Money does not bring you happiness, the old adage says. Cheshire-based psychotherapist Hannah Paskin agrees, but has good news.

There are lots of false notions about happiness and what should help us to attain it. We assume that if we achieve financial freedom, if we have a successful career, if we have a partner, if we have access to opportunities and luxuries, that all should equal happiness. But I can tell you now that’s not true.  

Great British Life: Psychotherapist Hanna PaskinPsychotherapist Hanna Paskin (Image: © Hannah Paskin)

If you look at celebrities, we can often see public evidence of this, with many examples of individuals who have achieved their dreams but battle with not feeling good enough and who experience depression and/or anxiety. And It’s not only the ‘rich and famous’ who struggle - I see clients all the time who experience these same sorts of problems – they are successful, they are wealthy, but they are miserable. There’s a phrase I hear often in my therapy room: “I shouldn’t be feeling like this, so many people have it worse than me.”  

This is my first piece of advice. Stop shaming and guilt tripping yourself. If you don’t validate and allow yourself to feel how you do, you’ll never improve.  

So what are the reasons why someone can seemingly ‘have it all’ and yet experience negative feelings? I’m going to explore five key concepts in this article:  

Bullying yourself 

You’re your own worst enemy. There can be many points in our life when we experience bullying or unreasonable criticism. This could be from our parents, from our peers in school, from our colleagues or seniors at work, or from our friendships/relationships. But the worst bullying of all is the bullying we do to ourselves. You can cut toxic people out of your life, block them on your phone, escape to a quiet safe space. But your bully voice is there with you 24/7. What are the things you call yourself? Are you using words to abuse yourself such as idiot, stupid, failure, fat, ugly? How about the judgements you make of yourself? Maybe words such as weak, pathetic, bad person, selfish, inadequate, loser, boring? How often do you say these things to yourself? There might be zero truth to any of these words, but if you repeat them to yourself often enough, they’ll start to feel true, and you’ll eventually believe them. 

Great British Life: You can be your own worst enemyYou can be your own worst enemy (Image: Getty Images)

Perfectionism and the moving goal post 

Trying to achieve perfection is like trying to find a unicorn or mermaid: it’s an impossible fantasy. Perfectionism isn’t just about striving to be our best self or trying to push ourselves to succeed, perfectionism is the toxic and unrelenting pursuit of what is not humanly possible. The impact of this is often feeling like we are constantly failing or feeling like an imposter. This can easily apply to us as an employee, colleague, parent, partner, or friend. Another common problem is what’s referred to as moving goal posts. This means that even for those that aren’t perfectionists, it can still feel like it’s never enough because every time you get close to achieving a goal you move it further away. Feeling a sense of achievement is important to our happiness, therefore both perfectionism and moving goal posts create a massive barrier. 

The curse of comparison 

With more money and more success comes more opportunities, more options, and choices. There is never an end to what your life could be, there will always be someone a step above or beyond what is currently attainable for you. We are not the generation of savers, we are the generation of spenders, always seeking more, better, bigger, brighter etc. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t enjoy the finer things, indulge in luxuries or try to improve our lives. But what we do want to consider more is if we really need these things, if they really make us happy, if the cost is worth it? Or if we are just lost in trying to keep up with the Joneses rather than enjoying what we have and being present? 


For many people, they feel as if they don’t deserve what they have. I often hear clients express how they’ve just been ‘very lucky’. Unfortunately, when we feel we don’t deserve something, whether that be our partner, our job, or something else in our life, it can feed into self-sabotage behaviours. In our personal life this might look like drinking more, withdrawing more by staying at work late or spending time in our bedroom alone, starting arguments, not engaging in enjoyable plans/activities, seeking reassurance from your partner, not buying yourself nice things, etc. In work situations it could be not putting ourselves forwards, downplaying our part, putting ourselves down and criticising ourselves when engaging with colleagues or customers, never celebrating the successes, always focusing on what could be better, turning down opportunities etc. The messages we tell ourselves about not deserving what we have are damaging. These self-sabotage behaviours further reinforce this unhelpful cycle. Therefore, it’s absolutely possible to have all the right ingredients to be able to be happy, but be wrecking the opportunity to feel that happiness because we don’t feel good enough. 

Great British Life: Sometimes having it all is accompanied by a fear of losing it allSometimes having it all is accompanied by a fear of losing it all (Image: Getty Images)

The fear of losing it all  

For those with high functioning anxiety, worst case scenario worrying is common. Despite things being good right now, happiness isn’t experienced because you’re busy worrying about what if it all disappears. What if you get made redundant? What if your partner leaves you? What if you suffer a sudden health problem? What if, what if, what if… This fear of losing it all is a real stealer of joy. Often these worries are completely hypothetical, they have no basis, they’re highly unlikely. But if we spend enough hours engaging in these thoughts, our mood will be as if these worries are true, we will feel depressed and exhausted.  

All five of these areas covered are important to recognise and understand about ourselves, and this recognition and understanding is the first step to being able to break the cycle and find ways to move forwards.  

Hannah Paskin is an experienced psychotherapist based in Cheshire.