Pretending to be happy?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Happy faces

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How much effort does it take to try to be happy?

Are you one of those people who grew up trying to be happy, trying to look happy for a parent, for friends, or those around you? Were you pretending to be happy but you never really felt it?

After long periods of trying to be happy, of pretending so that you don’t make others sad, you lose touch with how you really feel.

You may have despaired of ever really feeling happy. Happiness for you was something you faked for others, but deep down inside you never really felt it. You began to wonder if you would ever genuinely feel happy the way others appeared to experience it every day.

For this effort to try to feel the way you should, the way others tell you that you should feel, you pay a high price. You lose touch; become disconnected, from how you are really feeling. You begin to doubt that you will ever have a genuinely happy experience the way others do.

You may give up on happiness and opt for not feeling so much pain. You may use drugs or alcohol to numb out or you might disconnect from your feelings altogether.

One cause of this disconnect between your feelings and you, and there can be many causes, is those adults who did not validate your feelings. When you said you were sad they said you had nothing to be sad about. You began to question what you felt and what you should feel.

Most of us know what anger feels like. But you may have been told that it’s not acceptable to feel anger, so you tried your hardest to feel an approved feeling. Before long you need others to tell you what it is you are feeling as you struggle to feel the way you should feel, rather than the way you do feel.

Some of you gave up on the idea of feeling happy or content or accepted. Those positive feelings were beyond your reach. You opted instead to avoid feelings and to try to feel the way those around you told you to feel. You may have thought that you would never get there and tried to accept your lot as one whose role was to make others happy, not to find those feelings for yourself.

Over time this trying to feel the way you should and the denial of what you are truly feeling in favor of pretending to experience the feelings others ascribe to you, these behaviors extract a heavy price. You become increasingly disconcerted from feelings and your inside becomes empty.

There are solutions. You can find happiness. Acting in happy ways, doing things that you find enjoyable can help, but only if you stop pretending and let yourself feel what it is that you truly feel.

The road to happiness runs through you. It requires getting to know you, that fearless and patient path of self-exploration. Finding happiness also requires developing a palate of feelings that bring the color back into your life. With the joy and pleasure, there will also be some pain and discomfort. But accepting that this is a real life and sometimes you will not like it is part of finding out who you are.

Be very cautious when other people tell you who you are, especially family members and those misery-loves-company friends. What they say is only their opinion. You do not have to create the things they tell you.

Other people’s opinions of who you are and what you should feel are things they hand you, nothing more. Like things that they might pass to you in a restaurant, some are worth eating and some are already destined for the garbage. You don’t have to keep everything you are handed in the restaurant for the rest of your life. Some of it goes in the trash on the way out. Some things you use for a while and leave behind. Let other’s opinions of you be like something they pass to you over dinner. You decide if you want this or you will trash it.

Some things others tell us, like a napkin given at the dinner, may indicate they have seen a part of us that needs cleaning up. If two or more people tell you that same thing you may need to look at this part of you. Think about this for a while and see if they are right. But just because they hand you a napkin to wipe the ketchup off your face does not mean that you will have a dirty face forever.

Consider that you determine who you want to be and how you will get there. Along the way you are entitled to feel and think anything you want, as long as you don’t try to impose those thoughts on others.

Get to know yourself, accept yourself as just fine the way you are, but with the potential to be and do more, and you will find that you just might discover that true happiness, the kind you do not have to fake for anyone, around the next life corner.

Are you ready to stop pretending to be happy and begin the hunt for a life worthy of the person you can become?

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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5 thoughts on “Pretending to be happy?

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  5. I felt emotional reading this. I’ve smiled my way through misery forever. Everyone always thought Paula was so happy. I still do this even when I’m sad. It’s only when I’m broken that people see the real me. I hate confrontation and being angry. They are 2 things I avoid at all costs. I loved how you said about people’s opinions about who you are etc…I need to remember this and not always worry about what someone thinks of me. I’ve done this my whole life also. Lol I need to look after me. Great post, David! Hugs Paula xx


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