It’s hard to pull up Facebook these days without being accosted by status updates filled with lists of things that one is grateful for. Sometimes these lists are propelled by a challenge of “100 Happy Days” or “50 Days of Gratitude.” Sometimes they are long-winded paragraphs that often feel rather…intimate. Sometimes it’s a quick sentence, punctuated with the obligatory hashtag – #blessed.
It’s hard not to wonder – are these people really having 100 happy days in a row? Are their hearts truly swelling with gratitude for almost two months straight? I find that somehow difficult to believe; after all, we’re only human, and we’re faced with a host of different emotions every day, sometimes every hour.
Furthermore, why is there such a need to showcase one’s gratitude? It’s almost a step beyond the mundane status updates that sometimes warrant eye rolls. I’d rather see a gym post than someone write “So grateful for my hubby and soul mate!” Seriously, give me an elliptical dashboard pic over the publicized love notes any day. Gratitude, as an emotion, is just so personal. There’s a strong discomfort that comes with reading some of these statuses, almost as though the person is standing atop a roof with a megaphone to yell about the people they love, when it should really be done in a whisper.
These kinds of proclamations make you wonder – what is the intent behind it? If you want to express feeling thankful for your best friend, why not just tell her? Why tell your 1,200 Facebook friends?
The answer to this question, is, of course – pressure.
We see everyone else doing this – oversharing, vomiting their emotions onto their touch-screens, screaming out declarations of love that deserve a softer voice – and we feel like we need to do it too. We are duped into thinking that we always need to be grateful for something, as though the idea of reveling in a bad day or dwelling on a pang of sadness is somehow less than acceptable.
If you go to Barnes & Noble, or even browse the iTunes app store, you can find an abundance of “gratitude journals” – notebooks or virtual equivalents that prompt you to write daily about the things you are thankful for. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s a way to balance perspective and to also keep good thoughts in your head. The problem starts when this type of thinking is used as a crutch, or as a way to compartmentalize emotions.
For example, if you’re constantly forbidding your heart from feeling sad simply because “there’s so much to be grateful for” – that’s not healthy. If you’re chastising yourself for getting grumpy about a frustrating day because “other people have it worse,” you’re merely invalidating your own feelings.
Part of being human is embracing all of our emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s okay to cry when you break up with someone, or if your boss is treating you badly at work. It’s okay to be frustrated when there’s a lot of traffic and you’re just trying to get to your doctor’s appointment. It’s okay to not have 100 happy days in a row – in fact, it’s probably better that way. You’re living, you’re feeling everything – and that includes the unpleasant twinges, the anxiety, the doubt.
If you’re hiding behind a mask of faux-thankfulness, eventually that façade is going to crumble. It’s only a matter of time. You can keep hashtagging “blessed,” or you can start giving yourself permission to feel it all. Your choice.