Happiness is Not the Absence of Problems

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By Leslie Sturgeon, WIW Founder

The other day I shared on Facebook a conversation I had with someone recently about life and happiness. This actually wasn’t the first time this topic came up with someone. The Facebook response was overwhelming and the gist of it was that “happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” The person – let’s call her Susan – said that I live a charmed life with no problems so I couldn’t begin to understand other people’s daily struggles. I was taken aback by Susan’s comment but I had heard it before. I thought I would share with you snippets of what I told Susan and what friends and colleagues shared on Facebook as you might find it interesting:

  • We should never make assumptions because everyone has something. When will our society get that – everyone has something!
  • I personally have had my share of challenges (prefer this over the term “problems”) but most people would not realize that.
  • Learning to tuck and roll was a muscle/skill that I have developed because of those challenges.
  • Having a belief in yourself that you can do it, and you have the strength, and surrounding yourself with people who help you equals the ability to continue to find happiness and inner peace.
  • Recognizing that in those challenging moments, you have been changed. Good or bad, you have been changed. And it is one more “notch” in your “life belt.”
  • I live in gratitude and think a lot of that comes from loss (or it has been heightened because of it). I know every single day is a gift. And I know that life can change in an instant. Be grateful for the here and now. Live for the moment with an eye on the future but just appreciate. And love, laugh and be joyful because of the smallest of things.

Comments from Others:

  • Many people base their happiness on everything that is going on around them so if they see someone who is happy, they don’t recognize the conscious choice. (Carol)
  • People don’t often understand the amount of work, education or sacrifice that has been made to create the lifestyle. (Kristina)
  • When people say that someone is lucky, they don’t comprehend that we make our luck by focusing on the positive, hard work and perseverance. Sticking with a plan. And loyalty to family and friends. Nothing “lucky” about any of that. (Carolyn)
  • It is the jealousy factor and they say that to make themselves feel better. (Sheri)
  • People deciding your happiness level is all about them comparing theirs to a perceived standard and finding their life lacking. (Celeste)
  • So many times people tell me that it must be nice to be “perfect and happy”. No I tell them, I get up every day, work hard, have a great family, a close circle of friends and most of all I love what I do. (Melissa)
  • I hope the person who began this discussion took an opportunity for growth. The truth is they have an opportunity to find similar approaches in similar results. (Randy)
  • Some of our hardest challenges we face, most never know about. One day at a time, one challenge at a time, it’s all any of us can do. (Missy)
  • Grass is always greener when you’re an observer and not a participant. Never assume. (Amy)
  • None of us live a charmed life. It is what we make it. Our attitudes and the choices we make. (Anne)
  • So often, people perceive certain things like, good job, nice house, nice spouse, good kids to all point to “happy” and “perfect”. Just because there are not outwards signs of struggles, does not mean they do not lay beneath. Same goes for those who are always smiling or putting out the most outward signs of happiness are sometimes those who are saddest and most stressed and putting out what they would like the world to see. (Kim)
  • One’s perception is not another’s reality. That person will not likely ever reach the “charmed life” state they see when they look at you and many others, for they do not know how to move past obstacles, heartbreak and simply feeling weary sometimes. Everyone has baggage they carry. Some just do it with a lot of heaving, sighing and moaning. (Bonnie)
  • How rude of anyone to think it acceptable to comment on anyone’s life, charmed or otherwise. The reality of it all is even those who have it all, appear to have the perfect life, have something they struggle with. And for those of us who still struggle with remembering how and when to “”Tuck and Roll”. (Judi)
  • All you strong, marvelous, bright, amazing women…MAKE it look EASY! (Pam)

I know that it can be difficult sometimes to see beyond our own current struggles, but please know that we all have something and you are not unique. I am no better or worse than you – nor more entitled, lucky, charmed or whatever. And vice versa. But we can change our attitude and our reality.  Happiness is a choice. If you are someone who has figured this out, please pay it forward and enlighten someone else who thinks the world is against them. We are all on this crazy journey together and need to practice acceptance and understanding of one another.

As for Susan, her perception of me opened up the door for a discussion on how we are 100% responsible for our own lives. Sometimes we have to claw and scratch our way out of our challenges, but we can do it. And if clawing and scratching doesn’t work, just tuck and roll baby.

Leslie Sturgeon is the founder of Women Inspiring Women, and has been described as a reformed shy girl, a serial entrepreneur, a tireless leader of women in New Hampshire, a crazy dog lover and as someone who tackles life’s challenges head on with a positive attitude. She has spent her life learning about herself, taking massive action outside of her comfort zone and lived to talk about it. Leslie has “been there” and continues to transform into the best version of herself right along side you. She lives life without regret while embracing today and overflowing with excitement about what is yet to come. Leslie also likes girl talk and chocolate and laughing so hard she snorts or pees (sometimes both simultaneously).


  1. Ummmmm…

    for the record: It wasnt me!!!

    PS: Well done. xo

  2. Katie Johnson says:

    One thing that I have learned for sure, and when I get tempted to compare myself to someone who seems to have it all together, I take a breath and think, “things are rarely as they appear”. We all have struggles, and it’s just a matter of how you deal with it. Leslie, great article and terrific food for thought.

  3. Sherri Perry says:

    This is so true. I get comments like this. They see I’m a nurse practitioner and now working on a Doctorate, but they don’t see the struggle it took to get here. I quit high school, on my own since age 17, couch surfed for awhile until I joined the military…. I could go on and on. I also meet people in my practice that look like they have it together until they start talking. 😂

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