Don't buy the lie that says you need to be happy. This is the most out of character sentence I've ever written. Yet, it's true.
We are not designed to maintain happiness - not all the time. It's not the goal. The truth is we can't be happy all the time. When you see post after post promoting new and different ways to find happiness, or promises to help you create the perfect relationship, or have the life of your dreams - don't read it. Or do. But don't buy it.
You're being set up.
The author doesn't intend that on a conscious level, of course. But the post does hope to draw you in, or sell you something, or make you like them. They want to give you hope because hope sells. God knows, I'm a sucker for it all the time in different areas of my life. Hope is definitely not a bad thing. Hope rocks. But...
There are unintended consequences to thinking you need to be happy.
The message that we deserve to be happy is fed to our all our senses day in and day out. This is a set up for feeling like we've failed. If we don't feel happy most of the time, we think something is wrong with us.
If you're not happy most of the time, it does not mean something is wrong with you.
Feeling doubtful, reflective, thoughtful, sadddened, empathic, hopeless, rejected or dejected are all human experiences and feelings necessary to feel happiness some of the time.
All too often, we are measuring our happiness by what we have, how much we've achieved, what others think about us, how much money we have, how much we are loved, etc. Is this really what brings you happiness on an ongoing basis? Sure, it feels great. That's human too. But we're not designed for it to be the norm.
We all suffer. We all struggle. We are all rejected or don't measure up throughout our lives. Sometimes experienced in moments, or in chapters of our life, or it might be an ongoing mindset that colors how we experience life.
It's important to pay attention and distinguish how we experience these negative feelings, and if we're never happy or sink into a black hole that colors everything, please address it with professionals. If sadness or destructive thinking and choices is a common thread that defines your life, seek professional help.
For most people, however, it is common to have periods of your day that you feel stressed, anxiety, worry, sad, concern, fear, self consciousness, etc. This is the journey.
When we're told God doesn't want us to be unhappy....are we sure? Maybe he does, and maybe he doesn't. And maybe this isn't an area God is too concerned with. Maybe it's not as black and white as that too.
We live in a time that promotes the illusion of happiness and success through online communities. We are inundated with happy posts from everyone we know - and those we don't know. We show our best self in posts we share with others, because we want people to see us through that lens. We are out of balance.
For a myriad of reasons, we don't share our real struggles or what's really happening in our inner life. Or other life challenges. It may be wise to refrain from posting your personal problems online, but we are creating an imbalanced view of one another.
We've created an illusion that everyone is happy but me, skewing our perspective regarding our own happiness.
It's radically clear to me that when life becomes a series of conversations that comment on the best pictures from a day's events, or we like an inspirational quote that wasn't even said by the person posting it - we're losing touch with reality and losing ground in our ability to build deep, honest friendships.
These polished images and perfectly curated webpages can be dangerous to those who are suffering from depression, or a list of other situations/conditions that might see the difference between the 'happy' lives of others and theirs as so vast that it throws them into a sense of hopelessness.
What if we focused on finding new ways to encourage raw and honest sharing of our real life battles. A place to talk at a fundamental level about what we're wrestling with, while being accepted, embraced, and understood. This reciprocal cycle allows us to feel our humanity and humility, growing us from the inside out. This can't be a bad thing.
The hard work we do to shape and style our profiles and social media pages might make us look like we've reached the top, and simultaneously, throw someone else into the fight of their lives.
Clearly, their self esteem is not our responsibility. Or is it?
There are many examples in our current culture where we are more concerned with getting attention or our own happiness, than the feelings of someone else. What is that? Why do we feel so entitled to attention, money, compliments, etc. without even considering others in this picture?
For instance, extremely attractive women will dress or behave sexually to draw attention and seduce others, even if unintentionally, by emphasizing certain physical characteristics. While it's true we shouldn't judge them, it also begs the question, are they being respectful of the women who are struggling with their self image whom they effect, or are their friends? Again, it is not their responsibility. But on a spiritual or karmic level, isn't it?
When a wife - or a friend - is struggling with weight or aging and can't help but loathe herself because society's message says it's her fault and she cannot control it. She notices her husband is noticeably enchanted by her 'friend' who is clearly wanting his attention, observed by her choice of clothing, her eye contact, and her body language/movements. How do we expect her to feel? She now feels dejected and shamed (because she shouldn't care) throwing her even deeper into self loathing. These experiences do result in destructive behavior, even if not visible or dramatic. It throws people backwards instead of building them up.
If she had anything built up in her self-esteem account, this emptied it. It broke down trust among friends, is a betrayal in her marriage, fills her with shame because women are expected not to be affected by it, she feels helpless and powerless inside her changing and uncooperative body, and unattractive to her husband. It is as violent as physical assault and bullying, yet culturally, we think it's not our responsiblity or concern.
It should be our concern. Not for moral reasons, but because we care about each other.
How can we be so apathetic to the feelings of others in this situation, while bending over backwards to be polite in other situations? There is something amiss in the world of women. And in marriages.
Why is it we are vigilant about being politically correct in regards to bullying, race, the mentally and physically handicapped, and a host of other differences that cause division, injustice, and cruelty - yet, we don't feel a sense of compassion, understanding or even simple thoughtfulness about others who may be hurting deeply in ways we cannot see?
Our sensitivity towards others, and a willingness to be more open about what life is really like would help.
It's no coincidence that the symbol of Jesus' life is a symbol of suffering. I'm not a strong proponent of the cross as the primary symbol of Christianity. Yet, in this context, it makes sense. It makes sense because to suffer is to be human. Yet, the very first thing he says hanging from the cross is, Forgive them for they know not what they do. In other words, his concern for those around him - even though they were his killers - was paramount. So, what if we followed suit? In ways that depart from the norm, but include them. Why don't we think more about how our actions, behaviors, or the illusions we create will also affect others?
Perhaps this is not you. And, perhaps, you do think about these things. But if you don't, or this post makes you think just a little more about how your choices might affect others, instead of how it will make you look, that's progress.
And if you don't feel happy all the time, don't worry. That's how it should be. We're designed to navigate back and forth through feelings of happy and unhappy. It doesn't mean you should expect to be unhappy either. It means the endless 'happy' soundbites crossing our path each day don't mirror their whole picture of their life. It is a carefully curated "soundbite."
Now go out there and live the experience. It's ok to be happy. And it's also ok to be sad. What matters most is being authentically you because that's what makes you authentically human.