February 2, 2022

Is the Pressure to be Happy making us Miserable?

We live in a world where we are constantly pressured to be skinny, beautiful, productive, happy, and healthy.

If you are not demonstrating social media proof (as that is the standard these days) that you are working on yourself, always surrounded by friends doing wild and adventurous things, and constantly happy, then you will be socially ostracized.

Your social media presence has become the indicator to whether you are deemed worthy of love, healthy relationships, perhaps even a good job in some cases, and acceptance by your peers. This, in my opinion, is sick. And I fell for this lie—hook, line, and sinker. I was so miserable when I did this.

Now, my social media presence is bare, but I couldn’t be happier.

What is even more concerning is that we cry out for unconditional love like infants cry for their mothers when they are hungry, but at the same time, strict perimeters have been placed on whether or not we are worthy enough of receiving that unconditional love based on how happy we present ourselves to the world.

The Achilles’s heel of this new age movement is this idea that there are a select few who feel they have the authority to decide when someone is worthy of unconditional love, which contradicts the affirmation pushed by this movement: You are worthy of receiving love in all of its abundance and forms.

Granted, we all want to be happy, and deep down we want our friends, partners, children to be happy too. However, we want it so bad that we suffocate under that pressure and end up becoming absolutely miserable.

Happiness is that peace and contentment that comes from accepting oneself and the reality that life brings. It is not always great, but we make the best of what we are given. However, this idea of happiness—that everyone must have everything they want in life—has become a commodity that has created such a cluster, and we are becoming depressed, discouraged, and hopeless as a result.

We have been trained to pursue happiness in the same way we work for a car, house, or even a financial goal. In this process, frustration sets in because happiness eludes us. That very frustration breaks our inner being and the avalanche begins its inevitable slide leading to internal destruction. Relationships fall apart as partners woefully lament, “Why can’t they just be happy?”

My observation is that first, it has become a condition that determines whether or not someone is worthy of love.

There are couples right now who are walking on eggshells because they are so fearful of that one little human moment when they might just become unhappy because of the stress in their job. Deep down, they are afraid their partner might leave them if they become happy. Their partners might say, “Take your time,” but it really translate into, “Take your time on the timeline I have set for you, or else, I will leave.”

Using happiness as a bargaining chip in relationships has become a norm, and it causes psychological and emotional damage in the long run. We, unfortunately, are now basing our worthiness to be loved on how happy we are. Happiness is not being energetic all of the time, nor is it being hyper. In fact, constant hyperactivity is an indicator of anxiety or insecurity. Happiness is being at peace with ourselves, our environment, and the people around us with the knowledge that we are in control of only a finite amount of factors.

Relationships are supposed to be a safe haven for us, not a boxing ring for control and domination. Unfortunately, we forget that in spirituality, it is not about production, rather, it is about deliberate, thorough growth. You cannot rush the process, even if you want to, and you cannot impose happiness on a partner as an expectation or condition to receive love and affection.

My second observation is that there is this preconceived notion that everyone’s journey should look the same way.

If you are not wearing the gemstone amulets, sitting on cliffs, and posting cute quotes on Instagram, then you are not doing it right. Something is wrong with you. I remember being the target of this type of bias after I was baptized as a “born again” when I was 17. The church just couldn’t understand why I was the recipient of spiritual attacks and why I declined into a deep, dark depression instead of ascending into the unadulterated joy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The result was that I was ostracized by the church and lost a much needed support system because my journey did not emulate the clean-cut, pristine journeys of those who were raised by the elders of the church. My journey required a bone-breaking, soul-shattering destruction and dark night of the soul that the others did not. However, due to the lack of understanding and respect for the path I was set on, ignorance took precedence.

My final observation is that the self-imposed pressure to be happy is out of fear of losing people.

At the heart of our journeys, suffering and unhappiness are a part of the deal. If you find yourself being unhappy, then that is a healthy indicator that something about you or your situation needs to change or be healed. There is no pressure to be happy. Walk your journey in all of its ugliness with the brutal honesty that this walk hurts like hell, and you are not always going to be singing, Sunshine and Lollipops. 

You can still be loved, even when you are distressed by life, or when you are trying to set the sails in a new direction. You may have to love yourself first because no one else will. But whether that love comes from you or someone else, the fact of the matter is that you still deserve to be loved.

When we take the pressure off of ourselves to be happy, it is amazing how much easier it is to be happy.

So, if you want your friends to be happy, just let them be with no conditions or expectations.

And, most importantly, let them be happy their own way on their own terms.

Wouldn’t you want the same consideration from them?


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