Authenticity and The Social Epidemic of Happiness

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The image of happiness is laughing eyes and tongue sticking out in a picture frame. My mobile camera goes click-click, balanced on a selfie stick held at an angle that flatters the errant jawline of my cheek. Eyebrows on fleek… click. One-eyed wink… click. Kim K’s pout … click. Goofy squint look… click. Two dozen pictures and filtered edits later, instagram is ready for my awesomeness.

The image of happiness is a facebook post; pre-wedding shots overflow feeds boldly captioned ‘save the date’. Wives flaunt husbands. Husbands flaunt wives. Parents share pictures of kids at every stage of their growth in a surprising wave of media parenting.

Yet, the paradox of our existence is with all the happy media frenzy, there are many out there who suffer bouts of depression.

Last month I had an emotional breakdown. I had spent the early hours of my birthday thinking where my life might be headed, and days on social media binging on everyone’s happy story, wondering why my life wasn’t cool enough. And inasmuch as we’re told never to compare our journey with that of other people, we can’t eliminate the lines of our individual existence that crisscross and overlap, nor can we deny its existence. So may be this comparison is a natural response to our shared reality.

I’ve been thinking about this, our social epidemic of happiness. The unicorn moments we love to create for the pages; the frames of laughter we hang on our wall or store in our mobile phones; moments of bliss we are all too happy to share with the world. Then there’s everything else either dialed down they are barely noticeable, or completely tuned off—and that’s the part we wish remains undiscovered.

In her Tedtalk, Brené Brown speaks about the power of vulnerability; the difficulty in letting ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen by others; our need for connection and erroneous belief that being vulnerable is akin to weakness. We think that to belong means to put up a happy front for everyone… even ourselves. And so we try to numb those feelings, but we cannot selectively numb “[because] when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness… and then we’re miserable.”

So I went through an emotional breakdown and cried and deleted my evil social media apps and shut out all my friends. But the thing is I didn’t feel any better. I still walked around trying to stop my cracks from deepening, and I struggled with it long enough to know my way wouldn’t work until I brought back the evil apps and talked to someone. And that’s exactly what I did. By opening up to someone else, I revealed another part of myself and learned a bit more about them. My feelings weren’t abnormal. My sadness was shared by many others. In my vulnerability I had connected. In connecting I allowed myself more joyful emotions.

Put into perspective, we can begin to appreciate the masterpiece that is Pixar’s Inside Out. Our mantra may be simple: sadness is negative emotion; happiness is positive emotion.  So when the photographer asks us to stare at the camera, he demands a smile before clicking the shutter button, adding to our belief that to immortalize this emotion is better than to do the other. But in truth sadness need not be the opposite of happiness; sometimes it could be another path to happiness.

The most interesting image I have of myself is an ‘accidental’ photo over three years old. Clad in a red tank top, hands clasped beneath jaw and eyes staring down a table, I’m the perfect image of disappointed. It’s still one of my favourite pictures, not just for its authenticity, but because every day it reminds me that we are a ball of emotional energy—not just happy ones, but sad, vulnerable, weak, crazy energy, and it’s okay to share those too.

 

Image: Instagram @Anapuzar

 

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Saints. Sinners. Standards. Sex.

For some time now I have told my friends how much of a hermit I’ve been. Well today I crawled out of the real-world cave, visited the internet and came upon a post on twitter. Now this post isn’t something new, it’s not even something fresh, but it brought to mind again a certain trend that’s weighed heavily on my heart.

Let’s start with some background information.

moral choice. right or wrong

I’ve realised that people like to look for a piece of them in others. Perhaps this is some way our minds build connections– kindred spirits– and makes it easier to bond with others with whom we share similar behavior. For instance, people who consider themselves ‘bad’ (sinners) will likely bond with other people who share an atom of ‘bad’ traits with them. Likewise goody-two-shoes (saints) tend to attach themselves to people who are like them. We’re looking for something identifiable– markers perhaps that assures us we are not among strangers.

There is a twist though; it’s almost a bit of fairytale stuff. Sinners who tend to become attracted to Saints often try to change them. And vice versa. While the latter is queerly acceptable for reasons of making people the best version of themselves if they choose, the same cannot be said for the former.

Now about that trend I talked about earlier, there have been discussions ongoing on forums about women sexuality. For some  reason there seems a consensus that women who aren’t virgins should not deny sex to their boyfriends. There’s also another that women who claim virgins are most likely lying about it. I have some difficulty wrapping my head around this.

Where does a person’s choice to change come in?

When a woman declines sex, what has the state of her vagina got to do with it?

Should a person desirous of leading a different lifestyle after years of living in a moral cesspit be denied?

I  understand that morality for people is subjective, dependent to a large extent on religious doctrines, laws of the state, social influence and intuition, but the drastic decline is troubling. It’s like we’re telling one another, once a sinner always a sinner, refusing to acknowledge that anything good can come out something once terrible.

I believe in change. I believe that people have some inherent goodness awaiting discovery. And I know there exists some who cannot believe in themselves until someone does.

So why won’t we allow those who have been brave enough to cross the threshold from Sinner to Sainthood lead a new life? It’s like praying a person turns around from their ways with an eye shut, while keeping the other open hoping that they’ll slip. It doesn’t add up.

Define your choices,  hold yourself accountable to your standards. And then hold everyone else to it.

What a person chooses becomes their new marker; their new identifier. I do not mean that the past dissolves into nothingness, no. If that happened there’ll be no lessons learnt from our poor choices. But people should be allowed to be. If she says no sex, don’t go wondering why you shouldn’t eat from her honey-pot because some guy who was a product of her erratic behavior ate from it. We need to learn to respect choices. It’s disturbing when a man asks this virginity question…  Seriously again, what has the state of her vagina got to do with anything?!

This is for young women out there because I am one and can write from the shoe that hurts me. Virginity is a good thing. Awesome.  But it’s not everything. Aside keeping yourself for so long, it’s important you know why you have kept yourself for so long:

Is it supposed play as an advantage in the dating pool?

Are you waiting for that special man?

Do you think it’s wrong because God said so?

Define your choices,  hold yourself to your standards. And then hold everyone else to it.

quotes on morality and choice

If you’ve been sexually active and choose to become inactive, then this is your new standard. Ignore whatever silly people out there say. I don’t know if it’s called revirginization, but don’t let anyone make you feel like you have to become less than you’ve chosen simply because it makes you look cool and makes them feel good.  The relationships you keep should edify not cause you to stumble again (Of course same goes for the guys).

In favor of men who are skeptical about the virginity proclamation, it’s difficult to entirely blame them when some women have turned this age-old sign of virtue to a get-out-of-jail card. When a reason becomes old it simply becomes impossible to accept it as valid. Don’t be liars. Virginity is not an free pass. It’s not your key to the world and really it takes just a well placed sex organ to lose it. What should count is your word and choice– after all it is your body and you own exclusive rights to it. Don’t go about allowing people make you defend your decision to deny intimacy.

Pearls should not be given to Pigs because they’ll trample on it, completely ignorant of its worth

To those in search of a morally pristine being, at the very least make certain you’re pristine enough and worthy of them. It’s hypocrisy to want something you’re not desirous of being. A bit of biblical wisdom here, pearls should not be given to Pigs because they’ll trample on it, completely ignorant of its worth. If you’re in search of something more down-to-earth then there are those available too, but allow the people who wish to crossover do so in peace without pressure.

Here is one thing I do believe though: If there is a God in heaven he’ll give to everyone exactly as they deserve.

 

Image: Google Images

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Talk about the old ways: the era of tea parties, balls, sitting on the porch, picnics, moonlight games in the village square, pen pals, letter writing or carting a journal around and talking. Yes, talking. Continue reading