Skip to main content
Learn to avoid comparing yourself with others, and not be afraid to rewrite societal norms. Image: Unsplash

International Day Of Happiness: A Millennial Ponders What She Would Tell Her Younger Self

Did you know that there is a global happiness index ranking countries around the world? Singapore placed 25th globally in 2023 – which means we’re the happiest country in Asia (yay) but still far from the likes of Finland and Denmark (boo).

I’m not here to tell you that I’ve discovered the ultimate secret to happiness (it’s a marathon, not a race), but I could have had a happier youth. Here’s some advice I would give my younger self if I could travel back in time.

1. Comparison is the root of unhappiness

The act of comparing is so strife in Singapore, it may as well be everyone’s middle name. Jokes aside, we do it so often in life that it intrudes our thoughts even when no one’s around to be compared. We have been trained to think that we are somehow losing out when other people are “superior” to us in certain ways. Life is not a zero-sum game though.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make comparisons – after all, who doesn’t want to progress in life? But the only person you should be comparing yourself with is your past self. Focus on improving yourself, and not getting stuck in this rat race.

🤦‍♀️ Wah, this actually happened to me leh: I had this “dream salary” I wanted to achieve, which I finally did – only for me to find out that someone else my age was earning a higher salary in a different profession. If I hadn’t’ compared myself to them, I would have been very happy to have achieved my target, but alas, comparison somehow found a way to sneak into my subconscious. Don’t be like me.

2. Rewrite societal norms

Nothing is worse than feeling trapped in a life that’s planned out by someone else. It’s okay to look at what most of society is doing, and say “nope, that’s not for me”. Say, home ownership isn’t for you, and you’d rather not spend the next 30 years paying off a mortgage – don’t let anyone guilt-trip you into signing up for one. Ignore the noise and focus on your own needs.

3. What’s the rush to hit milestones?

Hardly anyone in Singapore is a stranger to these milestones: “I want to save up $100k by the time I hit XX”; “I want to get married and have kids by the time I hit XX”; “I want to be a manager by the time I hit XX”. While it’s good to aspire and have goals in mind, not everyone progresses on the same timeline.

Being bogged down by the notion that you must achieve certain milestones by a certain age is not only incredibly stressful, but it can also be demotivating if you are unable to achieve any of them. After a while, self-doubt turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Singaporeans are living increasingly longer lives, so that begs the question: why are we in such a rush?

🤦‍♀️ Wah, this actually happened to me leh: During my 20s, I regularly hung out with a certain group of friends who would make it a point to air their achievements every time we met up. I was being made to feel bad about not hitting certain milestones by then, and every time, I would leave the gatherings feeling like my life was an utter failure. Suffice to say, I wised up after a while, and stopped showing up at those gatherings.

4. Quit chasing after instant gratification

Instant gratification is like a drug that fuels addiction to that rush of happiness we get. It’s that Black Friday sale where you got a new TV (that you didn’t need), or the $20 GrabFood order because you were too lazy to walk out. Or it could be that post that got you 500 likes. Feels pretty good at that point in time, but being dependent on instant gratification could lead to impatience and dissatisfaction in the long run as you start craving for more “immediate bursts of happiness”, which you may not get occasionally. Not sustainable lah.

🤦‍♀️ Wah, this actually happened to me leh: In my early 20s, I used to get instant doses of happiness from small purchases such as an $8 frappucino at Starbucks, a $30 brunch at a café or a cute $40 lipstick from Sephora. While these may have seemed like nothing at the point of purchase, I was indulging myself so often that all these purchases added up at the end of the month, and left me with very little savings. That did not make me very cheery at all.

5. Normalise alternative forms of success

We grow up with these so-called templates of success in ultra-competitive Singapore, and deviating from the mould can be daunting or even unthinkable. What would my family and friends think?! Not to mention, you constantly hear your peers flexing their achievements either during meetups or on social media and all these further cements the need to adhere to the standard measure of success (which is, oftentimes, monetary).

We are a pragmatic bunch and most acceptable yardsticks of success can be quantified by numbers – our PSLE score, our CGPA, our annual pay, the price of the condo we bought etc. Normalise unquantifiable measures of success instead, and work on these – something that is admittedly easier said than done, especially for a Type-A individual like myself.

These days, I’ve been focusing on recognising the simple things in life that bring me contentment – be it a day when I have nothing to do and can sleep in, cooking my favourite pasta, or watching my favourite sports team win games. Ask yourself what you want to do so that you can look back on your life and say: “I’ve lived a full life.”

Have a truly happy International Day of Happiness! | IMAGE: UNSPLASH

For the latest updates on, be sure to follow us on TikTok, Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook. If you have a story idea for us, email us at [email protected].

Share with others!