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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

I am guilty of gaslighting myself almost daily. Honestly, it’s quite a conundrum. I’ll be sitting doing my work or whatever and out of the blue, my mind just starts an internal battle. It’s especially annoying when I’m answering questions and I gaslight myself into thinking that my answers couldn’t possibly be correct, but I digress. My point is that not only am I guilty of gaslighting myself but I am also guilty (indirectly) of sabotaging my happiness through gaslighting.

For example, let’s say that eating an apple right now would make me happy. My mind would come out of nowhere and start making me second guess whether that’s a good decision or not even though I feel, in my spirit, that eating an apple would really put a smile on my face. Now, from here, one of two things could happen. Either I eat the apple and instead of feeling happy as a clam, I’m thinking “maybe I shouldn’t have”, or I don’t eat the apple, in which case I keep moving back and forth on the decision. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that because happiness doesn’t usually rely on eating fruit.

Let’s look at a more likely scenario, for example, being invited out by a friend. For me, personally, this is always a difficult one. I have to take so many things into consideration because as a trans woman I don’t have the luxury of just being able to go wherever the wind blows; it just isn’t safe. I also have to think about how crowded the place might become because I truly just don’t like being around too many people. By the time I go through the rest of the reasons (there are many more), the decision to go out becomes progressively more difficult to make. But after a while (a few years), I’ve learnt my lesson.

I still gaslight myself a lot, but now I know how to overcome the many voices in my head. I have gotten better at distinguishing between things that will bring me true happiness and quixotic happiness. Quixotic happiness is unreal or fake happiness. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is to ask yourself, “will I still be happy about this in the future or will I regret it?”. This may seem like a pretty easy thing to do, and honestly, it is, but the problem is a lot of things seem like they might make you happy at the moment and only after its done, maybe only months after or maybe not even at all, will you realize that it wasn’t true happiness. Hence people living in a fool’s paradise.

It just boggles my mind to think about how many people out there are living what they think to be their “best life” but in reality, it just isn’t. Far from it. Here are some things to keep in mind so that you don’t book yourself a one-way ticket to fool’s paradise:

  • Am I doing this for me? – and by that, I mean are you making your decision based on what you know is good for you or are you making a decision based on FOMO and not wanting to disappoint others?
  • Will I regret this decision? – are you going to be content with your decision or are you always going to wonder what could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been?
  • Will it make me happy? – I am of course talking about true happiness. Is this something you know, in your soul, that will make you feel happy?
  • Am I gaslighting myself? – this is important. Do not make a decision because you feel pressured to make one at the moment in order to live on the edge. Even spontaneous decisions have some degree of subconscious thinking. Do not sacrifice your happiness because you don’t want to seem like a “buzz kill”. If the people you surround yourself with make you feel this way, then you need to find new people. Period.

Quixotic happiness has basically been drilled into our heads since we were children. Society makes it seem like in order to be happy you need to have done X, Y, and Z before a certain age – like getting your degree, a job, a car, a life partner, a house, etc. I mean sure, getting a nice job will do wonders, but true happiness is not guaranteed. You can have all those things and it will mean nothing in that moment if you’re not truly happy and you will always want more in order to fill that void. Not to mention the fact that many people don’t want or desire any of those things.

Let’s not fall into that trap; we all need to escape fool’s paradise while we can. As long as you’re being mindful of what you’re doing and how it is affecting your happiness, you can’t go wrong.

I am currently a staff writer for HER CAMPUS and a proud trans/non-binary woman of colour studying Chemistry and Oceanography at UCT. As someone who comes from a small town that most people have never even heard of, saying those words still feels unreal. My hobbies and interests include art, poetry, music, movies, series and fashion. I hate crocs and unexpected phone calls.