Don’t Worry; You Don’t Have to be Happy

A woman that I greatly admire and respect posted a version of this quote on her Facebook wall a few weeks ago:

Happy Girls

Seething with frustration towards a quote that I have long loathed, I cracked my knuckles and readied my long, spindly fingers for a nice afternoon on the soapbox; but she took care of it for me.  Her post read something along these lines: “I hate these kinds of quotes – there is already too much pressure on girls to be happy all the time!”.

I am so proud to call her my Daycare Lady.

Girls, she is right.  There is too much pressure on you to be happy, to always have a smile on your face, to grin through impossibly difficult circumstances.  Growing up, I recall feeling few emotions other than happiness and anxiety.  The rest of the emotional spectrum seemed forbidden and unacceptable.

Let me tell you what I didn’t know: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HAPPY.  There is a massive range of emotions for you to experience and revel in throughout your life!  Sometimes it is nice to just be sad, emotional, cynical, scared (um, I believe there’s an entire movie genre centered around this emotion), joyous, depressed, apathetic… the list goes on!  Sometimes rather then trying to dig ourselves out of the pit of our emotion, it’s best to just dig in.

Of course, inevitably, since most of the world is centered around people being happy, when you begin to experience alternative emotions, it will often make others a bit uncomfortable.  Which might also make you uncomfortable.  Do a little emotional exploration:

Instead of following them down the trail of leprechauns and pixie dust in an effort to “cheer you up”, respond with something like: “Actually, I’m good, I think I’m just gonna keep being sad.”

Then watch them squirm.

Seriously, what is the big deal?!  You owe it to yourself to embrace your feelings!  Nobody else needs to pressure you into being a ray of friggin sunshine again – and for what?  Because it makes them feel more comfortable??  Hey, sometimes people are overcompensatingly happy and it makes ME uncomfortable.  Maybe I should punch them in the face so I can get back in my comfort zone!

The point is, they’ll get over it.  And they just MIGHT suddenly feel like they might take a chance at feeling some emotions themselves.

We are human, after all.

Girls, you are all allowed to be who you are.  You are allowed to feel angry, frustrated, demanding, upset, out of control.  You are allowed to express those feelings to others and to say the words that need to be said.  You are allowed to not give a damn when someone decides to judge you for it.

And, at those times when the stars align, it’s okay to feel happy too.

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Worry; You Don’t Have to be Happy

  1. Love it, this was such an empowering discovery in my life long ago, all the sudden I realized I could be a human being instead of what seemed to be a smiling punching bag. I could be sad, scheming, mad, vengeful, jaded, and I saw the most beautiful version of me show up in the mirror and she was pissed, and no longer cared about being “beautiful”

  2. I kind of heard something different in that little quip. Rather than try to force ourselves into some physical mold in order to be considered “pretty,” which is, unfortunately, the pursuit of many females, we can, instead, choose an attitude that attracts people. Like the idea that smiling helps people to see our inner qualities, not just our outer shell. Our attitudes and choices do a lot more to attract and keep friends than our physical appearance does. I remember Belinda [may I use her real name?] back in junior high saying something like, “Why do they always try to say that it’s not looks that matter, but our personalities? No guy is going to look across the library and say, ‘Wow! What a great personality!’ He’s going to be attracted by her looks,” or something like that. She made a good point. It does tend to be true for the less mature individuals who haven’t figured out how to navigate social situations that they’ll just go with whatever seems the least intimidating–hey, she smiled at me, I just might talk to her–whereas the girl experiencing complex emotions makes the more timid fellow creatures just sort of dodge her. I have to really find my center and take a deep breath before approaching the mom at the store who is losing it with her kids. Been there, lady, done that, but I don’t want to come off as overly chipper or at all judgmental. I just want you to know someone else is here and gets it. It’s even difficult if we know the person well or if we just encounter the emotion in a more removed setting, like over the internet. Usually understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy is the best place to start.

    I think it takes some life experience and insights into our own emotional behavior to learn how to approach a person who is angry or upset. Some people learn these skills early on, and others of us take a while. But this little dapple of sunshine quote shouldn’t squelch anyone’s need to get through–rather than over–an emotion. It just tells us that in order to attract other people, we can choose to share the goodness within ourselves rather than hide it behind the mask of what society considers to be “pretty.” This is coming from the girl who in church class told the teacher that the last thing she wanted to do when she felt down was to listen to happy music (the teacher had been a cheerleader in the 1950s) because I wanted to really FEEL my sadness, so I’d listen to my angst-ridden alternative rock. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize then how prone I was to depression and had to make significant changes in my life later on in order to learn how to be anything but sad.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Elissa! I’m on board with you – the insistence in this quote that being “pretty” is also the ultimate goal is rather problematic. That could be an entirely separate post on its own (I will get there, trust me, lol)! I agree with you that extended periods of sadness can certainly be problematic (or anxiety, in my case), and CAN be evidence of a deep-seeded problem that needs to be sorted out. I certainly don’t think happiness is to be avoided, and it is one of the most positive emotions in the spectrum. But I do think we put too much pressure on ourselves to be happy as long and as often as possible. There is so much value in other emotions, I think we do ourselves a disservice to avoid them. And I think its great that a lot of people feel the need and desire to share their happiness and attract others that way. But not everyone does, and certainly no one does all the time! You and Christina are actually fantastic examples to me of what “Real Girls” is all about. Even though I don’t think any of us were fully aware of what each other went through in high school, you were always focused on being your real, authentic selves. You did what you liked to do, said what you wanted to say and you weren’t concerned about what others thoughts. I think there’s value in respecting and making life easy on others in the social space, but I think for ourselves, there’s also a lot of value in just being willing to let ourselves be whoever we are and letting go of the expectations of others. The world wants us to be happy – sometimes we’ll be happy, and sometimes we won’t. The world will learn to adjust!

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  5. I think I made a lot of personal progress from delving into the pain and sadness that came as a result of life experience. Those were actually my most creative times, and they were the times that I realized the truths about cold reality. I learned that I couldn’t just pass through life on my personality, or happiness measure, or by making people feel better about themselves, or their lives at my expense, by being the ray of sunshine, or a conduit of positive energy.
    When my body was adjusting to these new emotions it felt almost like it had been possessed or abused by the brainwashing, the complete denial of all emotions that in truth were supposed to be warning signs, or indicators that my self interest was being stepped on by others, or by the media, or social organizations. I felt like for once I was truly at rest, at peace and that my little space I occupied was worth fighting for, that saying no to others, getting angry, and sometimes fighting was pertinent to my survival as an individual. Physically I felt like I had been trained to go against all of my intuitions, for the sake of being happy, for the sake of the church, for the sake of attracting others to me, for the sake of looking good, desirable, pretty, beautiful “on the inside.”
    The scary thing is, what is it about a willing, unargumentative, nice, positive energy person so attractive to these outer interests? I would rather be ugly.

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