I feel like I’m surrounded by people who don’t seem to be happy. A lot of them are complaining about a myriad of things and seem disappointed by various life events or even life in general. I’m actually guilty of occasionally being a complainer myself − some days just suck, am I right? Given that I usually don’t have trouble finding joy in the most insignificant things, I can’t help but wonder why we’re all so unhappy all the time.
One thing that all of us complainers have in common is that we focus on the negative. Even if life’s been good to us and things have been going well, we tend to jump right back into self-pity as soon as we hit a little bump.
Why do bad things keep happening to me?! This is so typical, of course life’s handing me lemons now, things were going TOO well..!
It’s almost as if we’re waiting for things to go south, only to then declare Ha, I knew it!
But why are we so convinced that someone’s out to get us? Why do we fixate on the negative so much? Not too long ago I came across one of those meme-type pictures on Facebook which said the following: “Maybe the day had a shitty you.”
This actually made me smile because it hit home. It’s true, isn’t it? Nothing good ever happens on a day that we decided to label as shitty. Whenever we’re fixated on just getting said shitty day over with, our minds are set on believing that this particular day does indeed suck. So every minor, insignificant thing that’s going to happen during the day will only emphasise the shittiness we previously inflicted upon it. Even if something good happens on a “shitty” day, we either overlook it or downplay its importance in order to stay true to our negative mindset.
Let me be clear, I’m not trying to argue that bad days don’t exist. I know they do and when they happen, it’s perfectly legitimate to feel bad, to grieve, to take a moment to hate the universe, to rant about it to a friend or even on the internet. Bad days are a part of life, but their existence shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying the good things. No amount of focusing on the bad stuff will make it go away, so we might as well attribute as much importance to the good stuff as we do to the bad stuff.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume (I know, I know, assuming is bad..!) that putting a spotlight on the negative is partially enhanced by our exposure to social media. I’m perfectly aware that other people’s (and − who am I kidding?! − my own) social media feeds are carefully crafted portrayals of only the good parts of life: we proudly share pictures of the perfect beach holiday, the perfect meal, the perfect party, the perfect evening with friends, and so on. Nobody broadcasts their shortcomings on social media. And yet, somehow we’re all (unconsciously?) trapped in a spiral of comparing ourselves with and competing against others. A heavily edited seemingly perfect family picture (#nofilter, chosen among 154 pictures that were previously snapped just to make sure at least one of them was gonna be instagram-able) easily reads like what have YOU got to show for yourself?
It’s almost as if we’re trying to win at life.
Fueled by the fear of being less good at life than our social media friends or by FOMO* or the fear of not enjoying life enough / not doing enough significant (AKA instagram-able) things, we spend our days chasing the perfect moment, the perfect relationship, the perfect vacation, the perfect job, the perfect pastime. Our expectations are completely out of whack and therefore everything we do or experience must be a spectacular, one-of-a-kind type of happening, manifesting everything short of unicorns and fairy dust.
In the meantime, we miss out on all the beautiful little things that life has to offer: the giggles of a baby on the bus**, a stranger smiling at his phone because he just got a text from a loved one, a beautiful sunrise witnessed from inside the office building, an awesome song on the radio as we walk into the coffee house…
I’m not always good at focusing on the positive but I’m known for being prone to get ridiculously excited over the most inconspicuous little things. I’m pretty sure I get on people’s nerves a lot with my enthusiasm and I’m aware that from a rational point of view, my excitement isn’t always proportional to the event / thing / thingamajig (for lack of a better word 😉 ) at hand, but I believe that a healthy amount of child-like exhilaration is a real mood booster and therefore perfect to combat shitty days.
* Fear of missing out
** I find that laughing children are among the purest and most authentic (if not contagious!) things one can witness.