I apologize in advance for how ‘dark’ this post is, but I had to write it. We live in a time where we basically have two lives: online and offline, and the online world can be quite misleading. It can seem as if we’re all living fantastic lives all the time, but that’s not how life works. We all have a dark side – and that’s what this post is about.
People love to share all their happy evens on social media: marriage, pregnancy, a new job, a new house, travels, good food, good weather… But anything on the other end of the spectrum is purposely left out (divorce, sickness, being laid off), although those things of course also happen. It seems like everyone is living perfect, happy lives which can make some of us feel inadequate and even depressed. Whenever I’m feeling low, scrolling through pictures of perfect, tanned bodies on sunny beaches does not make me feel any better (duh).
I understand that sharing our troubles on social media is not fun – in fact, whenever someone does post a dramatic rant about getting divorced many of us get annoyed (while secretly feeling a little better about our own lives). But it’s good to remind ourselves that the online world is not real. It’s a heavily edited, small snippet of someone’s life, and a part that’s easily controlled. I should know – I’ve spent the last three and a half years conducting research on online communication!
The ‘feel-good’ cult
Of course, all of this is nothing new. But there’s a stream of feel-good blogs, books and other media that convince us that all we want as humans is to “feel good” and “be happy”. While in the larger sense that is true, it leaves out an important part of life and the human soul: the dark side. We simply don’t always feel good and it’s not always under our control. And more importantly: we don’t always want to feel good. Sometimes feeling angry or sad can feel pretty good. As long as it doesn’t take too long.
The dark side of life
I’m going to speak for myself now. I feel like there’s a dark side of life and once you’ve been touched by it, it’s very hard to let go. When I was twelve I lost my father, which at that age was my worst nightmare. I literally only had nightmares about one of my parents dying. And then it’s suddenly a reality. The world is no longer safe, predictable, happy and fun. You are confronted with a different side, a darker side, and it stays with you forever.
I wrote this post because I think it’s very important to be okay with negative feelings. It’s okay to be sad, or cry, or down, without thinking you have failed at life. Yes, we want to feel good, most of the time. Whenever you feel sadness, pushing it away will only make it worse. I can get these moods where all I want to do is watch sad movies with old men (Everybody’s Fine is my favorite: I always cry all the way through), or listen to sad songs, or watch some sad reality program where someone is dying. I am not kidding. By the way: this makes me feel better. I give in to feeling overwhelmingly sad, I cry, I feel extremely sorry for myself, and then I start to feel better and much lighter.
How to (really) be happy
Admitting and accepting that life doesn’t only consist of sunny beaches, happy faces, perfect relationships, beautifully decorated homes and dream jobs will really make you a happier person. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have all those things, you absolutely can, it just means accepting the darker side of life as part of the picture. Even your dream job will suck sometimes, you and your perfect partner will fight and your beautiful home will get dirty. As long as you accept those things as part of life, you won’t get overwhelmed by them. They will make you a better, stronger person and you really will be happy – most of the time.