is that poverty can add to existing problems. The super-rich, or even just the moderately comfortable like myself, may be miserable, but add to that concern for paying basic bills, or in the worst cases, where to get food and shelter, and it is indeed a lot worse. IMO money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does ward off even greater suffering.

Isn’t that the appeal of a great many reality shows? They combine the glittery big houses and shopping sprees and lunches on terraces & boats, etc., peopled with has-been but still above-average looking participants. This captivates the viewers eyes the same way shiny surfaces do to parakeets.

But they also show their unsatisfying relationship with friends, family and tradesmen. This provides a secondary attraction to the viewer, sitting as if on a throne of judgment that’s actually a barcalounger mended with duct tape.

Agree with this. Rich people can be abused, divorced, hurt, lose loved ones, have miscarriages, horrible addictions – as can poor people. But at least rich people have access to resources like therapists, lawyers, and decent treatment facilities. And enough to eat. Then again, they also have access to ‘resources’ like hangers-on willing to feed them booze or drugs, they have more to lose, and more reason to believe people they believe are their friends or lovers aren’t genuine. If they’re bloody, rich they may also fear for their lives.

Regarding the OP, it pretty much fits the very recent suicide of 20-year-old model/blogger Daul Kim.

Yeah, I’m trying to figure out how to have both success and happiness. I’m willing to sacrifice the success for happiness, but I’m not convinced that’s necessary. I don’t care about money, but I do care about reputation. I want to be excellent at what I do and recognized for it. I can’t deny that part of me exists.

The thing is, I really want to have some crucial and important role in social justice. Then I look at one of my all-time heroes, Nelson Mandela, and I think about all the sacrifices he made personally to make a difference in the world. Even prior to his imprisonment, he admits in The Long Walk to Freedom that he sacrificed his relationships with his loved ones in order to achieve this goal of ending apartheid in South Africa.

I ask myself whether that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. And the answer is ‘‘no.’’ I never want to care so much for a cause that I cease to prioritize my relationships. I don’t think I could be happy doing that. Maybe I wasn’t meant to save the world, but to make some small contribution in my own way using the talents I do have. As much as I was meant to ‘‘make it big,’’ I was meant to be there for my husband and my future children, wherever they are.

My husband’s paternal side of the family is incredibly wealthy. One of his uncles is a billionaire who used to live in extreme poverty. Every time we see him he gives us this lecture about money. He says, ‘‘You’re going to be miserable whether you’re rich or you’re poor, so you might as well be rich and miserable.’’

I think that’s such a sad way of looking at life. I believe happiness is possible under just about any circumstance, it just takes a lot of cognitive restructuring and mental work. I used to be so depressed I could barely take care of myself. I had to think (and act) my way out of that.

I just started grad school and am experiencing an unexpected mental health relapse. I am told this is pretty common. I’m confident that eventually I’ll figure out how to be happy under these circumstances. I completely believe that you can have all the external trappings of success (which I arguably do, happily married, financially stable and currently kicking some Ivy League ass), and ALSO have that deep and abiding contentment that exists regardless of those external measures. My goal is to prove that.

Even if you already live in a democracy, have enough to eat and a roof over your head, and enjoy good health, of course you can still be sad inside. I’ve always found that helping others can lift your spirits: volunteer at a food bank, become a Big Brother or Big Sister, tutor a child, serve as a docent for a local museum, or take part in any of the thousands of volunteer opportunities that are out there. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

The term for considering this is hierarchy of needs.

Being fulfilled at the lower levels (physiological, safety, love/belonging) simply opens you up to possible misery on the higher levels (esteem, self-actualization).

If you can’t pay the rent, “self-actualization” tends to be crowded out by anxiety over the rent. If you are dying of lung cancer, paying the rent recedes in importance.

True. My understanding is the biggest factors in happiness and peace of mind are good intrapersonal (the way you relate to yourself) and interpersonal relationships. Nurturing, honest, genuine, supportive, constructive, etc. One of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had recently was in 2008 when I was canvassing for the Obama campaign. I went door to door with supporters and reminded them when/where to vote. I felt more connected to my community and felt I was making a constructive difference.

However even if you have those you still can lose a child, suffer a long term illness, lose your job and your savings. Those things will cushion the blow but at the end of the day we are all still vulnerable as hell and that vulnerability connects us to each other. Nobody can truly escape how vulnerable the biological, interpersonal, social, intrapersonal, technological, etc. structures we are dependent on really are. We can devote trillions to guarding our vulnerabilities (with science, medicine, infrastructure, social justice, etc) but they are still there.

How do you know that? From watching Citizen Kane? The whole idea that “rich people are really unhappy on the inside” is mostly a load of crock propagated by cinema to make the middle class feel content with their lot.

A friend of mine used to say “Money can’t buy Happiness but it can buy the boat that pulls up beside it.”

Life is often about balance. Personal happiness and good relationships along with financial security or career and/or job fulfillment. A balance requires attention and effort to be secured and maintained and sometimes life just upsets the applecart.

There’s something about attachment too. If we envision that things must be a certain way for us to be happy then we’re bound to create unhappiness if we don’t get our way.

I’ve never made a lot of money and in several ways feel I have squandered my time and talents although I had a bunch of fun. Years ago I thought I was noble and non materialistic. Now I see the fear of failure and rejection in me and it’s not fun to see that part of yourself.

Still, recently life has forced me to look at things and reconsider. Perhaps instead of focusing on external achievement I’ve spent more time working on the inner me and hopefully become a decent person who makes a contribution to those I interact with. This was brought to the fore when I met a lovely woman around my age who, in some ways, I have little to offer. She lives in a different world than I do and has enough money to not work. She’s dated and met guys who had better jobs, nice homes, cars, all the trappings you might think would be a better match. Still, she chooses to spend her time with me and I feel incredibly fortunate to be spending time with her. She’s rattled my cage in a wonderful way and made me think just maybe , although the creature comforts are nice and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them, perhaps we sometimes yearn for something more and that’s not a foolish part of our humanity, but part of the beauty.

I grew up poor and although we had problems there was also music and laughter and love. As a child I never realized how poor we were and as long as I had clothes to wear, a warm place to sleep, and food on the table, everything seemed fine to me.

There are a lot of levels of success and surely contentment and happiness are high on the list.

I had a beautiful neighbor years ago who was the kind of girl I might have considered out of my league. IMO she carried a certain attitude of superiority that really annoyed me. We met and talked a few times because I was dating a friend of hers. I was driving a cab part time back then and I heard on the morning shift that the police had found an apparent suicide by a local bridge. It was my neighbor. I was stunned. I felt bad that I had judged her in a negative light and had never seen what might have been going on inside her that took her to that place. She had all the equipment for success, looks, an education, and a decent job with potential, but for her something important was missing.

please answer the bolded question.

Actually I think that’s pretty common. Most people are afraid they will never accomplish anything or make a difference. The few people who achieve recognition for greatness, start to focus on the fear that after the die everything they have accomplished will fade away and be forgotten.

How does he know Howard Hughes was miserable? Because he was a recluse with mental health problems. I don’t know enough about Hearst.

As far as money and happiness, a lack of money to live a basic life subtracts from happiness, but money beyond that doesn’t add to it.

From my readings, if a nation has a per capita income of about $5000 and basic democratic infrastructure they will be happier than poorer and more authoritarian nations. However per capita national incomes of 40k don’t make much of a difference vs national per capita incomes of about 5k.

The superwealthy are as happy as everyone else. People in the US who make less than 30k personal or 50k household income see their happiness levels increase until they get to that level, but then they level out. Going from 10k to 30k can boost happiness, but 30k to 200k doesn’t make as much of a difference.

So extra money doesn’t buy happiness, but having enough for basic needs (food, medicine, transportation, housing) does either on the personal or national level. However having more luxurious medicine, food, transport, housing doesn’t make a difference.

Michael Jackson is the best example of this. I keep thinking about how he had everything–tons of money, millions of people loved him, and he was talented and set many trends in music and performance. But he still wasn’t happy.