Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Lounge: The hazards of happiness shaming

Imagine this: A co-worker breezes into the office one morning, a perky bounce in her step, and announces that she's engaged. She flashes the sparkler on her finger and spends the next 20 minutes recounting every...single...detail...of how her husband-to-be proposed. What's going through your head as she tells the tale? Are you genuinely happy for her? Do you offer to help plan the wedding? Or, are you thinking to yourself, "Doesn't she know that some of us haven't been so lucky in finding The One? Could she be any more insensitive?"

We see this scenario all the time nowadays, don't we? At the office. At family gatherings. Even in the check-out line of the grocery store.

And with things like Facebook and Twitter making it even easier to broadcast the details of your life, it can be all too easy to find your own happiness twisted with someone else's happiness. It's almost as if your own happiness is dependent on the happiness of another. And not in a positive way, either.

So what is it exactly? Happiness Shaming. xoJane featured a fascinating piece on the scary trend last week. "For a woman, joy must be expressed carefully, in select settings and with trusted friends. Because to express your happiness too wantonly, too ebulliently or widely, is to risk a quick shutdown from those who are not experiencing the same happiness," wrote Emily McCombs, who received some not-so-nice comments on Twitter after posting just one time about her engagement.
McCombs hit the nail on the head. Exactly. I've even, sadly, seen it in the blogosphere, where someone's happiness has been misinterpreted as boastfulness. And every time I see this, I wonder: What's the point, really? Why spend so much time tearing each other down? In the end, does it really make us feel better, feel more secure, feel happier to see someone else decidedly unhappy?

Happiness should be celebrated, not hidden. People should feel free -- even encouraged -- to express it, not made to feel guilty and feel like they have to hide it in shame. Sharing your joy with others, especially with the people you love, doesn't mean you're bragging or showing off. In fact, it's not even that you're trying to exclude them -- it means you want them to be a part of your happiness because they, well, mean the world to you.

I don't know about you, friends, but I intend to embrace and celebrate every piece of happiness my life has to offer.
What do you think, friends? Have you ever experienced happiness shaming? Do you think it's human nature, or is that just a convenient excuse? How do you think we can get away from happiness shaming and begin to truly celebrate? xoxo

[Photos via Audrey Hepburn Complex]


  1. I would definitely be happy for people who share their happiness online. It never crosses my mind that the person is showing off.

  2. Honestly, I've never really thought a lot into it. I've always been the kind of person that's genuinely happy for others good fortune.

    Also, I refuse to stifle my happiness for anyone or anything.

    PS- Please delete the anonymous commenters that don't have anything constructive to say (in a polite manner). They are a total downer.

  3. We live in a world where every day we're receiving all kind of bad news. We should be grateful when someone shares his/her happiness with us. Plus, happiness is contagious. Let's share the moments of happiness, not hide them...

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  5. What are the hazards?

  6. Your blog is lovely Melissa! I am so happy I found it today, and I am excited for the journey ahead. Thank you!

  7. I'd much prfer people gush on and on about how happy they are about something than read all of the Facebook posts/ blog entries/ Tweets people send out about how someone beat them to a parking space or they were late to work and now their life is ruined. I'll take flaunting happiness over bitching about trivial stuff everyone deals with any day.

  8. Melissa, on the day my first full-term child was born, my sister-in-law's father died. I was ecstatic; she was devastated. What is even worse, 5 weeks later she gave birth to a child who only lived 10 minutes. Toning my joy down was in respect to her griefs -- but it was hard.

  9. I've noticed too we tend to share stories about bad/annoying things our partners do ("You think THAT'S bad? He puts his gym socks on my nightstand!") I know a lot of that is because well, those stories are funny! And it lets us know we're not the only ones whose significant other does crazy things. But sometimes I think gee, I never mention any of the nice things he does. But that would feel like bragging.

  10. SO true, laura -- i know quite a few people who, from the second they see you, start complaining. it's just draining and makes you not want to be around that person. it makes you wonder if they've ever been happy!

  11. I'm going through some personal challenges, and was talking the other day to a dear friend who I will be a bridesmaid for at her wedding next year. Our conversation moved off of me and onto her, and she started apologizing for talking about floral arrangements and our bridesmaids' dresses–I told her that I loved her joy, and didn't want her to hide or lessen it for me. I know she only half bought it, but at least it was a start.

  12. This is perfect timing! I just got engaged this past weekend, and while I'm extremely happy, I don't quite know if EVERYONE is ready to share my excitement with me. I figure the core group of people will be happy for us no matter what is going on in their lives, so we only told a select group, and we'll let the rest find out naturally. Either way, I do agree that one should always celebrate joy in any shape it comes. Life's too short and unpredictable for us not to truly appreciate good news.


Your lovely comments make my day so much sweeter! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!


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