How much happiness is acceptable?
Recently got fired for being unhappy. While this may sound ridiculous and far-fetched, it's the truth. I have had a rough couple of months. From an avoidable loss that left me grieving quietly, to a health crisis I couldn’t quite understand, everything seemed to be happening to me at the same time.
During the exit interview conducted by the company’s HR, she said
“you are quite competent but too moody. You are not happy all the time, this is why we are letting you go.”
This threw me off as I first found it ludicrous that a person expected another human being that lives in one of the worst cities to live in the world, to go about smiling like a cheerful clown.
While I believe that they reserve the right to want their employees to act in a certain way at all times, especially customer-facing employees, I was not in any way affecting productivity or having any contact with clients and customers. Also, not for one day, did any member of management bother to ask me why I was “moody”. But this is not the reason for this article.
The idea that people should always be smiling to show their state of mind is happy is flawed and needs to be dumped in the trash can of faulty generalizations. The face is a mask, and people have learned to craft it to be occasion appropriate artfully. Thus, a person could be as sad, bitter, and angry as a volcano, but once they have a smile on their face, we assume everything is fine, and keep it moving.
This goes ahead to explain a lot of cases that keep springing up, where you would see a person seemingly living their best life today, and then proceed to jump off a bridge the next day. What changed?
We have grown so used to masking pain and smiling through it, that attempting to show you are in pain, is perceived as a sign of weakness. Appearing vulnerable is now equated with poor performance.
While stoicism is a virtue we all hope to achieve, we mustn’t sacrifice the essence of being human on the altar of competence. In recent times, especially during and after the pandemic, more attention has been drawn to mental health and how much it affects us. These were discussions we felt were unnecessary, or made a person look lazy and incompetent.
The pandemic made us all understand that there were facets of our everyday lives we ignored because we were too busy to pause and pay attention to them. So, when COVID made us pause and examine these facets of our existence, a vast majority of humanity found themselves grappling for answers they thought they had.
So many people were in relationships they knew to be unhealthy but were too scared or busy to sit down and process their emotions. So when it comes down to finally getting the essence of what their relationships should be, they were left with nothing.
How much happiness is acceptable at every point in time? Is it acceptable to allow ourselves to be sad? Why is a blank face something that makes people uncomfortable?
There is something called the resting bitch face (RBF). This refers to when a person’s blank stare looks dour and gives the person an unapproachable aura. It’s been discovered that most often, people with RBF are not unhappy or upset as their facial expressions would make you believe, but they are instead just chilling with their thoughts.
This is where a self-aware person is expected to be sensitive enough to ask questions, instead of jumping to conclusions from a tower of assumptions. Everyone is experiencing life in their way, they experience a spectrum of emotions that they can’t explain so easily most times.
This would make it the height of insensitivity for anyone to expect everyone to respond or react to whatever they are experiencing in the way you feel is acceptable. This is impossible.
No amount of happiness is enough.