These days, there tends to be a lot of talk about shaming. Fat shaming, skinny shaming, mommy shaming.
I would like to address another kind of shaming, which is sadness shaming.
These days, every time I scroll through Facebook, I see a lot of memes like this:
I totally recognize that they are meant to be positive, and inspiring, but they rub me the wrong way. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Some people are clinically depressed. I know most people would say those people get a pass from this kind of message until they get the right treatment, but some people that are depressed do not even know they are depressed. They just know that they are unhappy/unmotivated/unable to be positive all the time, and can’t really fix it no matter how hard they try. I think for these people to see a message like this, it must be very hurtful. We all know that the flipside of happiness is a choice is unhappiness is a choice, and a lot of people, probably most people, do not choose to be unhappy.
2. Happiness is somewhat dependent on life situations. We all like to say that nothing can make you happy or unhappy except yourself, but we also know that’s not true. If you kid is very sick or dies, you are not going to be happy. If your spouse has an affair and leaves you, you are not going to be happy. If you get in an accident and become paralyzed, you are not going to be happy. If your business goes bankrupt and you lose your livelihood and financial security have to start all over, are not going to be happy. That is just touching on the life situations that most people cannot truly be happy while confronting. That’s not to say they’ll never be happy again, but it could be a long time in the face of such situations, and a lot of the situations are not the fault of the person they happened to. Again, for somebody who is very unhappy because they are dealing with a really shitty life situation, to scroll through Facebook and see memes like the one above must feel pretty crappy and shaming.
That is not to say people should not always try to look for the positives, enjoy little things in life, challenge themselves, look ahead to when things will get better. But it is to say that there’s no shame in being unhappy, for a day or even a month or a year, if that’s the way your life is right now. Personal growth, challenging ones help, striving to see the positives…these things do not always lead to happiness. But they are still always worthy.
Somebody who truly believes in a meme like that above, and lives it, most likely either has emotional reserves that other people just aren’t capable of, or hassimply never experienced the kind of trauma that leads to a state of unhappiness.
Sometimes, trauma is more powerful than the best positive intentions. That’s not a lack of character, it’s a reality of humanity.
As I’m sure my readers know, these words are coming from someone who always works hard to be positive, make things better, to challenge myself, to grow, and to inspire others. But I also recognize not everybody is capable of that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they choose to be unhappy. It just makes them different people with different abilities, or those that have struggles I can’t even imagine.
Which is certainly not to say there aren’t people in my life that I think are often “too negative”, who have many good things in their lives they can’t enjoy because they are always focused on the bad or what they don’t have. That is certainly true, and I would certainly like to inspire those people to count their blessings and focus on what’s good and positive, and I do certainly believe those people would be happier if they did so.
I prefer the messages below. I feel like the encourage positive thinking (which we can all can) while not making those that are not (yet) “happy” feel like failures: