30 Ways to Make Yourself Miserable (Along with Everyone Around You)


Lion Goodman shares the secret techniques to suffering.


I‘ve spent most of my life making myself unhappy, and I learned long ago that I could share my misery with others. In writing this article, I didn’t rely on my own expertise alone. I interviewed hundreds of miserable people, and asked them to share the secrets and techniques they used to create so much suffering.

This is a compilation of the top 30 ways to make yourself miserable (along with everyone around you). It’s a well-known fact that “Misery loves company.” Why hoard your suffering when it is so easy to share with others? Many people have made their families miserable. Some have succeeded in making their neighborhood miserable. There are historical records documenting experts who brought misery to entire civilizations. We can use these glorious accomplishments to compare ourselves to, which will allow us to feel incapable, miniscule, or completely unworthy (This is Technique 11, detailed below).

Thousands of self-help books try to convince us we can be happy. But why bother? Happy people are universally disliked for their cheery, Pollyanna sunshine attitudes and their smug smiles. If you want to belong, be like other people. Be unhappy, and you’ll never be alone.

Don’t lose your sharp edge to those happy-faces.There’s nothing worse than dull-edged misery.

Happy people offer us crummy advice. They suggest that we see a therapist, meditate, or practice yoga. They tell us that we could become just like them. They promise wealth, great relationships, and terrific sex if we follow their cult-like behavior. To hell with that! I love being miserable! It’s much easier than struggling against it. I practice my path with equal diligence, and I’m always looking for new ways to master this craft. Don’t lose your sharp edge to those happy-faces.There’s nothing worse than dull-edged misery.

There are hundreds of techniques for making yourself miserable. I’ve chosen only the best. Many will be familiar to you, because you’re probably using some of them already. The old standards, such as Be Right and Make Others Wrong, have been used successfully for millennia, but it’s easy to take them for granted just because they’re so well known.  I’ve researched the most effective methods, whether old or new, because when it comes to misery, technique really counts. And so does practice.

Here are The Top 30 Ways to Make Yourself Miserable, in no particular order.  (Why should I bother putting them in any particular order? You don’t really care about the order I put them in anyway.):

  1. Practice the Essential 10 Beliefs. As often as you can, believe:  1) Something is wrong here; 2) There’s something wrong with me; 3) Something’s wrong with you/him/her/it; 4) I’m not good enough; 5) You’re/she’s/he’s/it’s not good enough); 6) I don’t have enough; 7) There isn’t enough; 8) I am alone; 9) I don’t belong; 10) Nobody loves me; 11) I don’t know how to love.  Okay, 11. Who cares?
  2. Be ashamed. “Original Sin” was a splendid idea for creating misery. Believing that you have a built-in flaw – which only someone else can absolve you of – is a sure-fire way to be miserable. [Whereas guilt is about what you did (see below), shame is about who you are.] You’re flawed, unworthy, undeserving. You’re so broken that you don’t deserve to be alive! You’re taking up valuable space and resources. You should be ashamed of yourself.
  3. Feel guilty. There are plenty of things you should feel guilty about. Take almost any action, judge it as wrong or bad, then feel guilty about it. Here’s a good one: making a mistake. Or hurting someone. Or hurting animals or plants when you eat them. Or any natural impulse. Or not doing something you should do. [If you decide that most of your behaviors are no-no’s, you can literally wallow in guilt. In addition, this makes you easier to control by others, which you can then resist or resent.]
  4. Don’t keep your agreements. No one else does, so why should you? They’re not that important anyway. Neither is the person you made a promise to.
  5. Be right. Righteousness is one of the old classics for spreading misery around.  It has a tendency to make you feel better temporarily, but then doubt creeps in. Maybe you aren’t right after all! If you get really righteous, you can enjoy torturing and killing non-believers that are wrong, then feel guilty later.
  6. Verminize others. Choose a specific class of people, and treat them like vermin (which have to be exterminated). Pick any group. For example: communists, terrorists, capitalists, industrialists, Mexicans, gays, Christians, Americans, young people, etc. There’s a never-ending supply of social, ethnic, and class distinctions you can use for this purpose. View them as inferior scum. Offer looks of horror when they cross your path. Treat them as if they were carrying the plague.
  7. Resist change. Put your foot on the brakes in any attempt to move forward. Undermine other people’s progress so you don’t get left behind. Since everything changes eventually, you will be provided with an enormous supply of things to resist. Remember: resistance causes friction, and friction causes heat!
  8. Resist what is. Dislike whatever is happening at this moment. (Disapproval is also good, because it adds a sense of superiority.) Let it eat at you because it’s not what you wanted. Wish it would change or go away. Focus on what’s wrong, imperfect, or could be better. Think about the fact that if it were different, you could be happy, then recognize that it will never be different. Complain loudly to anyone who will listen. If no one listens, complain to God or to invisible people.
  9. Exert control.  Whatever you’re involved in, do your best to control the outcome so it comes out the way you want it to be. Then, notice that the actual outcome is not sufficient, or is plain wrong. Attempt to assert even more control. Next, attempt to change or control others’ behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Even when it works, it’s rarely satisfying, and it usually doesn’t work at all, providing many opportunities for unhappiness.
  10. Judge others. A classic.  See others as inferior, inadequate, stupid or unpleasant.  While judging, scowl, frown, and grump. Make others wrong for their values, behaviors, beliefs, actions, smells, etc. Show scorn when listening to others, and express your disdain through subtle words and critical tones of voice.  Feel superior and inform others that they are inferior.  Or, alternatively, keep it to yourself and gloat: “If they only knew how stupid they were…”
  11. Compare yourself to others. Look around, and choose people that are better than you in any category. Pick the most beautiful, thin, successful, talented, rich people you can find, and focus on what you’re missing, or how inadequate you are. Recognize that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be as good as they are.  This will give you more evidence for the 10 Essential Beliefs (1), shame (2), and guilt (3).
  12. Blame others.  Everything that’s bad can be blamed on someone else. Point to the nearest person and identify their flaws that caused it.  Sources are abundant.  Point to the government as the problem, or the educational system, or the banks, or the Jews, or the Muslims, or religion, or media, or… whatever.  Find a scapegoat and make good use of them. (Extra points for spreading gossip or causing violent riots against them.)
  13. Take things seriously. Very seriously. Very, very seriously. My God, do you know how serious it is?  It’s very serious. Seriously. Wipe that smirk off your face!
  14. Have lots of wants and desires.  Want more of something, or less of something. Since our wants are rarely fulfilled, there’s a very good chance you can be unhappy forever. Read fancy magazines that display expensive watches you can’t afford, places you can’t go, cars you can’t drive, and people you’ll never associate with. Imagine having the life you don’t have, then realize you’ll probably never have it. Enjoy the suffering thus created.
  15. Have lots of aversions and repulsions.  There is plenty to be disgusted about, if you look around. Other people’s uncouth behavior. Other people’s habits. Your own habits. The way some people live. Unusual foods from foreign countries. People from foreign countries. Violence in movies. The people that make that crap. Sex in all of its forms, especially the aberrant ones. Visit porn sites and find out how many disgusting things people actually do in front of a camera.  It’s shocking.
  16. Have attachments.  Get really attached to something or someone, and hold on tight. Since everything is eventually lost to us, you can also worry about when it will be taken away from you.
  17. Take things personally.  Whatever happens, take it as a personal insult to your good name.  Ask huffily, “Don’t you know who I am?”  The key to optimizing this feeling is self-importance.  The more self-important you feel, the easier it is to be insulted. Recognize your importance to the world and the future of human civilization. You’re God’s gift, for God’s sake! And those jerks aren’t treating you the way you deserve to be treated.  How dare they!
  18. Live in the past.  Compare what’s happening today to the good old days when things were better.  Ignore what is happening around you and focus on some other time or place when it was all okay. Notice what’s gotten worse over time, which is pretty much everything.
  19. Find something or someone to obsess about. Anything or anyone will do. Just think about them over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over…
  20. Keep yourself distant.  Pull back from interactions with others. Become a mere observer (which allows you to detect their flaws more easily), or judge them silently (see #10).  Become unapproachable. It helps to dislike children, animals, and people in general. You’re better off alone anyway.  Who needs other people?  If you allowed them to get close, they’d probably just disappoint you, or hurt you.  Build an energetic wall around you – it’s much safer. [Bonus points for treating others as objects for your personal use and aggrandizement.]
  21. Avoid art and nature.  There are many places that are dangerous to unhappiness, and we recommend that you avoid them: museums, concerts, artistic performances, dances, parks, nature preserves, beaches, or anywhere that children play. Avoid beauty. Yuck.
  22. Become what others want.  Find out what others want you to be, and turn yourself into that.  Change who you are and how you act.  Comply with their requests. Support and serve them without considering yourself. Then resent the hell out of it.
  23. Have high expectations. When they’re not fulfilled, complain and make a fuss. Use the evidence of not getting it to prove that you don’t deserve it anyway.
  24. Hide the truth. They couldn’t handle it anyway, and it wouldn’t do any good. Keep your feelings hidden so no one knows who you really are.  Keep your needs hidden so they can’t possibly be fulfilled. Keep secrets, because secrets separate you from others. What if they found out? (Of course, sometimes you’ll want to reveal a secret in order to make someone else miserable.)
  25. Be suspicious.  Those other people are probably criminals, or worse.  They might be plotting to take over, and take your share. Even though misery might look plentiful, there’s a limit to how much miserable-ness there can be in the world. So if they’re too miserable, you’ll run out of suffering and have to be happy.  Watch out for them.
  26. Disagree violently.  If someone expresses an opinion, states a fact, or shares their belief, react violently with a contrary opinion and disdain.  “You idiot! You don’t know what you’re talking about! What’s wrong with you! Aren’t you aware of the research report that PROVED your proposition to be completely WRONG?”  Cite facts, whether they’re real or not. The point here is to shut down anyone who thinks they know what they’re talking about, and embarrassing them back into the hole they crawled out of.
  27. Be easily bothered.  Expand your sensitivities and increase you dislikes, especially to noise, other people talking, automobile traffic, airports, smells, weather, and children. Look down your nose, and get really bent out of shape if anything or anyone invades your space.  Practice hate.  It really ups your game.
  28. Have no goals.  Allow circumstances to push you around and pull you into situations you didn’t want to be in. Then resent the fact that you haven’t accomplished anything.

Well, that’s it.  The Top 30 Ways to Make Yourself Miserable.  Okay, 28, but “Top 28” didn’t sound as good. You probably wouldn’t have read the article if it had been “28 Ways to Make Yourself Miserable.” You probably didn’t even like the article. Which makes me feel bad. I’m now going to pretend that I don’t feel bad so you can’t hurt me.

I certainly hope that this list has proven useful, and I look forward to hearing of your successes as you share your misery with those around you.

Image: [main] tercerojismo / Flickr [inset] Flickr/Vic



About Lion Goodman

Lion Goodman is the co-founder of Luminary Leadership Institute (http://www.luminaryleadership.net), an accelerated initiatory program for leaders of businesses and organizations. With his partner, Carista Luminare, Ph.D., he developed a program to help couples transform old patterns of insecurity and trauma into a secure and passionate relationship: Confused About Love (http://www.confusedaboutlove.com). Lion is a co-founder of The Tribe of Men, an initiatory program in Northern California, and he served as the Director of Men’s Programs for The Shift Network, where he produced the Ultimate Men’s Summit, attended by 20,000 people around the world. He is the author of three books: Creating On Purpose (with Anodea Judith, Ph.D.), Transform Your Beliefs, and Menlightenment: A Book for Awakening Men. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, but considers himself to be a world citizen.


  1. wonderful piece. it is the truth. had to be written, had to be shared. thankyou. no 14 is the only one i disagree with. Possessing aspirational wants and desires is actually very healthy. In fact following joy is the reason we are on this planet – to create expansion of the universe. Having aspirational goals and dreams whether it is to be more rich or achieve career goals/ a different lifestyle is natural and essential as long as we are satisfied with what we have along the way and realise it is a journey not a destination. We WILL get there if we believe it and take steps towards it. Wanting things is not good because it adds to our worth – it doesn’t. nothing can. It is important because we all owe it to ourselves to achieve our dreams. We we just need to be grateful and accept what is while being in anticipation of what will come our way. I visualise the life I want all the time and I am slowly but surely creating it by doing this. I visualised my health better too. You MUST imagine yourself in the life you dream of and then go get it. That’s what life is all about. otherwise every other word in this article is superb. Ingratitude for where you stand in relation to where you want to be is what makes you miserable and not trusting life will take you there. It’s not having the desires in the first place. cos all dreams are achievable. if you can think it, you can be and do it.

  2. Wonderful piece and unbelievably spot on. although i do disgree with no 14. having aspirational wants and desires are very healthy as long as we are grateful for what is while being in anticipation of what will come our way. There is nothing wrong with wanting. In fact it is the basis of all expansion in the Universe and why we are here – seeking your joy and following it whether that be more money, a relationship you aspire to etc etc etc but truly a wonderful article. every other point is amazing. I feel this article is the truth. had to be written, had to be shared. thankyou

  3. This article was amazing. Maybe 30 can be notice the misery in others and scoff at it. Lol. Had to laugh at myself because I suffer from a few of these …which make me feel guilty…then I feel shame. I’m going to yell at the children playing outside of my window. That should cheer me up!

  4. Thank God you finally illuminated me! I’ve been wondering how to accomplish all of this for eons. Finally a formula. You are a miracle worker!

    Always your student,

  5. refreshing to read. actually makes me feel good. ironic i should enjoy reading ways to be miserable.
    maybe i should add that to the list: 29. Enjoy being miserable.

  6. I don’t see what’s wrong with any of those positions.. you pretty much just laid out a realistic picture of the world and our individual places in it.

    Sure, delude yourself if you want too, do whatever it takes to make you “not miserable”.. I’m going to continue on the way I am.. and if by some miracle things actually improve, like, really actually in reality improve, rather than just me being happy with whatever scraps I get tossed.. then I might be a little less miserable. Until then, You go play in narnia, I’ll be in a real world. If you don’t want me to ruin narnia for you, don’t talk about narnia around me.

    • j: The funny thing about “realistic” is that it’s so malleable. Two people in the same circumstances can have to completely different experiences. So what’s realistic? When you look into it, you find that your beliefs act like filters in front of your eyes, and you see through those filters, so you only see the part of reality that can come through the filter. Different filter => different “reality.” (If you want to get technical, different belief => different experience of reality.) Consequently, ALL beliefs are self-verifying. Since you’re seeing through them, what you see reflects the filter’s interpretation, so your experience verifies your belief. How right you are! Strangely, the person next to you who’s having a completely different experience is ALSO getting verification for their beliefs, even though they’re opposite of yours.

      No one can tell you what to believe (enough people have done that in your life, right?), or what beliefs are right or wrong for you. In fact, beliefs aren’t right or wrong, good or bad. They’re just tools for experiencing the world. If you’re enjoying your beliefs, and the experiences you’re having, good for you! If you don’t like them, or would prefer to try something else, change a few of your beliefs and watch what happens. There’s a natural tendency for us to judge others’ beliefs that don’t fit with our reality (like calling them “Narnia” or “unrealistic”). Judgement is a belief that the other person has less value than we have. The resulting experience is separation from others, and loneliness. Is that an experience you’re enjoying?

      • of course I’m not “enjoying” it. But there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s simply how it is. Why would I change my beliefs? My beliefs are accurate, if I simply wanted to do something to numb the pain and make me not aware of how much the world sucks, I’d take Heroin it’s far more effective.

        As Sgt. Barnes put it in Platoon, “There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.”

      • I agree. Recently I went to a career development conference, which was amazing, and really helped me plan where my career will go over the next 5-10 years.

        One male lab-mate came out of the same conference, convinced that the seminar showed that careers in science are impossible.

        Another female lab mate came out thinking that careers for women in science were impossible. Despite the fact that the keynote speaker at the conference was a woman, with 40 years of experience under her belt, and six of the ten other speakers were female….

        Did we all go to the same conference?

  7. I got a good chuckle out of this. I might know someone who would do well to learn these things on their own. I agree that this article won’t help someone in the “pits of this mindset,” but it’s still useful. If you know someone who fits this well, don’t send it to them. Anyone who displays many of these behaviors ultimately feels very unworthy. Having someone else tell them they fit this description will just reinforce their inadequate feelings. As the saying goes, you can’t change people, only they can change themselves.. or something like that.

    • John: If I judge someone as “too far down in the pits” or “they can’t handle the truth,” I’m forgetting that as a human being, they have an indomitable spirit, just like me. My tendency is to believe in their ability to change, to awaken, and to see the truth in some form. If I hold back anything, I’m judging them as less capable than they really are. You’re right – you can’t change anyone, but you may be able to influence them, and the only way to find out is to try. Reach out and tickle someone!

      • Wow Lion. You have given me a new perspective. I suppose it is possible. Of course you’re right that they have an indomitable spirit. There are several people in my life over the last year or so I have held back potentially helpful ideas because I thought they wouldn’t like to be told these things.

        I need to ponder this and see how I might be able to broach the subject with compassion. Advice on that would be appreciated.

        • John:
          Notice that your reluctance to tell people your truth (not “The” truth) is likely due to your fear of rejection, not their fear of hearing it. That’s reason enough for not speaking: ‘They won’t like me.’
          Offering your truth can be tricky. Try it this way, called ‘truthing’ or “telling the micro-truth”: “I’ve realized that I’ve been holding back from telling you certain things that I feel or think because I’ve been afraid that you didn’t want to hear them, then I realized that it’s more because I’m afraid of being rejected by you. I don’t want to hold back anymore, because it makes me feel distant from you. I want to feel more connected, and to do that I want to share the truth inside of me. I’m not very practiced at it, and I might mess it up, but I’d like to try. Would you be willing to hear my truth, knowing that it’s just my perspective, and it might be useful? If not, that’s okay, but I’d appreciate it if you would be open.” Please let me know how it goes. You can write to me at lion@luminaryleadership.net. Best wishes!

  8. I love it, I love your sense of humour AND the truth in some of your points.
    Strange how some beliefs have taken over my behaviours as in #1.
    #5 has caused me loads of misery and how #10 has a grasp on me!
    As for the common every day of life’s bitching #17 has really shed light on my pompousness.
    Man, can I wallow in #18.
    I understand now as in #27 why solitude is my best friend!
    F**k, didn’t know I was so miserable, no wonder I have so many friends!!!

  9. “#7 Resist change: Undermine other people’s progress so you don’t get left behind….”

    Yup, yup…that’s a doozy…! I finally got into grad school and shared a locked box of equipment with my lab partner….when his phone number written on a scrap of paper fell out of my purse and was discovered by seemingly up- til- then “supportive” ex, he went ballistic…I got reprimanded for what seemed like an hour…he was afraid of me getting ahead….of learning something new….of making new friends…

    [Actually, he fits all the criteria above!]

  10. Green Marke says:

    Why are there only 28? I was expecting 30.
    Now I feel miserable.
    *points* It’s all your fault, article writer!

  11. JiggleBillE says:

    I was drawn to your article by the implied agreement that you would provide 30 ways. Now you haven’t folliwed through with that agreement, and I can only assume you don’t care because I am not important to you as an audience. Waaaah, lol

  12. Yes and no. Some of these thought/behavior patterns are clearly pathological. Others might be, or they might be the epitome of spiritual/mental health.

    For example: For, resisting what is…and taking things seriously – I’ve got three letters for you: MLK.

    Or, if you prefer, two words: Gay rights.

    Or, two other words: American revolution.

    In fact, I would say that resisting what is and taking things seriously is at the heart of all authentic activism. Do we really want to trivialize activism in this way?

    Here’s a better recognition, in my view: Fire – whether we’re talking about physical fire or emotional fire – is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It’s just a thing.

    In the hands of a child or a pyromaniac, it’s a terrible and dangerous thing. In the hands of an intelligent cavement, it’s a good and worthy thing.

    Context, context, context makes all the difference.

    • JiggleBillE says:

      Be like the river, as opposed to the mountain. Also, seriousness is only a condition imposed by your own mind… If you can laugh at a thing, person or situation, it cannot hold any power (real or self-created) over your spirit. The way I see it, it opens doors to a more open world to exist in, it took me decades of suffering to realize that so don’t torture yourself too, right? K bye lol

      • MLK was serious enough to know he was going to die for the work he did. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, we’re not going to have much of a conversation.

    • Paul: One of my favorite books by James Hillman is: “We’ve Had 100 Years of Psychotherapy and Things Are Getting Worse.” I agree that activism comes from dissatisfaction with what is, and it’s crucial to improving the world. I also know a lot of burned-out activists who suffer from imbalance in their lives. I’ve pointed out 30 (okay, 28) ways that people can get imbalanced, out-of-whack, and suffer because they’re not seeing the big picture, not interacting with the world in a way that makes sense, not opening their lives to the natural joy within, and not being all they can be. Thanks for reminding us that dissatisfaction is just as important as acceptance in a life-well-lived.

      • Drunk in sufficient quantities, water is toxic and will kill you. Being seriously out of whack always has karmic repercussions, and burnout is always a potential problem for people who care about something greater than themselves.

        But let’s think critically when we make our listicles. “Resisting what is” and “being serious” are really more important than ever these days, as we enter the Anthropocene Age, and contemplate, for the very first time, not just our own individual demise, but the very possible demise of human civilization as we know it.

        Here’s a serious article on the subject from Sunday’s NY Times. Take a read:


        Even Bobby McFerrin can’t stand “Don’t worry, be happy”.

    • A key word in the word activism is “act”. Number 7 seems to describe people who give lip service but don’t actually do anything. Judging from your comments, sounds like a few of these hit close to home. It’s okay, we all get a little miserable sometimes 🙂

  13. Wow, I do so many of these! Funny.

  14. OH MY PLOTZ AND PLANETS. This used to be me. There but for the long and worthy climb, go I… Went I?

  15. I can’t really dispute the content, but the tone isn’t going to reach someone in the pits with this mindset. It is reality-altering, and it will just come across as snide.

    • Kenneth P. says:

      OirishM – that was the exact thing that I was thinking at first, but there is plenty of self-help literature out there. I don’t think this article (or really any article without some intervention or an internal decision) is for that type of person. I thoroughly enjoyed this and feel it was written for more the ordinary Joe like me – someone who may be neither happy nor unhappy, and has some bad habits mixed in with the good ones. This just helps point out those bad ones with some snark, which is always appreciated in my book. 🙂

    • It’s not snide. It’s sarcasm. At least that’s how I took it.

  16. Good article, who knew that #9 and #14 were part of keeing yourself miserable. sigh…


  1. […] right smack in the pants), I suggest you take some time to meander your way through this list:  30 Ways to Make Yourself Miserable (Along with Everyone Around You).  It will simultaneously make you chuckle and wake you right […]

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