I want to be a reason other people are happy

I like to introspect. Lately I’ve been fascinated by figuring out my own drive and motivation in life. I’ve come to find that, primarily, I want to be a reason other people are happy. This ties so deeply and profoundly into my psyche that I used to feel guilty or sad when the opposite was true: when I am happy because of someone else. But when I make others happy, that in turn makes me happy too. I crave that vicarious enjoyment, that empathetic feeling of giving someone else a positive experience and knowing that they like it. It makes me happy to make others happy.

When I was younger, I used to play video games by myself. Sometimes family would watch, usually my younger sister, but in general I was content to just play by myself. Something changed when I started doing YouTube. I stopped playing games entirely, unless I was recording them with the intention to upload and publish. I’ve heard other YouTubers talk about this experience happening to them too, and like me, they describe it as feeling like it’s wasteful to play a game without recording it. But usually that’s because it’s their business model; they need to record gameplay as their product. I doubt I’ll ever be in a position where that is feasible for me.

I record my experience because I want others to be able to enjoy it like I do. I feel it is a waste to experience things alone, to be the only one to know what happens, what I feel, what I think. My commentary is a record of my inner thoughts and feelings as I play a game. I feel like it should be preserved so that someone, somewhere, might find it and get entertainment value out of it, or some kind of shared experience, a connection on the other side of a screen.

Of course, there are countless YouTubers. There is an overwhelming amount of content of all types being produced and published every day, every hour, every minute, every second. All of it is too much. There is no way anyone could keep up with it all. But, some people watch my videos anyway. Even if nobody watched my videos, even if they all got No Views and stayed that way for months or years, I might still continue on. My way of having fun in games is intrinsically linked to creating content that might someday be enjoyed, because at the heart of everything, I want to be enjoyed.

I’ve often felt it’s a very vain thing to desire when phrased that way, though. I suppose a more accurate description is that I want to do things that make others happy, that others can experience and enjoy. I want to create games of my own, passion projects that allow me to express myself while also still being heavily geared toward others’ enjoyment. I can do this because others share similar interests and enjoy things I also enjoy. I can make things I enjoy, and then share it with others. I can create experiences that will improve the mood of other people, if I put in the effort. That is my driving motivation.

Everyone needs entertainment for one reason or another. It helps us relax, unwind, or learn new things, keep our minds active. YouTube is very much a passive form of entertainment. Games are a more engaging and active form of interactive entertainment. I want to do that. I want to make games so people can enjoy them, be engaged, experience something cool. The easiest way to do that is just to make games I myself would enjoy. I don’t care if it takes years or decades for them to be uncovered by the right crowd. I’ll be happy knowing I made something that can positively influence other people.

It’s not about me. It’s about everyone. Learning to include myself in “everyone” is one of the single most challenging things I have ever had to do in my life. I mentioned earlier that I used to feel sad or guilty when I was made happy by others. That was a rather drastic understatement. I went through a highly depressive period of my life from late 2018 to late 2019, and the core reason was the overwhelming feeling of guilt from finally having friends that I could enjoy spending time with. For the first time in my life, other people were making me happy, instead of me making other people happy, and it was terrifying.

Every time I thought of something I wanted, especially if it was something another person could give me, I felt a pang of self hate. Some sort of chemical released from a gland in my brain and coursed through my bloodstream, filling my body with an awful feeling of death. I thought of ways to sabotage my chances of getting what I wanted. I took deliberate actions to make people less likely to do something for me that I wanted. I let these feelings fill me because, in a strange way, they felt good. I was giving in to something in my mind that liked it when I hated myself. But of course, there was still the part of me that was normal, that wanted things and that wanted to deserve them. That normal part of me made me feel guilty, because I didn’t know or want to admit it was normal.

The guilt was overwhelming. I constantly feared getting things I wanted. Anything that would burden another person or take up their time or even just slightly annoy them was off limits for me. I couldn’t message people first because I was afraid it would bug them. I didn’t feel like I deserved to take up their time when they could be doing better things. I would only reply to people if they expected a response from me, even though I desperately wanted to talk to them and get to know them and let them get to know me. I didn’t value myself. Or rather, I valued everyone else significantly more than myself.

This manifested in a lot of strange and contradictory behavior. I would often try and get friends to meet each other or hang out in the same server together, and then once I saw them being happy without me, I would distance myself from them. My job was done, they didn’t need me anymore, I could stop taking up their time and let them be happy without me, with better people than me. I thought I was doing them a favor.

With the friends I was unable to do this with, I would instead become excessively self-sacrificing for them, often staying up late hours into the night to put on a smile and keep them happy. There were many times where I was crying while pretending to be happy for someone, just because I didn’t want them to feel bad. I’d lie about the way I felt in order to make them feel better. I’d decline any and all offers to do things I wanted to do, instead obsessively focusing on what they wanted even if I disliked it. I thought I was doing them a favor.

I drained myself so much. I was burning myself to warm others in the most efficient way I could without being able to physically meet anyone. I donated my own money to many, many people when I felt exceptionally bad, and hid behind anonymity to prevent them from being able to do anything for me in return. It was a way for me to sacrifice myself in a way that didn’t immediately hurt, and it let me feel just a little bit better as a person for a moment, until that other part of my mind reminded me I could have donated more or to a better cause. I kept doing it anyway, like some kind of donation addiction, just to get that brief high of feeling like a good person before crashing down under the thought that I could have been better. I exhausted myself trying to please everyone and do nothing for myself. It was obsessive selflessness that I hid and lied about. I was miserable. I thought I was doing them a favor.

That isn’t how it works though. Nobody ever saw me as negatively as I saw myself, no matter how much I told them about myself. Nobody actually wanted me to sacrifice myself for them, no matter how much I told them I wanted to. Nobody wanted to accept without also giving back, no matter how much I told them it was okay. Nobody wanted me to hurt myself, to drain myself, to exhaust myself, and doing so was making it more and more difficult for me to even talk to the very people I was trying so hard to do favors for. My self loathing and overvaluing of others was indirectly negatively affecting everyone in my life. My friends, my family, my employer, all getting a more defeated and more tired me. I was hiding my true feelings from everyone because I secretly already knew this and just didn’t want to admit it. I wasn’t doing them a favor.

Someone gave me an unexpected gift once during that period, and it broke me. I cried for hours because of how awful I felt that someone had taken time out of their day to do something for me when I didn’t even deserve it. The pain was very real and very intense. After I calmed down, I agonized over writing a thank you message so that they would feel good about themselves instead of feeling like they wasted their time. I didn’t want them to know how badly they had hurt me from just trying to do a nice thing. That’s how bad of a mental state I was in.

It took me a full year to crawl out of that pit. Through sheer determination, I powered through. Once I knew it was a problem with myself that needed to be solved, I got to work on solving it. I started writing to introspect and figure out what was going on in my mind. I started identifying negative thought patterns and fighting them off as they happened. I learned to stop giving in to that other part of my mind that wanted me to mentally hurt myself. Apparently, I reinvented some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques without ever having heard of them before.

The trick, I found, was that my problems were also my solution. My goal never changed. I’m still doing all this for the benefit of others. I’m improving myself so that other people can experience a better me. The key was believing that allowing myself to be happy and to have things that I want for myself would indirectly help others to be happy too. I am not the only person with empathy. By fixing up my self worth issues and eliminating my self-sabotaging tendencies, I have become much happier as a person overall, and many of my friends and other people that talk to me have noticed. It’s more enjoyable for them too. I… I am more enjoyable for them.

I want to be a reason other people are happy.