“Why do you always look sad?”
I’ve heard this far too many times to count. I’ve heard strangers, acquaintances, and even family members asking me to smile more. All the time.
I have a tendency to look at things through dark thunderclouds and a lens fogged by despair. If something good happens, I’ll just say it’s because of luck and not because I actually deserved it. If something goes wrong, I’ll blame it all on myself and think my own deficiencies are the reasons why I’m not where I want to be. I’m too shy, too negative, too bitter, too serious. Sometimes I let the past define who I am now. I don’t speak up for myself, I’m not enough, I’m this, I’m that. Anything but happy.
But I don’t want that to affect how I view myself.
I may not smile or constantly say positive things that people want to hear, but internally, no matter how stressed or worried or sad I feel, I know that I’m content with who I am. I feel perfectly at peace with myself when I write, even when I write “emo poetry” and personal essays about existential crises and all the pain I cannot express out loud.
I’m happy when I’m reading works by other people and feeling understood, happy when I listen to my favorite playlists and copy down lyrics to my favorite songs in my journal. I’m happy when I collect quotes and verses that shed light on who I am in the midst of the Universe. I’m happy when I’m waking up in the morning and making coffee just the way I like it. Black. But not like my soul.
You see, even when people assume that I always have a dark thundercloud hovering over me, I don’t want that to define me.
I don’t think happiness is about feeling happy all the time and displaying it for the world to see, despite how much that’s expected.
True happiness isn’t about showing how happy you are and shoving your negative emotions under the rug, pretending that they don’t exist. I think we live in a toxic positivity culture in which any display of negative emotion is labeled as “toxic” and ought to be suppressed at all costs.
But that does more harm than good because it invalidates the wide range of feelings that are inevitable in the human experience.
It’s okay to let your tears flow. It’s okay to express how you feel. It’s okay to accept your emotions as they are in the moment, no matter how much others might shame you for not smiling all the time. But understand that despite how much you feel the weight of the world and how much you’re in pain, you’re not as alone as you think you are. You’re not misunderstood, tortured, or undeserving of all the beautiful moments of life.
I know, deep down, that there’s eternal joy within you.
You turn to the things that are always there for you, even when nobody else around you understands. You listen to songs and read stories that make you feel less alone. You allow yourself to feel the way you truly feel and this lifts the weight off your shoulders because you have nothing to hide from yourself. And this is how you heal and come to terms with your true self. Even when you feel like you’re insufficient and unworthy just because someone thought your feelings were “too much,” you’d rather feel an outpouring of everything than feel nothing at all.
Because you can’t just force artificial light to shine on you. You’re not a robot who’s programmed to smile on command. You can’t allow society’s fabrications to define what happiness is and what it isn’t because that will only push away all the things that make you a healthy human with a wide range of complex and multi-dimensional emotions.
And when you walk through the darkness, you’ll harness your own power and seek the true light that was within you all this time. And you’ll realize that it will always be there no matter what’s going on around you.
The dark thunderclouds will form, and the sun may not shine for another day, but the light will always be within you.
Featured Image Credit: Jasmine Peardon[