The Guide to Being Miserable

The Guide to Being Miserable

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There’s an oft-quoted adage and it goes something like this: The shit sandwich is in the eye of the beholder. OK, that’s not the adage, and it’s not quoted often either. The point is that wherever you look and whatever you do, ultimately you are the one who decides whether it sucks or not.

Now, I know what you’re saying right now: “But Mark, everything around me is honeycombs and rainbows. Come on, let’s frolic!”

And I say to you: No. Shut your fucking mouth. There’s misery and despair all around you and you don’t even know it yet. Search the world and you will find an infinite source of pain and injustice, you can inspire a boundless lack of motivation in yourself, you can drown a bottomless sea of sorrow and regret. Seek out misery and you can find it, at any time, under any circumstance…

You just need to know how.

A lot of people go through life thinking they’ll never be truly miserable. They see others who are miserable and assume that they were somehow born with it. Others luck out and are born into miserable families, or were given a head start and encouraged to be miserable by teachers and friends growing up. It seems unfair.

But misery is something anybody can achieve if they set their mind to it. You can be miserable any time, anywhere, in a moment’s notice. It’s a simple choice, and I can show you how to make it.

You don’t have to be short and ugly. You don’t have to be broke or untalented (don’t worry, plenty of millionaires have put a gun in their mouth). You don’t have to have a history of sexual abuse or been abandoned at a young age. There’s always time for someone to turn things around and become a failure.

Misery is possible here and now. All you have to do is make a few simple choices. Luckily for you, I’ve put together five of the most important points to being a miserable and wretched person.

1. No Matter What Happens, Focus On What Sucks About It

The beautiful thing about being human and living in such a complex and incomprehensible world is that no matter what happens, finding something shitty about it is never too difficult. Our minds are capable of rationalizing almost anything, so why not rationalize how everything is wrong? As I like to say, when life gives you lemonade, make lemons.

Gay people won marriage equality? Now even gay people will grow old and bored with their relationships? Got accepted to a great college? Now you’re going to have to study more and will be more stressed out and have less time to socialize. Mom won the lottery? Now she’s going to suspect you of only loving her for her money. Girlfriend wakes you up with a blowjob? Now she has to brush her teeth twice.

The world can be a shitty place if you let it.

2. You Are Always A Victim

When staying on the sucky side of life, the most important component to keeping yourself miserable is deciding that nothing is ever your fault and that nothing you do can make it better. Every perceived wrong is an injustice and you are powerless to fix it.

If you pay attention to people around you, you’ll notice that a lot of people take responsibility for the shitty things in life. “Oh, I’m working more, but that’s what happens when you’re promoted to manager!” Or “Yeah, I have to pay more taxes, but that means I’m earning more, right?” Or “Yeah, our charity organization wasn’t able to cure AIDS, but at least we’ve stopped the spread of it in major East African countries.”

What a bunch of losers. All cheery and successful and shit.

Why would you accept responsibility for your situation and make the best of it when you could instead be a perpetual victim and demand a constant stream of sympathy and support from everyone around you? When you choose to become an emotional vampire this allows you to complain about the never-ending stream of personal injustices that is now known as your life while still feeling justified in wasting everyone’s time and energy around you.

3. Nobody Understands You Ever

From now on there are two kinds of people in the world: 1) People who agree with you and 2) people who who are wrong. What you realize when you’re miserable is that most people don’t understand you. They don’t understand what you get through. They’ve never felt anything like the hardships you’ve felt. If only they understood how much your mom yelled at you or the fact that your second girlfriend broke up with you via text, then they may be able to get a small glimpse into the terrible loneliness of your day-to-day life.

No, you’re on your own. On a planet of seven billion people, your experiences are so unique and unfathomable that anyone who attempts to connect with you or understand you is either being patronizing or outright manipulative.

4. Argue About Absolutely Everything

If everything sucks, yet nobody else understands but you, then it logically follows that you are sentenced to spending a lifetime convincing people how wrong they are about, well, everything.

Rule #4 is especially important if anyone tries to help you. To help you they have to understand you. And to understand you, you must first explain to them how wrong they are about your situation. They tell you that you should just walk over and say “Hello” to a girl, but they don’t understand how stupid and ignorant she probably is, so you have to explain that to them. You aren’t into tall blondes with manicured fingernails and silver jewelry and birthdays in April. You have to explain to them that you have this medical condition that prevents you from staying awake for more than four hours at a time and your colostomy bag isn’t exactly great dinner conversation.

The extent of your misfortune can be overwhelming to many people. Sometimes people will pretend to understand you and then start agreeing with you. Despite their nice intentions, they’re only agreeing with you because they’re taking pity on you. Remember, everything sucks. So be sure to remind them to not be such patronizing dicks and that they can’t fathom the tepid pool of sadness that douses your soul every waking moment.

Some people will go so far as to sympathize and try to tell you that they know how you feel. Those smug bastards. The arrogance to assume they understand your pain! Better argue about that one with them too.

5. Be Spiteful; Make Generalizations

The thing about everyone else being wrong all the time is that after a while they may as well all be the same. When everyone else is wrong about something and everything is screwed up, why even bother discriminating between them anymore?

This also allows you to practice some self-righteous indignation, the pinnacle of being a miserable, hateful person. Still a 7% wage gap between men and women? Cut all of men’s dicks off and feed them back to them in a dog cage. Black people on welfare? A bunch of lazy moochers. Where’s Jim Crow when you need him?

But of course, you don’t actually do anything about this stuff. You’re the unsung saint, the person who tolerates the injustices of the world and never demanding their own share in return. This allows you to maintain your role as societal victim against all odds. And you’ll always have something to argue with people about.

Why Be Miserable?

So I know you’re probably saying, “Gee Mark, this is great, I feel worse about myself already! But why would I want to be so miserable all the time?”

Glad you asked.

When you’re miserable, there will always be people who will try to make you feel better. If you’ve never been able to get much respect, love or care throughout your life, you may come to discover that being miserable attracts people’s attention. People will go out of their way to convince you to feel better and give you the much-needed validation you’ve been starved of for so long.

When you’re miserable, you can feel secure in victimhood rather than insecure in responsibility. Acting out and changing the world is scary. And better to be sad than afraid.

When you’re miserable, no one will expect anything of you, and you’ll always have an excuse or someone to blame when things go wrong (which they always will).

When you’re miserable, you get to feel like the world is against you rather than accepting that the world hardly notices you at all, that you have to work and earn the admiration and influence you desperately desire.

When you’re miserable, you can wait for someone to come save you instead of having to save yourself.

When you’re miserable, you can pretend the world hates you so that nobody realizes how much you hate yourself.

When you’re miserable, you can avoid the forgotten truth that somewhere along the way you were hurt deeply, and that one day it will be OK.

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56 Comments

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  • Reply

    Nick

    3 months ago

    That was simply hilarious. Unfortunately, the people who really need to hear it, will probably argue with you. haha

  • Reply

    Joel

    3 months ago

    Laughed for the first part of the article. Then the “Why be Miserable” hit. Damn…some of those hit really close to home.

    Awesome article.

    • Reply

      Ter

      3 months ago

      Amazing way to approach the subject. Honestly this is what I needed right now. Thanks.

  • Reply

    Xander

    3 months ago

    Dad?

  • Reply

    Zalaeth

    3 months ago

    I’ve been there when I was younger…this very accurately describes how the “miserable” person thinks and acts. I’d assume Mark has been there as well if he can describe it so well.

    I know a few people who just won’t grow out of it, I would send them this article but I know they won’t even bother reading it…

  • Reply

    Shaun

    3 months ago

    You read my mind Mark, this is just what I needed. I was starting to see the world through rose tinted spectacles and you have made me remember the truth… That I AM a victim.

    If only everyone else realised the truth rather than hiding behind the lie they call “happiness”.

  • Reply

    NICK

    3 months ago

    Insightful article. I’m a pretty miserable person in general, but you’ve shown me that I still have a long way to go.

  • Reply

    David

    3 months ago

    Sorry, this one didn’t do much for me. It’s as though you read about ‘blogging tips’ and one classic way to write is to say how to do what you don’t really want to do.

    And I think I’m the only one left in the English-speaking world who barely swears.

    Of course I can happily say how much I like the other content on here..

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      I actually haven’t seen other blogs do satire but OK.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      Also, knowing you, this isn’t your type of humor.

      • Reply

        David

        3 months ago

        Haha..

        Btw you might be interested to know – am getting rid of my whole CD collection in Prague. As the songs says, ‘you can’t take it with you.’

  • Reply

    tim

    3 months ago

    Shouldn’t this be added to the Postmasculine Life Guides?

  • Reply

    Rob

    3 months ago

    Yikes…. Well written.

    Those last 2 sentences got to me. Especially that second to last one… that hit home.

    Cheers.

  • Reply

    Meg

    3 months ago

    Reminds me of my “ex whatever” (because even pinpointing our relationship was bad). I think just by dealing with him I was putting myself in a victim position. He seemed to think he was more unique and felt more than most people (his mother confirmed it) that by putting up with his nonsense I felt worthless.

  • Reply

    Elliott Crane

    3 months ago

    Very creative idea. I have read so many goddamn, “How to Be Happy.” type articles that another one would have made me throw up in my mouth. This was more interesting and allowed me to look at happiness, personal responsibility, self-esteem, and self-pity from a different perspective. Please write more articles of this style for other subjects, such as with approaching and making moves with girls. People so often simply resist their inner feelings and mental state that it grows more powerful, so to read an article that “accepts” misery allows us to accept it and the reasons for it ourselves and thus move past it. Cheers.

  • Reply

    bubblegum

    3 months ago

    Damn it. This was some really eerie satire. I mean some parts were obvious. But taking some of the deepest status-quo balancers and calling it a satire? Oh man. Don’t even know if you realized the potential brain scrambling that causes.

  • Reply

    Daniel

    3 months ago

    Very entertaining!

    Looking forward to more!

  • Reply

    Cameron

    3 months ago

    that was freakin hilarious! im going to practice misery! :-)

  • Reply

    Chris

    3 months ago

    Don’t forget that you can always say that it was your brain making all those bad choices, it never was you.

  • Reply

    jamie flexman

    3 months ago

    I might submit this to reddit just to see how many people actually take this at face value.

    Where there’s an internet, there’s a moron!

    Well written piece!

    • Reply

      Nick

      3 months ago

      This vocal Reddit community needs to hear this. They are the prime candidate for it. Unfortunately, I still think it would be met with mostly hostility.

  • Reply

    dizzy

    3 months ago

    Damn!

    Actually, I once read a book called something like ‘Manual for Unhappiness’ (it was German), so I wasn’t blown away by this.
    But this perspective is really powerful. We all know what to do to be happy, so reading a ‘how to be happy’-guide is not thought provoking. But reading about what not to do and finding one of your patterns there really makes you think.

    So I just noticed I struggle with point 3. I sometimes catch myself thinking that my struggle is way harder and that other people have it easier.
    What can I do about this? I guess the first step is recognizing these negative thoughts, accepting them and telling myself that other people have the same issues. But it keeps coming back to me everytime I’m stressed, tired, in a bad mood, etc.
    Is there anything I can do about it or is this normal?

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      Volunteer for a charity. Seriously. Just the fact you’re posting here means you’ve got it really good.

  • Reply

    TN

    3 months ago

    This is a good post and all but you don’t *really* understand me.

  • Reply

    Paul

    3 months ago

    Hehe, nice.

    I am SO tempted to forward this to my roommates.

    It might not help them, but it helps me put things in perspective regarding my own shit. A nice reminder. Thanks, Mark.

  • Reply

    lenny

    3 months ago

    I know that in criticizing this article, I risk being criticized as a complainer who only sees the negative: the very person for whom the article was written.

    I see how the article could be directed towards whiners and complainers.

    But I think the article puts them into the same category with people who truly are depressed.

    Depression is a legitimate illness and can’t be “solved” by just telling someone to quit complaining, take personal responsibility, be happy, etc. I think it’s probably inadvertent, but the article promotes the unfortunate tendency to blame depressed people for their illness. Those who aren’t depressed use this to stigmatize depression and cast doubts on its legitimacy, and those who are depressed feel even more hopeless and see less reason to seek medical help.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      3 months ago

      No thats reasonable. I don’t mean to downplay people with legitimate problems.

      • Reply

        Paul

        3 months ago

        I suspect this article is aimed more at ‘neurotics’, not necessarily those with a severe clinical diagnosis like major depression or trauma.

    • Reply

      Trevor

      3 months ago

      Lenny, thanks for saying what needed to be said. I realized this was satire from the headline and do find it entertaining. But the truth is that I am tired of hearing that you can just choose to be happy. It really downplays the seriousness of depression. And serious problem or not, a life altering event like job loss, divorce or death of a loved one to name a few, can bring on acute depression.

      I know I’ve got it good. I’m not running for my life in Darfur. I’m not waking up in a refugee camp in Syria. But I also don’t choose how I feel when I wake up everyday. I’ve read many of Mark’s articles and really appreciate them on a rational level but emotionally nothing changes. Woe is me. The self-pity only makes me beat myself up for not choosing to be the man and make it happen like it does in my dreams. But this is how I feel today and for a lot of days before it. Maybe it will change in the future but anyone that’s been here knows, choosing to be happy is easier said than done.

      • Reply

        Mark Manson

        3 months ago

        Of course no one chooses to be depressed intentionally. But you do choose what you do in response to that depression.

        • Reply

          Raoul

          3 months ago

          It’s all anyone can do sometimes to blow off depressed people. We can be absolutely toxic.

  • Reply

    Pavel

    3 months ago

    The thing that hit home for me, was about waiting for someone saving me from my misery. As long as I remember I always hoped that someone will come and alleviate all my social related problems and fears. I’m pretty successful in all other aspects of my life, but somehow kept that belief that to become happy someone has to come and make me happy. It’s time to get my sexual life under control.

    • Reply

      Raoul

      3 months ago

      I stopped waiting years ago for someone to come rescue me. All I ask for now is a listening ear. It turns out even that is asking too much.

      Maybe one day I’ll come to the point where I realize I can’t ask dick of anyone, stop posting on blogs, and just start dragging my ass thru the busted glass. I hope I get desperate enough to want it first.

  • Reply

    Chris

    3 months ago

    Advanced Tips:
    *Be sure to stay sexy enough that you can potentially attract a mate. The benefits of this are 2 fold. On the one hand, if you can’t attract a mate, you can complain about how bitchy/assholic the opposite sex is while secretly proving to yourself how unlovable you are!
    If you can attract a mate, you have somebody to share and perhaps even create new and exciting sources of misery with!
    *Always compare yourself with others and constantly remind yourself how you’re just not as good as they are, and never will be.
    *Study Cynics like Schopenhauer.
    *Avoid suicide, you WILL come back as an ugly fat girl.
    It never ends.

  • Reply

    Nicholas

    3 months ago

    This must have been hard to do – I mean to maintain the inverse mindset through the whole post. Works for me, too – it shines a light on something familiar from a new angle, and, wow, there’s something new there.

    As an aside, in high school my little brother’s AP Euro teacher gave a multiple choice test where one answer got full credit, another .75 x full etc. with one answer getting 0 credit. It was a hard test and he was a smart kid – smart enough to choose the one wrong answer, scoring a perfect 0. Fortunately his teacher understood his stunt and let him think about it for a week after school, then re-tak eit.

  • Reply

    Chaos

    3 months ago

    “From now on there are two kinds of people in the world: 1) People who agree with you and 2) people who who are wrong.”

    What do you mean “from now on??” That’s always been the case… What, now it’s my fault that I’m always right???

  • Reply

    Jean

    3 months ago

    A post written by “Self Help Mark Manson” rather than “Psychotherapist Mark Manson”. A person who is “miserable” reading this will actually go like “see? this is what i mean! Nobody cares about me”. You have to consider that some people are doomed to be miserable. They are stuck in a complex network of painful memories and useless values and beliefs that are overwhelming to their condition.

    • Reply

      Raoul

      3 months ago

      Abso-f**king-lutely, Jean. I am, as far as I can determine, one of those people. We’ve got an iron-clad 6,000 volt feedback loop that can make even the most positive advice feel shaming and cruel. Worse still, we know our beliefs are useless – there are just too g*ddamn many of them, and we quickly lose the energy to keep sorting them out.

  • Reply

    BEN

    3 months ago

    Jeez, I feel miserable after reading this post.

  • Reply

    The Notorious Phd

    3 months ago

    I read a quote somewhere that said “There’s no good reason to be happy, just as there’s no good reason to be unhappy.” (This applies to the average person. Not, of course, anyone in serious medical, emotional, or life-threatening situations)

    That definitely struck a cord with me as I’ve always been the kind of person who demands more proof that things are good vs. that things are bad (a recipe for misery, btw). This is something I’m working very hard on changing right now.

    But why do we do this? Is it just a matter of habit to focus on the negative? By actively recognizing the distortions in our thought, can we habituate ourselves to focus on the positive?

  • Reply

    John

    3 months ago

    This is very good. I do all the above at times. Easier to take on the internet, home truths like this would probably wreck me face to face. Drink!!

  • Reply

    Jason

    3 months ago

    This. You really hit home here when you say it is a choice. It’s very difficult for a lot of people because it feels like their ‘default’ mode, however it is possible to change. It takes work at first, but choosing to see through a different lens makes all the difference. Thanks for showing everyone that misery is not automatic.

  • Reply

    Joy

    3 months ago

    This is brilliant. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site. It’s funny that once you discover you actually have a choice in if you’re miserable or not you wonder why it took so long to discover that.

  • Reply

    Kevin

    3 months ago

    This is a lovely mindfuck. It’s definitely a whole lot easier to be negative than it is to be positive. You brought up some solid points that made me pause and think if I was displaying these behaviors. Solid post man.

    • Reply

      Wendy

      1 month ago

      When you’re miserable, you can avoid the forgotten truth that somewhere along the way you were hurt deeply, and that one day it will be OK.

      Wow, that one hit me. I have started devouring your website the last two weeks. It has been a huge help and has given me some hope. Thank you.

  • Reply

    Mike

    3 months ago

    Very perceptive. This is what my wife has been living and telling me for years. Now I get it! I hate to say my take has been almost the opposite. I’m too damn happy, positive and can do. I now see how I fail to care because I don’t see the suck in everything, how me helping her not be a vicitm and bristling at the vampiric drain on my emotions has been wrong, how this is all because I do not appreciate the unique hardships she has of having responsibility for kid pick-up and laundry, but few other household chores or job, and why she is spiteful, claiming I always do this or never do that when the opposite is often true and brinign up for the first time words I purportedly said literally 5 yers ago….as justification for he rage.

    She has set a goal for herself and no wonder she blames me for her disatisfaction (or more precisley undermining her reasons to be disatisfied), despite having a smart, in shape husband, once attentive, who does most all the child care and household chores, has limited his travel (and hence career) but still found a way to put us in the top 1% income with only 50 hours of work a week.

    I thought I just needed to move on, but now I get where she is coming from. ;)

    The sad thing is there are people that really do live by these 5 points all the time. It’s certainly crazy, in the real you need professional help way.

  • Reply

    Raoul

    3 months ago

    You’re not telling us emotional vampires anything new, Mark. You’re not even throwing us a life line. You’re just rubbing it in.

  • Reply

    thecombatbunny

    3 months ago

    Hi Mark. Go kill yourself.

  • Reply

    fritagoni

    3 months ago

    “When you’re miserable, you can avoid the forgotten truth that somewhere along the way you were hurt deeply, and that one day it will be OK”.That made me cry this morning and really start accepting myself and saying to myself that I was hurt sometime when I grew up. And some day I i realize that it was OK.

  • Reply

    Alex

    2 months ago

    Hihi, quite cool article :) I read some of the comments and somehow I am asking myself why people want also others to realize this stuff? Not saying that it should be a secret, but for me the most important thing is to realize this and apply it. “Be the change you want to see in others” – i trully believe this, as how you act is what you get…so I dont need to wait for others to realize this stuff…I deeply believe that everyone around me is 100% what I am. So no need to worry about others, focus on yourselves :)

  • Reply

    Chris

    1 month ago

    Dude, I have to say that while a lot of your writing is really well-considered, this one is a bit insensitive and ignorant. Believe it or not some people are not to blame for the ways they’re feeling and aren’t really in a position to change it. Maybe head on down to your local hospital’s psychiatric emergency department and try telling a few people to “snap out of it”, and see how that goes for you.

  • Reply

    Rohan

    1 month ago

    Mark I just want to commend you on this article. It sounds like a clichéd statement but I truly want to commend you on it. I can imagine it wasa tough piece to write but the spin you took on being miserable makes it very easy to be so. But on the flip side I hope other readers will appreciate the effort that you put into making our problems seem tolerable while not belittling them. So Thank you for it.

  • Reply

    Jacqueline

    6 weeks ago

    On point. I’ve been that miserable person. I woke up one day after years of misery and decided to change. In just a few weeks people knew me as a happy person. I think some of these ideas dawned on me around that time, but the biggest thing was I got this nagging feeling that I was the common denominator in all my problems and if I was the problem, I had the power to change. You can’t change others but you CAN change yourself.

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