The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness. William Saroyan
People are often told to smile or made to believe it’s unacceptable to experience uncomfortable emotions. For women, a bad day is maybe blamed on PMS, or menopause or some other mysterious female ailment. Thus many women bury their true feelings under a false cheerfulness. For men a bad day is maybe blamed on having an argument with their partner or a difficult day at work.
That's not okay because it's okay to not always be happy, otherwise it's the only feeling we'd be equipped with. By embracing our own emotions and not feeling as if we are obligated to conform to society's expectations of emotional expression, we can improve our emotional health.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
That song became an expression to fuel a generation encouraging casting worries aside to be forgotten and just smile. Although the song has valid points such as not allowing excessive worrying to dictate our life, it does give the impression that happiness is an expectation. That expressing other emotions is taboo and that we are somehow diminishing the joy of others by not projecting happiness—no matter what our true feelings may be.
As if we must walk around with an unnatural smile on our face and bury our hurts, disappointments, and fears. This could result in bottling up emotional baggage to bury and endure. When people ask us to smile even if we don’t feel like smiling, the action may be more uncomfortable than not. Or we may become resentful of the person who assumes we are angry or unhappy if we are not displaying happiness no matter what inner turmoil we may conceal.
Experience your Feelings—Not What You Think You “Should” Feel
Everyone doesn’t express emotions in the same manner—and that’s okay. This trait is part of what makes us unique individuals. Try to disregard those that disdainfully suggest we refrain from being a “Debbie Downer” or who complain if they assume we are being a “Positive Pollyanna.” The only person to be held responsible for our feelings is ourselves.
Everyone doesn’t cry at a funeral and some people cry at every commercial on television. What brings one person joy may not stimulate a smile from their closest friend. Emotional expectations vary from culture to culture as to what is deemed appropriate or rude in emotional expression. The environment in which we were raised and the manner in which our family expresses feelings, could influence emotional reactions.
Judging someone based solely on their emotional response is likely to produce an incorrect assumption. When unsure of the emotional well-being of a loved one, it’s okay to just ask rather than encourage them to smile away their troubles.
For a person we know well, a significant change in their usual demeanor may be obvious. Take the time to offer a chance to talk, or purge a bottled up emotion. If they aren’t ready to talk, let them know you’re available if they change their mind. Likewise, if they offer a willing ear, consider taking them up on the offer.
For more tips on accepting that it’s okay to not always be happy, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you today is for you to find joy in experiencing your emotions and uncover the genuine happiness you deserve.
-Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling