For as long as I can remember, I have been complimented on my smile — or rather, the fact that I’m always smiling. This has led anyone that I met or worked with to assume that I am a happy person.
While this isn’t a bad assumption — I like to think I’m pretty optimistic — it isn’t entirely true.
I used to think sadness was a bad thing. People always tell you to be happy, the term “resting bitch face” even evolved to define girls who don’t smile or appear joyful enough.
While most of my smiles are genuine, a number of them are masked by a “fake it ‘till you make it” mentality. I didn’t see anything wrong with pushing myself to feel better than I did — be it during the stress of exam season or a recent argument — I saw it as mindful positivity. After all, who has time to feel upset when there’s a test to study for and an assignment to finish?
The negative connotations associated with being sad and unhappy suggest it’s a feeling you should get over quickly. This is something that the demands of our education system only enforce. Moving on from an upsetting time or working towards bettering your mental health are important stages of self-help and awareness that take time.
By thinking I could just push down my sadness in favour of not letting it get in the way of my busy schedule, I was postponing my healing rather than accelerating it.
This is something I hadn’t realized though, until recently picking up a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine. One article in particular caught my eye: “Don’t Worry, Be Unhappy.”
I found myself relating to their definition of “self-propelled positivity” and began to wonder if I was doing more harm to my mental state than good.
According to Cosmopolitan, I needed to let myself feel sad sometimes in order to foster future drive and motivation.
I couldn’t agree more.
As pathetic as it may sound, usually I can tell when I need a good cry before bed. Allowing myself to confront my stress and release some emotion sets me up to feel more goal-oriented and happy the next day.
But during the midterm grind, personal needs tend to fly out the window.
Or at least, that has been my experience. Sometimes taking time to be unhappy and allowing yourself the opportunity to heal just isn't enough. In that case, don't be afraid to seek help. Be it from a professional, family member or friend. It's okay not to be happy all the time, but that doesn't mean you should be navigating through it alone.