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Chasing Shadows: How Young Adults Can Find Real Happiness Beyond Social Feeds

People are often persuaded by external influences to define their happiness, wants, and desires due to a combination of psychological, social, and cultural factors. Understanding these influences can provide insight into why so many of us look outward to determine what makes us happy or what we should aspire to achieve.



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Social Comparison Theory


One fundamental reason is the social comparison theory, which suggests that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. This can lead to defining happiness in terms of external achievements or possessions, as people gauge their own success and happiness by comparing themselves with those around them.


Cultural Conditioning


Cultural norms and values play a significant role in shaping our perceptions of happiness and success. Societies often promote certain life paths, achievements, and material possessions as indicators of happiness and fulfillment. From a young age, individuals are bombarded with messages through media, advertising, and storytelling that link happiness with external factors, such as wealth, appearance, and social status.



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The Hedonic Treadmill


The concept of the hedonic treadmill explains how people continuously seek higher levels of happiness by pursuing more achievements or acquiring more possessions, only to find that their baseline level of happiness eventually returns to its original state. This perpetual cycle can lead people to believe that the next external milestone or purchase will bring lasting happiness, despite evidence to the contrary.



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Neurobiological Factors


The human brain responds to rewards by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and satisfaction. External achievements and acquisitions can trigger these dopamine releases, reinforcing the behavior and creating a psychological link between happiness and external rewards. Over time, this can lead individuals to pursue external sources of happiness in search of that dopamine-driven feeling of satisfaction.


The Influence of Social Media


Social media intensifies the impact of external influences on our happiness, wants, and desires. Platforms are designed to showcase highlight reels of others' lives, often portraying an unrealistic standard of living, beauty, and success. This can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and fuel the desire to seek happiness through external means to match these portrayed ideals.



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Lack of Self-awareness


Finally, a lack of self-awareness contributes to the reliance on external influences. Without a strong sense of self or understanding of one’s intrinsic values and passions, it's easier to adopt societal standards as one's own. People may not take the time to introspect and discover what genuinely brings them joy; instead, they follow the predefined paths to happiness laid out by external influences.


The persuasion by external influences to define happiness, wants, and desires is multifaceted, rooted in psychological behaviors, social dynamics, cultural messages, and biological responses. Overcoming these influences requires conscious effort to cultivate self-awareness, challenge societal norms, and focus on intrinsic values and personal fulfillment.



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In paving our way through the saturation of external influences that shape our desires and happiness, we uncover a profound truth: the essence of true joy lies within the realm of self-awareness and personal authenticity. My own journey, marked by a relentless chase after societal benchmarks of success and beauty serves as a testament to the transformative power of looking inward. The moment I began to disentangle my worth from the clutches of comparison and societal expectations, I discovered a wellspring of contentment that was mine all along. It was a realization that reshaped my understanding of happiness, steering me towards a path of genuine self-discovery and fulfillment.


This brings us to an essential question that merits our reflection: How much of our happiness have we outsourced to the external world, and what are we willing to do to reclaim it? As we ponder this, let's remind ourselves that the journey to happiness is not about negating the value of external achievements or connections but about recalibrating our internal compasses. It's about recognizing that while the world may attempt to dictate our desires and worth, the power to define our joy and success rests firmly in our hands.



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As you young adults stand on the threshold of infinite possibilities, the challenge before you is not just to navigate the maze of external influences but to anchor yourself in the authenticity of your being. It's a call to action to sift through the noise, to listen to the whispers of your authentic self, and to courageously pursue what truly makes us come alive.


And so, I leave you with this uplifting thought: Let us not be mere threads pulled in every direction by the winds of external approval. Instead, let us be the weavers of our own stories, crafting a tapestry that reflects the vibrant hues of our true selves. For in the heart of authenticity, we find the boundless joy that is both our origin and our destiny.


Onward and Upward! Keep Glowing Forward!!!


Thank you for reading!


With Love and Respect,


Natalie Amey,

#1 Bestselling Author | Artist | Certified Life Coach


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P.S. If you're on the journey to discovering deeper personal growth, resilience, and purpose, I invite you to explore my book, "Change as your Ally: 5 Keys for Personal Growth, Resilience, and Purpose Unveiled." It's designed to be your companion through the ups and downs of personal transformation, offering insights and practical strategies to turn change into your most powerful ally. Discover more about the book here.


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