Member Rara Avis
I'm glad you brought this back into focus, Brad, because I agree it's an important topic. And while I agree with everything previously said - and think it's darn good advice - I also think it's an oversimplification of a much more complex issue.
There are a lot of people willing to argue that money won't make you happy, and there are plenty of real-world anecdotes to support their arguments. Just as with "fitting in," money isn't the path to happiness (or contentment, if you prefer), but rather a part of the destination. If you believe in yourself and do work that you love, you'll be far happier - and the money will almost inevitably follow. Likewise, as everyone above suggested, if you believe in yourself and find contentment in your own company, you'll be far happier - and attracting those who share your confidence and contentment will almost inevitably follow.
But there's a flip side to the analogy between money and fitting in that I think is equally true. If money won't make you happy, a serious lack of money can make it really tough to even care about happiness. I'm not talking about a few late bills or not being able to buy the latest model car. I'm talking about going hungry. I'm talking about walking the streets, homeless, jobless, with no prospects, without even the basic resources necessary to find a job. That kind of existence makes a serious dent in your ability to believe in yourself. Finding work you love would be a joke were the situation not so grave. When your stomach is rumbling and your basic human needs aren't being met, all advice on finding happiness is irrelevant. Desperation is all that remains.
Hunger is a very basic need. But so, too, I think, is fitting in and being accepted. If you feel yourself ostracized by your society, alone and not understood, incapable of fitting in - I think it can lead to exactly the same kind of desperation that continued hunger can evoke. Good advice, and the best of intentions, become meaningless in the face of that desperation. Be happy with yourself? How? Be confident and others will be attracted to you? When?
We see poverty as a legitimate problem, with no easy answers. It's a chicken-and-egg thing, cyclic, with poverty leading only to more poverty. I think we need to recognize that an intense feeling of being alone, of not fitting in, is much the same. There aren't any easy answers. And the feelings of desperation can be very, very real.