Following my appearance and interview on ABC, a friend I haven’t heard from in years sent me this facebook message:
Before we get into happiness, it’s important to know two things about me:
- As a professional writer for major media outlets, I know how to craft a story that people want to read.
- As a professional life coach and spiritual teacher, I know how to hone in on the details of a story that people need to face.
One story, two completely different angles.
In a time of relentlessly ongoing bad news slopped on top of each other like instant mashed potatoes on a prison food tray, people WANT to hear the inspiring story about my long-lost sister finally finding her family after 47 years, who immediately welcomed her with open hearts. This is the part of the story people want to hear. It feels good, it’s inspiring and it’s true.
But what about the other part of the story? The part that I and the rest of my family members need to face. This is the part of the story people don’t want to hear. The part where we talk about infidelity, sins of the father, child abandonment and crimes of the heart committed during war and beyond. You don’t see me posting about this part of the story on Facebook.
Why? Because Facebook is the highlight reel. It’s to show the fun and interesting snippets of our lives that people can scroll through quickly with a numb, checked out mind. The deep, personal, painful stuff… that’s not for social media, not for the mass public, not for anyone to know about except who you choose to tell.
If social media is the highlight reel, then life is the movie. The whole movie, including the parts you want to hear, don’t want to hear, need to face and don’t want to face.
When we compare our life’s movie to someone else’s highlight reel, it’s inevitable that we’ll fall short of matching their happiness.
This causes us to feel bad about ourselves, unworthy, undeserving, wrong, broken, flawed, like we just can’t get it right, and on and on.
After all, if everyone else seems so happy, why can’t I be too?
Comparing your private life to someone else’s public highlight reel is a recipe for unhappiness.
My friend who Facebook messaged me is only seeing my highlight reel. She’s seeing the stories I tell that people want to hear, which is how she came to the conclusion that I “seem so happy”.
If she subscribed to my email list or read my blog, she’d see the stories that are a bit more painful to tell, the ones that require deep self-reflection and the facing of internal demons.
If she was yet in my smaller circle of close friends and family, she’d see the private, shadow parts of the stories that the public never gets to see.
But my friend isn’t wrong.
I am truly happy now.
AND I have challenges and struggles.
Happiness isn’t an absence of problems or challenges.
Being happy means not identifying with your problems or challenges. They are a part of your life but they don’t make up your identity. WHO YOU ARE is separate from the challenges you have, they don’t define you.
And thus, that’s how to be truly happy in a world filled with internal and external struggles.
The “highlight reel” kind of happy is a fleeting surface emotion. It comes and goes as quickly as the highlight reel runs its course. Too often, we chase this kind of happiness because it’s more prevalent in our faces, in our social media feeds, and seems easier to attain, since after all, so many others seem so happy.
But, to be brave enough to take in the whole story, the dark parts as well as the light parts, and face life in its fullness knowing that WHO YOU ARE has nothing to do with how you’re feeling or what you’re struggling with… this is true, lasting happiness.
WHO YOU ARE is a soul having a human experience.
When you know who you are, you can transcend your struggles while dealing with them. In other words, you hold the struggles outside of you, apart from your identity, and you let go of all self-labeling thoughts of unworthiness, undeserving, not-good-enough, etc and you face the problem straight on, untarnished and unburdened with superfluous negative thoughts, beliefs and ideas about yourself.
In this way, you don’t get lost in your struggles and allow them to carry you away. You remain grounded, strong and centered, giving you a more powerful foundation upon which to deal with them.
The next time you catch yourself feeling down because everyone else seems happy except you, remember that you’re only seeing part of their story, just the parts they want you to see. And that they too, like all of us, have parts that they need to face behind closed doors in their private moments.
To be truly and deeply happy, we must embrace our whole story – the darkness and the light – and courageously work through our challenges with the knowledge that we are loved, good and worthy, no matter what our struggles.