The idea that happiness is something you can simply “choose” to be at any given point is such bullshit, dangerous advice. It undermines the process that many people have to go through in order to even have the luxury of choosing to be happy. Many people are imbued with fear, toxic beliefs, past pain, and, while I believe there is a moment that you must choose to make your life better, you can’t just wake up every day and choose to be happy. You will be ignoring the fundamental growth that is necessary for a true happy existence. Simply ignoring anything other than happiness within yourself is delusional at best and incredibly unhealthy at worst. You can’t be expected to just smack a smile on your face and, poof, all your woes, troubles, and very real emotions just float away into a cloud of rainbows. This is not how life works. This is not how healing works. This is counter to almost every text you can read about spiritual growth and true inner peace. This is not how you build a life upon a strong foundation.
You can call this cynical, but I know firsthand that there is no glory or real joy in deluding yourself enough to actually believe that happiness is a matter of choice. This toxic advice that is spewed out on quotes via Pinterest or Facebook is also deeply rooted in shame. If you are the kind of person—also known as a human being—who cannot simply choose to be happy, then you might wonder if there is something wrong with you. You might feel ashamed that, while everyone is just choosing! happy! thoughts! you’re sludging through your past wounds in order to heal and purify them. This is a slippery road, telling people to choose happiness, as if it is really that easy and simple.
Now, I believe in the power of choice. I believe that people can choose to see any situation through the lens of fear or love and that whichever lens is chosen very much dictates that person’s emotional state. I believe that. I believe you can synthesize your thoughts and that you have much more control over your well-being and emotional response to life than most people will ever understand or give credence to. I have seen in my own life the redeeming power of choice, that I feel powerless and small when I give that choice to someone else, when I let their opinion or beliefs about me override my own. It is powerful to wake up every day and make a choice to: grow, heal, avoid the temptation to distract away necessary emotions, to confront your life instead of escape your life, to be self-aware even when—and especially when—it’s difficult to do so.
All that being said, none of those choices amount to happiness on a consistent basis. There are certain things in life you can control, the most important being what you choose to believe about yourself and the world. You can wield your own thoughts to your benefit. The only thing that brings people any sort of emotional pain is their belief or thought about the situation. Change your thoughts, change your life. This is Truth.
Imagine you believe that romantic love is difficult and requires a strong sense of self before entering into that sort of commitment. Furthermore, imagine you believe that there is divine timing when it comes to romantic love and that it will happen as it is meant to, when it is meant to, and in the way it is meant to. You would work on yourself and prepare yourself for such a sacred partnership. You would not feel envious toward other relationships or feel like it’s never going to happen for you. You would not ascribe your loneliness to lack of romantic love, because you would know that your loneliness has very little to do with how many people are around you, but has everything to do with your own thoughts about your loneliness. If you did not believe being alone was sad, you would not feel sad.
The choice is in choosing to change the BELIEF, not outright choosing the EMOTION. This is a seemingly small distinction, but an important one. Every day, you can choose to know yourself better and to untangle beliefs that are preventing you from peace, joy, happiness, and pure love. You can find the common threads in your belief system and pull at them, examine them, and let them go once they are healed. You can make sense of a chaotic mind by quieting it enough to hear that calm voice of truth. These are actions you can choose to take. These are real things you can actually do in your life to bring you closer to peace, joy, happiness, and pure love. You cannot be expected to wake up every day and eschew away your very real beliefs, your very real emotional responses to those beliefs, and your very real resistances to examining those emotional responses to those beliefs and just… BE HAPPY. It’s delusional. It takes too much denial, the kind of denial that will surface one day in the future and wreck your life in a way that is not worth it for a fake sense of happiness.
Many people might view this stance as cynical. Anything beyond THINK POSITIVE ALL THE TIME AND NEVER TALK ABOUT ANYTHING BUT JOYFUL THINGS is viewed as cynical to many people. That’s their battle to fight, not mine. I’m not here to spew out tired cliches and bullshit advice that does nothing but make you feel worse about yourself. I thought for many years that choosing happiness was simple and that I was just broken, only to find out that the limited scope of that advice was the broken part. I may not be happy all the time, but I am emotionally strong. I am not in fear every moment. I do not let automatic beliefs about myself dictate my life. I examine my thoughts. I question myself and the world around me. And, while it might not bring me a false sense of happiness on a day to day basis, it brings me a far purer form of peace, love, joy, and happiness.
But, my goal is not—and has never been—everlasting and every moment happiness. I want to heal and grow and continue to learn more about myself and the world. These things do not promote happiness, nor do they promote comfort. In order to keep growing and evolving, you must be willing to withstand the process of growth and evolvement. It’s worth it, but it’s not easy.
Which brings me to something else entirely: why do we always so desperately desire the easiest, most pain-free, comfortable route? Nothing inspiring has ever started with the desire for the easiest route of least resistance. Nothing big has ever happened within the confines of comfort. No big life has existed within a small box, a delusional happiness, and the absence of growth. There is more, there is always more. And that is the power of your choice. You get to choose more. You get to decide, for yourself, what you will settle for and what you will reach for. You get to choose whether you will confine yourself to a small life of reaching only for happiness or a big life of unknowns, uncertainties, and the distant—yet intoxicating hope—that there is a bigger feeling than happiness, a feeling you have yet to discover, but choose to tirelessly and emphatically seek.