In a world where the only images we see are of others being happy, it is hard to know what normal happiness looks like.
We’re bombarded with messages from our peers on social media as well as advertisements that happiness is ubiquitous. But not only do we see images of happiness everywhere, if you follow any insta peeps, you’re seeing multiple “happy” moments from the same person.
While seeing one of the same may seem fairly innocuous, it actually influences our ideas of what’s normal. That is, if we see images of people happy, and “follow” people with seemingly perfect lives, we unconsciously internalise a belief about happiness. We learn that happiness should be a constant and other emotions – especially anger, sadness and shame – are not really normal nor should they be on the daily agenda.
PAUSE: This is where most people say… “hmm, but I know that images on Social media are fake, and do not resemble real life”.
Yes, yes, we all know the facts, but do they marry up to what you believe deep down? I think it’s hard to admit that our ideas of how we should feel are influenced by the media. Perhaps it feels weak, or perhaps it’s scary to imagine. But the truth is, most of us are influenced by the images around us; and hold certain ideas and expectations of how we should be.
As a litmus test to see if you’ve been influenced by the images around you, ask yourself these questions (and answer quickly without much thought):
- How should you feel in your relationship?
- How should you feel on your wedding day?
- How should you feel when you’re having sex?
If you answered mostly happy associated emotions – happy, joy, excited, romantic, hot – chances are your ideas have been influenced by the media.
I am not saying that people don’t feel happy in these situations. Absolutely they do! You may feel a lot of happiness in these situations. What I’m saying is, it’s normal to feel other emotions too – stress, anxiety, sadness – and it’s OK and perfectly acceptable to not feel happy at all!
People feel happy for different reasons and in different moments. There is no prescription for when and how often you should feel happy- it’s individual and differs between us. For example, some people may love their wedding day and feel over-joyed, while others may find it overwhelming and stressful.
Unfortunately though, our expectations of happiness mean that we often judge ourselves for not feeling happy. And in moments where we hold a higher expectation of happiness – parties, festivals, graduation, engagements, weddings and babies – we tend to place more pressure on ourselves to feel happy and elated!
Being under pressure to feel a certain way takes away from our natural emotions. It means we’re in a perpetual state of seeking out happiness rather than being in the moment and experiencing waves of happiness as they come. As well, we’re more likely to experience feelings of shame, sadness, anxiety and depression, when we judge ourselves for not feeling happy.
So what’s normal happiness?
Happiness comes and goes in the day, some days can be lighter than others, and some moments may lift you more up than others. Happiness can come out of nowhere; sometimes it’s expected. But most importantly, happiness is intertwined with an array of other emotions. Its normal to feel flat and irritable at times, it’s normal to have a grumpy week. It’s normal to feel anxious or unsettled and have restless nights or feel extra sensitive for a week. It’s normal to feel lonely, and crave intimacy, or to feel jealous and insecure at times.
Taking the wedding day as an example – you may have felt over-joyed on your wedding day or perhaps you felt stressed or experienced a mix bag of emotions. Whichever way you felt, it does not define your (or your relationship’s) happiness – You’re no less of a person than that person on Instagram who had the #bestdayever.