Put a smile on that pretty face, no one likes a sad girl.
For the record, I pretty much hate being told to smile. Me and everyone else, I know. But still. I’ll smile if I want to f*cking smile, thanks, I don’t need you to tell me to do it.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s just explore this idea that everyone is supposed to be happy all the damn time. ALL THE TIME. Let that sink in for a second. You are expected to be happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, barring any monumental tragedies like your dog dying or breaking a leg, you are expected to be happy 365 days a freakin’ year. Well, you’re expected to act, look, and at least outwardly appear to be happy. There’s a few sides to this, so let’s unpack.
If you’re not happy, it’s often treated as an inconvenience to others. You’re “bringing them down” or “killing the mood” if you’re not smiling ear to ear all the time.
People ask questions when you don’t look happy. Sometimes it’s out of genuine concern, but a lot of times it’s behind your back. They ask questions in a nosy, make themselves feel better because you’re miserable, kind of way.
It makes other people feel awkward, especially if they don’t have a good understanding of how to deal with their own emotions or sadness. Because how would they know how to appropriately react to your emotions if they don’t know how to handle their own?
Putting on a happy face all the time is exhausting. Like, really exhausting. And the thing about forcing a smile when you’re sad is it just seems to amplify that feeling of sadness. Fail to recognize it, and it gets louder and louder and louder… until you are crying on your way to work, your way back from work, and well into the night purely out of exhaustion from 8+ hours of forced-smiling. We’ve all been there at least once, don’t lie.
There’s a reason they always compare humans to volcanos when talking about suppressing emotions. It’s because it’s a damn good metaphor. The longer your feelings are held in, the more explosive they are when they finally erupt… Makes sense right? But what they don’t tell you, is that you’re pretty much expected (by the general public) to be a dormant volcano. No eruptions, no explosions, no flying lava. Maybe a small smoke plume every now and then so they know you’re alive, but for the most part it’s blue skies and smooth sailing around your island.
Reality is, there are days when you just need to be less than 100% without having to pretend you are 100%, you know? Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to put on the happy face.
Why is being sad such a terrible thing? It is just another emotion, no? In this Instagram world of perpetually happy perfect people, it has been made to feel wrong to be sad. Or quite frankly, wrong to be anything less than perfect 99% of the time.
“Your life is great! You’ve got an awesome job, a sweet boyfriend, a cute apartment…”
Yes, and I can still feel sad. Or lost. Or lonely. Or tired.
Do those emotions make any part of that first statement about my life false? NO. Lemme just repeat that one more time. Does feeling sad, lost, lonely, or tired invalidate the truths of the first statement? NO. They are not mutually exclusive. You could have all the money in the world, a successful relationship, meaningful career, and if you’re not right with yourself? You still won’t be happy. You could be completely miserable but from the outside looking in, appear to be living your “best life” by other people’s standards. The problem with that, is that other people’s standards are never a good measure of your own. Making it appear you are happy to the outside world isn’t going to change how you actually feel on the inside.
I think the hardest part of this spiral I’ve been going down (thanks for stickin’ with me) is the guilt that follows those feelings. Why are you lonely? You have someone. Why are you lost? You’ve got a great job. And a great apartment. Why are you sad? You’ve got a great life. People have it much worse than you. You shouldn’t feel those things because you should be happy.
Sometimes you’re just not. Sometimes I’m just not. And I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. Embrace the sadness. Ask it what it needs and why it came to you? Give it those things. Have a conversation with yourself (maybe not out loud and in public because then people will think you’re a nut case) and ask yourself what you want. What will truly make you happy? You’d be surprised how honest your subconscious will be when you ask it a question straight up. Do it in the car on your commute to your 9-5, write it down in a journal, think about it while you cook or during your workout. Sadness and loneliness and fear become a lot less scary when you sit them down, look them in the eye, and ask them what they need.
Because more often than not, you’ll know the answer as soon as you ask.