I’m Successful, Why Am I Unhappy?

 Original Post-April 19, 2013 

If you’ve expressed being unhappy, depressed, restless, or feeling unsatisfied with your life and/or business and have heard any of the following phrases, how frustrated did you feel?


“What do you have to be unhappy about, look at all you have?”

”You’re nuts, how could you not be happy, you have everything?”

“Do you know how many people wish they had your problems?”

To you and many just like you, this is more normal than you think. You seem to have it all, do you still feel like something’s missing?

You may be wondering why other successful people seem to be so happy and you’re not.

I’ve been there and know plenty of others who have been very wealthy, successful, and perfect; everything looked like a fairy tale but looks can be and often are deceiving.

Depending on your level of unhappiness, restlessness, definition of success and happiness, there may be one or several causes and solutions.

Having help discovering what meaningful and contented success mean to you and devising a strategy to get you there, is the best approach to navigating this territory, as the state of mind, biases, and ingrained belief systems get in the way.

In our society, we’re taught financial success, making the ‘A’ list, having the ideal body type, car, house, significant other and making the right Forbes list… will equal consistent happiness and a life of contentment. While success brings a feeling of accomplishment, it absolutely does not bring permanent happiness, a carefree life of ease and sleeping well at night. If you’re reading this, most likely, you’ve already learned that the hard way.

The more pressure you have from social expectations of who you “should” be and how you “should” feel, the more you feel you need to hide your unhappiness, discontent, and restlessness. You may even start to believe there is something wrong with you. Let me assure you, there is nothing wrong with you for wanting or needing something more. [Being born into money also has its challenges, which I’ll address at another time.] Adjusting to success and wealth has its challenges.

As witnessed in full view, we see celebrities who’ve made it to the top and seem to self-destruct. Most people don’t understand, yet, it makes perfect sense to me and perhaps it does to you too.

Most likely, you were taught success and wealth would make you feel fulfilled, content and happy, then you got there and found out, it’s not all you had imagined. You’ve been sold a lie and that realization can be painful.

That was the goal, the destination we pin our hopes to. If that’s not the cure-all, where do we go from here?

We all have our different needs, desires, pains, end results and intended legacy, it’ll take a little honesty and digging to find what that is. Until then, here are some things to ponder; some things I’ve learned personally and from people I’ve worked with.

I’ve found, it’s almost impossible to teach someone in our society, that has never had an excess of money or been in the top 1% or top .5%, that money does not mean a perfectly happy, content and fulfilling life. It’s hard to explain to someone how in the world success doesn’t mean happiness. I stopped trying.

Is it possible, affluence, financial success and all that comes with it, just magnifies unhappiness? Yes, it is.

When we’re no longer distracted by the stress of survival and the struggles of the average person (paying bills), there’s more time to allow emotional deficits and unmet needs to surface. There’s time to think about self-actualization, deeper meaning, greater impact, what your life means to you and what you really wish you could do with your life.

What you might have to do to truly be who you want to be and do what is meaningful to you can feel frightening. The tug of war between stability and élite status vs. possible risk of losing that can keep people from taking that leap. The tug of war can be brutal. The frustration with the self for not being brave enough can cause extreme depression and anxiety.

Even worse, if you’re successful or affluent, you’re “not allowed” to be unhappy. How many people can you talk to about it? The embarrassment of going to a therapist or even being reported and locked up if you even mention too much unhappiness (depression and extreme depression). Maybe you have, yet the therapist couldn’t possibly understand you either if they have never walked in your highly expensive shoes. Medication and a head nod may be all you get when you’re looking for answers.

Those around you, in your élite circles, may be perfectly happy, they may not understand you either. On the other hand, they too may be deeply unhappy and hiding it, working on it or in some way, medicating it.

You may be highly empathic and altruistic, wanting to use your success for greater social impact, but not sure how to go about doing it. It could be risky if your social and family circles are not at all empathic/empathetic and of the idealist/conscious mindset.

You might feel like you’re standing in a room full of people and if you screamed, nobody would hear you. You are not alone, even though it may feel as though you are.

Here are some tips for dealing with restlessness, unhappiness and unfulfilled needs/wants:

Be mindful where you voice your feelings.

When you’re not feeling fulfilled and happy, talking about it to people who don’t get you is a big mistake!  It only makes you feel worse, right?  Discussing your situation with people barely scraping by, dealing with personal or family health issues (or worse),  about your discontent is an unintended slap in the face to them and more resentment and judgment toward you. That’s not your intention, you’re reaching out to people for support and perhaps, some answers. Unless they’ve walked in your shoes, they’ll never understand. You need to discuss it with someone who isn’t biased and who understands your position.

Understand the concept of the “hedonic treadmill” (hedonic adaptation).

Our contentment, joy, positivity, and happiness have an unconscious setting. We have a nurture/nature set point, no matter how we try to fuel the fire of joy by acquiring more ‘stuff’ and greater levels of success, we adjust to ‘more’ and go back to our set point state.

The new car gives you a dopamine rush for a month or two, the affair might make you feel a rush of feel-good chemicals for a while, the gambling, alcohol, drugs, toys, things….. but you end up going back to that feeling of hunger.

The setpoint is determined by a number of things. Can that set point be changed? Absolutely! As someone who’s been there,  I was able to change mine and that of others. It takes more than a few books and seminars.  In fact, the wrong types of those can make some people worse!

You need to be in the water to learn how to swim. Having someone help you make adjustments in your real life situations, in the world and environment you live in will help you navigate your situation more effectively, safely, calmly and have the most beneficial outcome.

Check for medical (environmental, hormone, chemistry) issues.

Many environmental and medical conditions can wreak havoc on the happiest of people. Having brain chemistry and disruptors tested, as well as checking for adrenal or other issues will be a tremendous help in working through any issues. Knowing your medical environment can make the rest a lot easier to navigate.

If you’ve ruled out medical issues as cause for any discontent and perhaps depression, then it’s time to take an honest look at what it is you really need/want with complete and open discovery of your desired state. Did you get that? Your honest desired state. Happy isn’t a desired state that’s sustainable and not specific to what you need. General life contentment and satisfaction are sustainable, that’s what we’re really after here.

[Let me clarify the word content. Some people may interpret the word to be synonymous with complacent. This is not the case. Content, in this case, is meant as a form of gratitude. Grateful for what one has, grateful for what one has the ability to do, see, be, create…. content with the ebb and flow of life and content with the choices one makes. Content in no way means one stops growing, doing, striving for more, but the “more” is what changes.]

Evaluate your relationships.

Maybe you’re not unhappy, maybe you’re surrounded by a bunch of jerks. Sometimes being in the winners’ circle means being with a bunch of people you don’t like, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Look at the interactions you have with the people in your life. Have you surrounded yourself with people you thought you ‘should’ be around? Have you outgrown family, partners, and friends? It may be, it’s time for you to have some conversations and make some adjustments.

Evaluate if you’ve been the person collecting the wrong people. There may be a reason for surrounding yourself with people who are not congruent with who you truly are or want to be. If so, discovering the agenda of that hidden role can be a huge game changer.

Dig deep, with honesty and fearlessness.

Is your desired state (content state) to feel truly loved, respected, trusted, safe, at peace, of service to others, to correct an injustice in the world… what is it you really need and want that you don’t have now? What gives you a sense of emotional strength and inner peace at the same time? What do you witness others having in their lives that you wish for your own?

Have a strategic guide, impartial support system, and a sounding board.

To achieve that state it may take some big changes, bold moves or perhaps some minor adjustments. The fear of unknown results keeps people unhappy, uncomfortable, silently miserable and perhaps, using whatever they can to stop feeling anything at all.

Now that you’re in with the élite crowd or have a big overhead and you’ve set a certain expectation of yourself and others have set a certain expectation of you as well, it’s pretty hard to take that leap and risk all that to go for what you really want, without a safety net.

What if you disappoint people? What if you’re disappointed again? Reaching your current social level wasn’t easy, why risk it? It’s worth it, you’re worth it. It’s worth it to know you value your life above all superficial things. It was for me and many others.

Before you implode or spend your life without feeling your real life’s contentment, reach out to people who do get you. If you want confidentiality and someone who will guide you through the unknown territory, I suggest hiring out. You can go it alone, however, I don’t recommend it. I did and wish I’d found someone to guide me, however, I couldn’t find anyone. That’s why I help others navigate through this situation.

Show Up Strong for yourself, as you would for the person you love the most.

If the person you love most in this world were feeling the way you are, how strongly would you stand up for and provide for their needs? Often times, we are kinder to strangers and more giving to others than we are to ourselves. I repeatedly hear or read some version of, “if you could go back in time, what is the one thing you would tell the 20-year-old you?”  I have a different angle.

If you were face to face with the five-year-old you, what would you provide for that child that it needs the most?

Seek to understand your restlessness without the presumption “there’s something wrong with me” and ask what do I need/want/desire that my current lifestyle isn’t giving me?

You do have the means to be successful and happy, content, fulfilled…. anything you want. You may need help understanding how to accomplish that and how to handle the rough patches that come with it.

For The Restless Successful®, it means stepping outside your comfort zone, knowing you have the resources to find what you’re really looking for. What you need is to take a chance on doing something that makes you feel successful/fulfilled/content, not just look the part. We each define our success differently. Start defining your success, then go live it!

Schedule An Appointment Or Consultation

Tamara Lee Taylor
International Advisor To The Restless Successful®  1.949.371.6866

About the Author: 

Tamara is an international leader in human and business performance. Developing high functioning navigational skills in rapidly changing and volatile environments, working with high functioning individuals looking to grow into more meaningful success and leadership roles in their unique situations. Whether leading a growing business of 1,000 or leading their individual lives, she helps them Show Up Strong® in every situation. Their businesses and personal lives gain in the quality of their strengths, growth, and impact.

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