Yesterday I walked into an elevator with a woman huddled in the corner, her face buried in her phone. She didn’t acknowledge me as I walked in and sensing her need for space, I left her alone. Two floors up, the elevator stopped and another woman walked in, a particularly jovial character that seemed to come straight out of a book of cliche characters. She engaged the phone lady in a conversation that I immediately could tell was going nowhere. She was trying to cheer her up. She said stock statements such as “turn that frown upside down” and “it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.” As the jovial woman left with her parting words of wisdom, the fake smile that the phone lady had put on in an attempt for social acceptance and politeness quickly disappeared.
Alone again, I blurted, “you want to tell her to take that smile and shove it up her ass, don’t you?”
She erupted in laughter and we both laughed uncontrollably the remainder of the ride. Her entire persona changed, it was as if someone had suddenly flooded the elevator with oxygen and sunlight. It was a genuine laughter that came from the gut and I saw the light glistening in her eyes that radiated from within. It’s what I call the “Inner Happy light”. In that brief moment, she had tapped into her inner happiness, a joy that had been hidden only moments before, and a joy that can’t be found by covering ourselves up with fake smiles, pretense and denial of our current feelings.
It’s a joy that can be found, even if only in brief moments, by being authentic, being true to ourselves and how we really feel. Even if how we feel is absolutely shitty, those who have discovered their Inner Happy know that that feeling shall pass, that it’s temporary, that there’s more to our lives than this one moment of feeling shitty. And in that knowing, there’s a deep joy, in the midst of the shit, and we allow ourselves our feelings without trying to cover them up, push them away or pretend we’re feeling anything different than what we’re feeling, even if what we’re feeling is not very nice toward someone else.
Is that the nicest thing to think about someone, that you want to shove a smile up their ass? Not really. But was it what she was feeling in that moment? Absolutely. I definitely felt it too. And I wasn’t the target of the other lady’s good intentions gone wrong.
While the jovial woman meant well, she offered her a mask to wear over her true feelings while I offered her a moment of authenticity, of honoring that part within us that might be unkind or ornery or sad. It didn’t take away whatever situation that was going on in her life that made her sad in the first place, but it gave her a moment of relief, of release and of truth. It gave her an authentic moment of honoring herself and her emotions. And in doing so, it gave her the strength and more importantly, the permission, to deal with her situation from a purer standpoint.
Emotions are simply energy and they need to flow freely in order to flow through. Our society does not allow for the heavier, more unpleasant emotions. We walk around with cemented smiles on our face and pain in our hearts. We pretend everything’s OK when it’s really not. As a society, we accept fake smiles because it’s simply more comfortable. We ask people how they’re doing as we pass them in the hall but we don’t really want to know most of the time. We’re hoping they’ll say “fine” so we can keep moving and get on with our delusional selves. We may not consciously realize it, but what we’re really thinking is: “if I don’t have to see your pain, maybe I don’t have to face my own.”
It’s a lot of work, to pretend we’re feeling something we’re not. Exhausting, actually. In fact, it takes more muscles to hold a fake smile all day long than it does to relax your face and give in to what it naturally wants to do in any given moment, whether it’s smiling for real or frowning. It’s no wonder so many people suffer from fatigue and chronic lethargy. They’ve spent the entire day pretending to be someone they’re not, putting on a front of positivity and happiness when inside all they want to do is roll up in a ball and cry. Sometimes you might not be feeling all that bad, you may be teetering on the edge and putting on a fake smile might actually tip you over to the happy side. But when you’re in a deeper pain, putting on a fake smile only adds more pain.
Whatever you are feeling in any given moment needs to be allowed and honored. It doesn’t mean you have to keep feeling that way for days on end. In fact, often when you allow your feelings to emerge fully, without judgment and hindrance, they often pass quickly. You could feel sad in one moment, and if you allow that sadness to move through you freely, it often passes in a matter of minutes, even seconds. When you hold onto your emotions, denying, judging, condemning or fighting them, they remain with you longer, growing bigger and stronger. The only reason our feelings linger is because we hold onto them, get carried away in them and identify with them instead of letting them simply pass through.
Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel, and allow the feelings to pass through. Give others that same permission around you. My guess is there would be a lot more real smiles if we all accepted and allowed the freer expression of our true emotions.