Striving to perfection has long been a hobby of mine, to the extent that I actually made myself sick with expectations. My other problem was that I denied myself meaning and happiness through my search for meaning and happiness.
Take for example the idea that wealth and success leads to happiness. For many a year I've been under that same impression. In my striving to a wealthy and successful life, I've missed out on small pleasures along the way.
Another idea was that to be completely happy, one needs to be in a healthy fulfilling relationship. But many people, myself included, suffered from this delusion. The contrary is however true for some of us (especially those who doggedly seek perfection), true happiness is when you are in a place where you can control the level of perfection.
This leads me to the African concept of Ubuntu. Ubuntu as a life philosophy, can be roughly explained as "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" or "people are people through other people". Its wrong. There is no such an idea that any person can consciously affect your human-ness. A more apt description of this would rather be "people are people through their perception of other people".
The concept of Ubuntu also has reflections in Western philosophy. Martin Buber, in his writings on the "I-Thou Relationship". He said : "Let no attempt be made to sap the strength from the meaning of the relation: relation is mutual." This again emphasizes that without our perception of the influence of others their attempt at defining a person's humanness is useless.
This, in short, means that through their perceptions of other people (and to an extent their world around them) people define their humanness (and by extent, their happiness). This would essentially explain a lot of the social and psychological phenomena that a lot of people try to define. Take for instance the idea of battered-wife-syndrome. Even though the woman in question is severely maltreated, she still experiences a level of happiness to the extent that she loves her partner. This is because she experiences her partner as a loving caring person, and perceives their general interaction as pleasurable.
My point, and I do have one, is that a lot of people mistake masochism for a type of hedonism. And don't get me wrong, there are people out there who thrive on masochism and are very happy for it. At the end of the day there are just too many people who do not truly know themselves, and by extent do not know what would make them happy. These people strive towards socially created goals in a futile attempt at obtaining happiness, and they end up miserable and sad. And they've done it to themselves.