THE BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT HAPPINESS
Every person wants to be happy and every person as their own thoughts as to what happiness means to them. But as each of us moves towards the same goal of happiness for ourselves, I have found that one common myth works as a deterrent to us all.
“You’re Not Happy Unless You Are Happy All The Time.”
A few months into my own happiness journey I realized that I believed this particular myth to be true and it was holding me back from experiencing true happiness.
One day someone had said something (I can’t remember what set it off now almost a year later) but I got angry. I came home to my husband in a fury and caused contention everywhere I stepped because I was in such a terrible mood. A few hours later (after I had calmed down) I began to cry. It felt like all my hard work at being happy was pointless. I felt like I hadn’t changed, I was still an unhappy, temper-filled person who focused on negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and grudges. I mentally and emotionally began to beat myself up because I had lost my temper and felt some negative emotions. I believed that I was not a happy (or good person ) unless I was happy all the time.
I resolved to start over. I would be happy all the time. I began truly striving for perfectionism in the form of a happy attitude. A few weeks later, another relapse, this time at a driver who flipped me off for going five over the speed limit. Apparently, I wasn’t going fast enough for him and I was so angry over it. Then the guilt came. Ugh, I had let myself fall to anger again! I wasn’t making any progress! This happened several times over the following weeks and months.
Negativity is an addiction and when faced with something trying, I would fall back into my addiction of being unhappy and negative. However, I was making slow progress. Not as many things set me off as before and I would recover from my anger faster than the time before. I didn’t realize it then but I was even making progress in the form of the guilt that followed these outbursts. I would try to think of all the reasons the man in the car may have needed to go fast or was frustrated. Maybe he had had a bad day at work and flipping off a random driver was his outlet for his anger. Maybe he was in a rush because of some bad news, or because he was late to an appointment. I would then feel guilty at being so angry towards that person but I was also trying to see things from another point of view- which helped me train my brain to look at reasons someone may be acting a certain way and to not take things as personally (the main contributor to my temper).
But that didn’t help me with my belief that to be a happy person, I had to be happy all the time. Even though I was making progress and there were longer periods between anger and negativity relapses, I didn’t see it that way. Each outburst was another step back in my eyes, I didn’t know how to be gentle with myself. Then one day, I read something that changed my life.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi
What an eye opener! I had been neglecting all of my emotions that I didn’t feel were suited to happiness and in return, they kept coming back. Once I realized that to be happy I had to feel and welcome all emotions, I stopped with the guilt and the pain. A wise person once said that the happiest people are those who accept all emotions, respects what those emotions are telling you and then moves forward.
Now, I welcome my emotions- happy or not. If I’m angry, I try to understand what it is that is upsetting me and why I’m taking it personally. If I am stressed, it means that something needs to change in my life. And above all, I try to welcome each emotion/guest into my home with love because I know they are guides to how I can be better and be happier throughout all elements of my life.
I know that many of us strive for perfection and as a result lose sight of the big picture, much like I did. Have any of you experienced something like this? How were you able to see the benefit of all emotions and accept that we can’t be happy all the time? What other myths about happiness have you accepted as truths and had to overcome? Please feel free to share your story or thoughts on this post in the comments below.
Photo by Caleb Wright