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A Live Happier Red Flag: I SHOULD be happy

One of the biggest red flags to me is when someone says, I should be happy….

It is one of the statements I hear most often in my work:

“I should be happy….

…I have a good paying job”

…I have decent benefits”

…I just had a baby”

…I have a great husband”

…I live in my dream home”

When we say the phrase, “I SHOULD be happy” is usually means 1 of 2 things.

First Option:

You are convincing yourself that you SHOULD be happy based on someone else’s definition of happiness.  The fact that someone else told you this is the perfect job or benefits are key to all of life or what a dream home is suppose to look like. So you in an effort to live up to someone else’s standard of what happiness is are convincing yourself that you are really happy with that aspect of your life.  In this option, when we say, “I should be happy” we are attempting to convince ourselves of something that isn’t true for us.  So it is important to do a real sincere gut check when we hear that phrase and ask ourselves:

  • According to what standards should I be happy?
  • Am I living life by my standards and values or someone else’s?
  • Are there changes I need to make to live more inline with what I intend for my life?

Second Option:

You are living in the messy; you are holding two very different truths and it is really uncomfortable.

  • You have a good paying job AND it isn’t really what you want to do.
  • You have decent benefits AND you are starting to wonder if it is worth the sacrifice for good benefits.
  • You just had a baby that you love and adore AND it is hard being a new parent.
  • Your husband is fantastic AND sometimes it is hard to live with another person.
  • You have your dream house AND it has a lot of work to do.

One of the many mysteries of life that I am most struck by is the eternal blend of positive and negative.  The idea that life will forever be messy, no matter how much we strive to have it tied up in a neat little bow, there will always be tragedy and joy intermixed together.  Getting comfortable with these two ends of the continuum and bringing them closer together is a life long process.

When we are saying, “I should be happy” in an effort to convince ourselves to suck it up, forget the challenges and just look at the positive, we can run ourselves ragged.  It is important to embrace the mess. To give ourselves a break and to perpetually balance between giving thanks and recognizing that sometimes even if we WANT something with all our hearts it is still challenging.

We can love and appreciate something or someone AND be challenged by them too. When we start ‘shoulding’ on ourselves as a way to forgo the negative feelings we will not only miss the negative feelings but the positive ones too.  It may sound counterintuitive but by relaxing into the mess we get to the joy much faster.  Relax into the mess:  take 3 deep breathes, talk to a friend, admit you are struggling and participate in activities you love.  By being honest with what is really going on you will be better able to fully engage your life, and embrace the mess of it all.

So the next time you start saying “I should be happy” stop and ask yourself–what is really going on here?  Am I living by someone else’s standards and/or am I avoiding the messiness of life?


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