We live in a strange era where it has become normal to publicise and boast about almost every aspect of our lives on social media; from the perfectly symmetrical latte art on our morning coffee, to how #blessed we feel to be living such a wonderful, carefree life. As much as I love a good #positivevibes Instagram post, images depicting ‘the perfect life’ often just incite envy and contribute to this increasing pressure to be in a constant state of happiness or #bliss. Which is just simply unnatural.
Newsflash: Not everyone is as happy as they appear on Instagram. But that’s not such a bad thing! We’re way more complicated than that; we’re human beings with the capacity to experience a whole range of emotions and feelings that go far beyond the simplicity of happiness or sadness.
This societal pressure to be constantly happy is incredibly damaging as it suggests that anything other than happiness is bad and therefore shameful. There is still so much stigma around mental illness that we are embarrassed to show any signs of internal struggle or melancholy. And even when we do reveal these feelings it is often accompanied by the phrase “I’m just not myself at the moment”. Why do we feel the need to reject this part of ourselves? Why can’t we accept that we are complex and can change the way we think and feel continuously whilst still having a sense of identity?
The key is balance; a spectrum of emotions with happiness at one end and sadness at the other – as both equally important. We need to allow ourselves to feel our emotions, whatever they may be, for however long it takes to move past them. It is not beneficial to our well-being to ignore or rush our emotions in an attempt to feel a false sense of happiness. There is no one way to experience emotion or sorrow. Especially in terms of grieving a loss, which is often something we experience in waves over a lifetime rather than an immediate reaction that needs to be overcome.
Learning to be comfortable with all of our feelings is not an easy thing to do. Especially in a society that seems to value appearing happy rather than actual well-being. When we can acknowledge and appreciate each feeling we can learn to deal with them and not be overcome by emotion. And by understanding that these feelings are just a natural part of human existence we can experience them without guilt or shame.
Often when we’re feeling down, it seems as though this feeling will last forever, just like when we’re feeling happy, it’s hard to remember what was so terrible in the first place. But all things are temporary. It’s important to remember this, rather than striving for an endless state of happiness and feeling constantly disappointed in ourselves when we don’t achieve it. If we allow ourselves to embrace each facet of our emotional spectrum, we will develop a greater sense of understanding and contentment, something that is not possible through ignorant bliss.
There is so much to feel in one lifetime; excitement, hope, fear, sorrow, inspiration, stress, contentment, frustration, anger, euphoria, curiosity, relief, pain, joy, love. We learn and grow so much from each of these feelings. So why are we constantly trying to limit ourselves to just one?
To feel nothing but happiness would make for a very boring life indeed.
For more information visit our page Mental Health.
If you are suffering from a mental illness and need help, support or just someone to talk to visit our page Support Services for a list of places you can contact.
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.