“When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you” – Leonard Cohen
When life is going well, our eyes look past the happy people around us. We’re too caught up in our own contentment to notice them. But when life becomes shitty, and our anxiety and depression come barreling in, we can’t help but notice anyone with even the slightest semblance of a smile. They pop out at us like the giant eye sores that they are. The couple whispering to each other, hand-in-hand. The group of friends laughing uproariously. The family having a jovial conversation at the Thai restaurant down the street. Every damn person on social media. Those happy people suck, don’t they?
We often feel indignant at feeling unhappy, while others around us are happy. This is a result of the “why me?” mentality, also known as the “life is treating me like a baby treats a diaper, so why does every goddamn person around me get to be cheerful and merry and joyful and jolly and carefree and tickled fucking pink?” mentality. We wallow in this thought process, and begin feeling that life is terribly unfair, for befalling us with hardships while the rest of the world sits pretty. So, during grim times many of us take to resenting the happy people we encounter, whose lives clearly seem to have been dealt a better hand.
To make things worse, we often believe that the suffering we are currently facing is unique, which is why we hear phrases like, “but my relationship with [name of girl who dumped me] was different…” We convince ourselves that no one else has ever gone through the same kind of misery that we are experiencing. So along with being upset about the unfairness of life, we also emotionally isolate ourselves – a lethal combination.
The underlying reason behind why we find adversities unfair, and isolate our struggles, is our own mental acrobatics. Specifically, we let our thoughts become too self-absorbed. We spend far too much time churning our own feelings, interests and situations in our minds. Consequently, we pave the way for over-thinking and self-pity. If instead of focusing on ourselves, we looked at the larger picture, stomaching adversities would become a far easier process. It would teach our minds the art of putting things into perspective.
The ‘larger picture’ involves comprehending the fact that everyone deals with tough times at various points in their lives. That includes that one person who seems like they have every ounce of their life figured out. It also includes your friend, Sarah, who just got engaged to her knight-in-shining-armour, while you are 34 and still single. Understand (but obviously don’t hope) that Sarah might get divorced in 2 years, or have a traumatic miscarriage. The point is that you’re sad now, but the happy people around you have gone through storms of their own, and will go through their share of bad times in the future. Down the road, you may be the hated “happy person” in their period of struggle.
Understanding that we are all enduring this inevitable ebb and flow of life will put an end to the damage that we self-inflict by comparing ourselves to the folks around us. It will also make us more compassionate humans, who are empathetic about other people’s challenges, rather than just our own. We’ll quickly realize that our individual struggles aren’t so unique after all. With this shift in outlook, the adversities that we are yet to face will feel less unfair and isolating. The shitty times won’t feel so shitty.