Why Do We Want What We Can’t Have? | What To Do About It?

Welcome to the never-ending chase where you won’t stop running after the unattainable even if you get the most important things in life.

We want what we can’t have because it is human nature to seek the elusive. Be it a lavish lifestyle or someone you desire, we have this natural urge to go after temptations. Our brain releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine when we get what we crave. Harder objectives mean a more exciting chase.

Then there is the pleasure and satisfaction of completing a hard challenge. Basically, we love the reward we get at the end of the chase.

Before We Begin

You would find another thing to go after once you get something or someone you have been craving for a long time.

This goes on and on in a never-ending cycle. One thing just leads to the other and we keep on running.

In terms of people and having better relations, we always want to be loved and attract others. We can not stand being undesirable.

Hence, we do everything it takes to impress them and make them fall for us. By doing so, we are just accepting a challenge to make our life more thrilling.

We don’t ask any questions and start running blindly instead. The result is a fruitless rat race.

Reasons For Wanting What We Can’t Have

We are naturally more attracted to the hard to get, and this feeling is inbuilt in all of us.

There is no single reason behind it but a lot of factors that drive us towards wanting something that we can’t have or tempts us beyond resistance.

1. Our Happiness Is Dependent

Our happiness is dependent on the outer world. We get easily disappointed when a certain someone we desire does not treat us the way we want.

We believe that if we get this person to like us, only then we can be truly happy.

This makes us work hard towards making that person a part of our life in the pursuit of happiness.

TABLE: What Is Your Biggest Regret In Life?

Not spending time with friends & family29%
Ruined relations due to ego25%
Not following my dreams22%
Not taking risks16%
Living only for myself7%
Source: Based on a study by RebootLoveLife.com consisting of 82 individuals between the ages of 65-90 years.
Our Happiness Is Dependent

2. Our Love For The Chase 

For most people running after an unattainable person is more fun than actually having that person in their life. They just love the thrill of the chase.

Even more, their interest might dwindle when they achieve what they have been going after for so long.

3. To Satisfy Our Ego

We all have faced rejections at one point or another in our life. Sometimes we move on, and sometimes we take it as a hit on our ego.

It becomes hard to digest that the one person we want does not want us back. It forces us to think about where we lack, what is it that does not attract them to us.

As a result, we try even harder to win that person over and satisfy our ego.

4. We Enjoy Mystery 

Have you ever found yourself automatically drawn towards a person who is a mystery to you?

We can’t stand not knowing something because we are curious beings. Being mysterious is attractive.

You want to know more and more things about this unknown person.

Even if you get to see a part of this person then too you would keep yearning to know all you can about them.

5. Heightened investment 

We want people to reciprocate our feelings.

So, when that one person you can’t have does not respond to your advances, you put in some extra effort to make that happen.

You expect them to invest their time and emotions in you equally, which is difficult, and you get stuck in a cycle of wanting, getting less than expected in return, and trying again.

Eventually, you become someone who is overly invested and outright obsessed.

Heightened investment

6. We Like Challenges

Most people get bored with the routine and predictability of life. We always want to experience new things and challenges that can excite us.

Thus, it becomes human nature not to value the ones we get easily, but work run after people we desire.

We love the unpredictability and rewards we get after pursuing a person we can’t have.

7. Add More Value To Our Self-Esteem

We human beings suffer from low self-esteem, and we want to boost it through external factors which seem to possess great value.

Our thoughts that having a particular person in our life will add more value to our self-worth and validate us is toxic in a way as it questions our own existence.

We think that society will appreciate us for being with someone who is considered of high value and is desirable.

8. Our Desire Impedes Logical Thinking

When we don’t know the reality of the person we desire, we add more value to their character by imagining only good things about them.

We don’t think of their flaws. Therefore, people often assume that the end of the story would be along the lines of ‘lived happily ever after’.

All these thoughts make us want what we desire and see a person as the epitome of perfection.

Our Desire Impedes Logical Thinking

9. Competitive Nature

It is human nature to compete with others. We tend to measure our self worth by comparing ourselves with others.

So, when we find most people pining over someone, we happen to want them for ourselves as well.

And we do so even if we don’t see them as interesting enough.

If seven out of ten people want the same person then automatically we end up wanting them too.

We like to compete, and we become obsessed with the thought.

10. Out Of Rebellion

When we are told that there is someone who is out of our league or is someone we can never have, then it triggers us to go after them even more.

We pursue them out of rebellion.

By doing so, we want to prove others wrong and also to send a message across that no one is out of our league.

There is nothing out there that we can’t have.

What To Do When You Want Something You Can’t Have?

When you want something you can’t have, take a step back and observe your recent behavior. Take time to think about what you are longing for. Is it worth it? Is it driving you crazy and making you act up? If you haven’t been yourself lately, your wants are turning into an obsession.

Stop hurting yourself over something that is just not worth your time or appeals to you for all the wrong reasons.

1. Ask Yourself Uncomfortable Questions

You need to ask yourself some questions to see whether this person is someone you really love, or you crave for them because of some other reason.

Even if you love them, it is not right to force someone to be a part of your life to fulfill your wishes.

Don’t just think about your own instant gratification by having this person in your life. Focus on the long term chemistry.

Do you see yourself with them forever? What about when they will lack what attracts you, and they are not at their best?

Do you really want to compromise your peace of mind for someone who doesn’t desire to be with you or isn’t that much into you?

There are a lot of people out there who would love you and give you the value you actually deserve.

So, don’t long for something that has never-ending suffering after the high is over.

Ask Yourself Uncomfortable Questions

2. Acceptance Is The Key

You need to accept the fact that the person you want is the person you can never have.

Accepting the drought of truth hurts less than swimming in a pool full of lies.

The sooner you accept it, the easier it will become to forget this person and move on.

If you will keep telling yourself that “no I can have this person and I can change their mind” then you are just running after something that is just not worth it.

Even if you do get successful in changing their mind, then too, it won’t last forever.

Sooner or later, they will go after someone they truly want, and you will be left alone with a broken heart.

3. Understand The Scarcity Principle 

According to the scarcity principle, when there is less availability of something, it automatically increases the demand.

The same principle can be applied in terms of wanting what we can’t have. We crave and value those things which are low in supply and high in demand.

We all want to possess unique and rare things in our life. And sometimes we crave things that have high social value, and everyone around us desires that.

So, think of this person that is of high perceived value according to many around you and try to figure out is this the only reason why you want them?

Is it something as superficial as pure physical attraction or something deep that you feel about this person?

And the scarcity principle works in reverse too, i.e. this person you crave for is much more likely to notice you if you do not behave like others around them or run after them.

By being different, you’ll be much more noticeable.

But again, for that to happen, you really need to be in a frame of mind where you genuinely do not want the person just because everyone else does.

You do not want the person just because you can’t have them. You do not want the person at all.

Faking your disinterest won’t get you anywhere in the long run. You have to be genuinely disinterested in them and much more focused on yourself.

Seems counter-intuitive right? But that’s how things work.

Now they’ll be the ones who’d be intrigued as to why this person (you) doesn’t want me when everyone else does, and they are much more likely to come to you.

4. Divert Your Attention    

Wanting something that you can’t have may turn into an obsession that can be bad for you and your loved ones around you.

You need to control your feelings for this person and prevent it from absorbing you.

It becomes hard to focus on your life and think sensibly when you are completely fixated on one person.

To avoid thinking about someone all the time, figure out how to get this person off your mind.

Try diverting your attention to more valuable things in life and spend time with the ones who make you feel loved.

Divert Your Attention

5. Last Resort: Confront Them With Your Feelings

Your last resort can be to talk to the person directly. You need to express your feelings to the person and listen to what they have to say about it.

You’ll get an honest response from them, making their wishes clear to you. By doing so, you’ll get a proper closure, and it will help you move on in life.

However, beware that nothing good may come out of it.

As expected, they are likely to reject you outright, and you even risk feeling ridiculed within your common social circle.

Understand that they have no reason to entertain you unless they see some value in you.

Hence, the focus should always be on increasing your value, subtly ‘advertising’ yourself so as to come in their radar and let the rest fall into place.

The worst approach is not to accept reality and expect things that are never going to happen.

What Is It Called When You Want Something You Can’t Have?

When you want something you can’t have, unrequited is the word to describe the feeling. When pining for the unrequited, your desires, emotions, and efforts are one-sided and go unrewarded. There is no reciprocation, and it leaves a person hurt.

Most people think it’s envy or jealousy, and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Envy is when we desire to possess something that belongs to someone else, and jealousy is resentful envy towards the person.

Another misconception is calling the feeling admiration, which is liking and respecting someone or something for their qualities and aspiring to become like them.

Admiration comes from a more mature place where we feel happy for others’ achievements.

Is Envy Good Or Bad?

Envy is considered to be a negative emotion. It is condemned by many as it leads to a feeling of resentment and discomfort. Even if you do not wish ill for the other person, you do feel pained by seeing their happiness.

Often, envy is the root cause behind crimes like thefts and murders as a person covets somethings out of envy and takes extreme steps to get it.

Feeling envious of everyone around us can be very destructive and can lead to our downfall.

Envy can be good and constructive if the emotions are transformed into something positive.

It depends upon how you harness that negative energy for progress.

Is Envy Good Or Bad

Our Opinion On The Reasons Behind Desiring Someone

We think that wanting something that you can’t have is a longing that can arise because of many reasons.

It doesn’t always have to be envy or jealousy. Suppose there is a person whom you find cute, but when you see around, others have different opinions.

You like that person very much, but no one else is that fond of them.

Thus envy or jealousy can be ruled out here.

Sometimes, wanting something or someone you can’t have is a matter of something clicking to you, and you feel a desire to have it for yourself.

But What If I Do Have Negative Emotions Due To Envy?

It is normal to develop negative thoughts as humans, particularly due to envy.

You are bound to feel bad if you see the person you like with someone else and wish they were with you instead.

With that confession out of the way that yes, you do feel bad, let’s take the next step.

Steps To Transform Negative Into Positive 

Most of us covet what others have, and we tend to compare our lives with others who seem more prosperous than us. It is common for us to feel envious from time to time, but how this feeling affects us depends on how we act afterward.

Our emotions are there to guide and teach us significant life lessons. They help us go beyond our limits.

1. Shift Your Focus

When we see someone getting success in life, we feel envious. We keep thinking about why we are not at their place and why they got so lucky.

We need to shift our focus from why to how.

How can I get success in my life, and how can I become ‘lucky’? Instead of focusing on their life, we need to focus on ours.

The focus should be on what we are doing and where we are going in life.

Try to look at your achievements, however small they may be. Don’t forget to celebrate.

Shift Your Focus

2. Motivate Others To Feel Motivated

We can quickly get disappointed by seeing someone receiving the recognition that we want or living a life that we dream of.

We may see ourselves as a failure. But why do you have to compare in the first place?

Remember these words and write them down somewhere if you need to.

Several decades from now on, when you are on your deathbed, what someone else did or did not do with their lives will not matter.

The only thing that would matter is what you did with your life. Why do we curse or praise ourselves by comparing our results with someone else’s?

Shouldn’t you be much more worried about learning what someone is doing correctly?

We don’t ask ourselves where we lack, what we can improve in us to be where we always wanted to be.

What is it that is stopping us from reaching the goal? So, rather than being disappointed, try to motivate others to do good in their life.

In the process, you’ll find your own motivation.

How Do You Stop Wanting What You Can’t Have?

To stop wanting what you can’t have, shift your focus to the less privileged. Compare your privileges with the less fortunate. You don’t have a car? Some people don’t have legs. Nobody loves you in a romantic way? Some never experience the warmth of a loving family.

We may never be able to stop wanting what we can’t have. But with constant efforts, we can make the negatives impact affect us less intensely.

Here are some things that you can try to make a change in your perspective.

1. Understand That It’s Not The Only Chance

We sometimes want people we can’t have because we think of it as our only chance to be happy.

We believe that we have exhausted all our choices, need this person in our life, or else we will be shattered.

Firstly, you need to stop putting so much value upon their character. They are not as perfect in reality as they are in your imagination.

You need to understand that there are a lot of better choices out there. The only thing you’ll achieve by trying too hard is pushing this person farther away.

You should explore new options instead of pining over one person that you cannot seem to have due to whatever reason.

2. Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side

This phrase itself can tell you a lot about how human beings operate.

We always think that the person we are fond of is perfect until we realize how naïve we were to think so.

We assume things without knowing the whole reality and chase nothing but a fantasy. So, stop imagining things and reason.

And even if the grass is greener on the other side, what is the guarantee that it will change your life for better?

Ask yourself, would you really be satisfied if you were on the other side of the fence or it’s just another ego boosting milestone in the journey of wanting what we can’t have.

Sometimes you are not running after what you can’t have, and rather after what you don’t need.

Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side

3. Focus More On Your Life

When we want someone we can’t have, we fantasize about it and become obsessed.

Look within yourself to realize your worth and try to spend more and more time to make yourself a better person.

Don’t compare yourself to others because we all have different purposes in life.

Spend every moment of yours to get new experiences. Try some new hobby or spend more time with friends and family.

This will give you real satisfaction. True peace is in being happy and grateful for what you have.

4. Surround Yourself With Positive Energy

You need to limit your contact with the person you can’t have. The more you see them, the more you find yourself craving them.

This can have a negative impact, and you may never be able to heal yourself if reminded continuously about them.

Take some space and surround yourself with positive energy. Practice meditation and find deeper meaning in life.

Talk to people who are a lot more progress-oriented and inspiring. You can learn a lot from people who have a positive approach to life.

5. Learn To Enjoy Little Things 

As we grow older, we stop appreciating little things in life. We become so goal-oriented that we stop being who we were.

We forget to live even partially, let alone to the fullest, and just exist for the sake of it.

We are just chasing things we desire and ignoring things that we already have.

Take a break from the rat race and learn to find joy in the little things that life gives us. Take out time to look around you and do things that you actually like.

Listen to your favorite music or just sit there and reminisce about the great experiences you had.

Learn To Enjoy Little Things


Wanting what we can’t have is inbuilt in us. We are always comparing and competing with others.

While blindly running in a race, we forget to be thankful for what we have. It would be best if you learned to value yourself.

You deserve better than someone who doesn’t want you.

Now tell us in the comments that what is it that you want but cannot have?

Shashank Verma

A trained theatre actor and a STEM graduate who brings perspectives and methods from these worlds into dating and relationships. Also a big time Krav Maga enthusiast and practitioner.

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