No One Likes a Happy Girl

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

“Your blog is so positive now.”

She didn’t mean it as an insult, or even a compliment, really. She was just stating a fact, one I should have been glad to hear since I’ve made a conscious decision to focus on positivity online and in life. But I cringed.

Comments about being positive or happy quite often trigger a bizarre defensive reaction in me. I assume my sincerity is being questioned and worry that an upbeat outlook is annoying. No one, I fear, likes a happy girl.

Of course, that’s not true. I, for one, love a happy girl. I like being happy more than I liked being unhappy. I prefer happy people to miserable company. Incessant snark makes me weary.

But that doesn’t seem to be the norm. In our collective minds, reality has become intrinsically linked with disappointment and tragedy. A happy ending is dismissed as being too unlike real life, too idealistic to be believable. The happiest girl in the room is mocked for being too perky, too out of touch, too fake to connect with.

“Something’s just not right,” we say. “I don’t trust anyone that’s happy all the time.”

I’m haunted by my own words now, my own mistrust of pleasant people. Surely, I believed, all that smiling and positive talk was covering up an ugly truth – a truth more like the reality with which I was familiar.

No one, I was sure, likes a happy girl.

But I am happy.

The defense leaps to my lips and my fingertips the instant I hear or read an observation on my — or anyone’s — cheerful tone. I am happy. I’m not lying. My need to convince is startling and rings my own warning bells. Am I really? Am I hiding? Am I covering up the grittiness of living?

The truth is that I am not happy all the time. No one is. I have just decided that I will focus more on the moments of joy than on the moments of despair. I will feed the fire of bliss and starve the inner gremlin of fear. I will cry when I need to cry, but I will make note of laughter knowing that we multiply what we celebrate.

The reality is that happiness is not always easy. It is easier to slip into commiseration and biting quips. There is camaraderie to be found in picking at oneself and on one another. Sinking into pettiness is effortless, while choosing a smile can require force.

But it is, I believe, a force for good.

I chose to start writing about happiness because this is a permanent mark I’m leaving on the world. My words, both spoken and written, have an impact. They affect me and those closest to me. They add to the overall color of who we are. For better or worse, whichever I choose, they matter.

No, life is not always easy. It is filled with tragedy as well as joy, a fact I’m as familiar with as anyone. I know death and loss and grief. I know heartbreak and bad decisions. I know sorrow of my own making and devastation beyond my control. And that, perhaps, is why I’ve chosen an active pursuit of happiness.

No one likes a happy girl, except for other happy girls and boys, men and women who are not ignorant of the ways of the world but who choose to court joy instead of defeat. It is from them that I want to learn, with them that I want to paint my legacy. I want not only to find happiness, but to be comfortable with it, confident in it, and completely unafraid of who does or does not like a happier me.

And so I will continue to smile, despite my fears and insecurities.

Because I love a happy girl.

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  1. Elaine says:

    I read this and then I scrolled back up to the picture of you with that big, awesome smile on your face. I love the happy girl you are too. And your words here are inspiring.

    I am not happy all the time either, I am human after all. But I’m generally a happy and positive person and I like me that way. We need more of that in this world. Glad you’re in my camp. :)

  2. Nicole says:

    I love this post, Britt! I kept nodding my head like a little bobble-head doll. I’m a happy person, too. I wasn’t always this way and it’s taken a lot of personal growth to just choose to be happy. I’ve lost friends because of it, but it’s okay because I’ve also gained friends that appreciate my joy. But you are so right! People get annoyed that I’m happy- like I need to have misery in my life. Sure, I still find myself crawling down the path to the “old” me sometimes and you know what? People love it! I have actually stopped myself from talking and excused myself mid-story because I don’t like what I”m hearing come out of my mouth. I love that I can do that now.

    Wow, I hope that made sense. That was a ramble of a whole bunch of thoughts coming out at once. :)

  3. Jennifer says:

    It’s not that we don’t like happy people; we’re just jealous that we can’t be like them.

    My problem is that sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy. In the past couple months, I feel like I can’t talk about all the good things in my life because a lot of my friends are having so many troubles. I have a friend who’s husband is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. He is in so much pain and fighting for his life at such a young age. I feel like I can’t talk about my happiness because I don’t want to belittle her situation. “I’m sorry about your husband but things are going great for me.” I know that a true friend will be happy for you even when they are down but it still feels like I shouldn’t talk about myself. So, I’ve been bursting with joy and have no one to share it with.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Oh, man. That would be rough. Everyone deserves to have someone to share their happiness with – even if one friend maybe isn’t the easiest. I would think your mom and dad, at least, would love to hear it!

  4. Robin says:

    No one likes a happy girl, except for other happy girls and boys, men and women who are not ignorant of the ways of the world but who choose to court joy instead of defeat. It is from them that I want to learn, with them that I want to paint my legacy. I want not only to find happiness, but to be comfortable with it, confident in it, and completely unafraid of who does or does not like a happier me.

    Truer words have never been spoken. Life is too short to not keep learning.

  5. I love this post, especially the part that Robin shared, above.
    I have found the same thing, in regards to Happy loving Happy. And yet I struggle when Not-Happy brings me down a notch and wonder if I’m not realistic. We recently did a strengths test for one of my classes and it’s changed my life. My 2nd to highest strength is positivity. My teacher explained that it doesn’t mean I’m a Pollyanna all the time, it’s just that I truly see the good in everyone and every situation and focus on it.
    Still trying to wrap my head around that – because I certainly have my doubts on the daily – though they are becoming less and less influential on me, as I gain a different kind of confidence I’ve never had before. (I’m having a really hard time articulating exactly how I feel, but I’m trying!)
    I’m so glad you’re happy. It’s a truly wonderful thing to watch a friend that you care about so much, follow her dreams and hold her life gently in the palms of her hands – gently because she knows exactly how precious it is. Britt – you’re amazing. <3

  6. Nyt says:

    I don’t think that people dislike happy people, I think they dismiss them.

    I am a happy person, but I’m also human. Being human means that there are days where I must actively seek the “happy”. Days where I must make the choice to be happy. For me, those who claim to have the “happy” all day every day seem one-dimensional to me. I know the work that I put in, I know that “happy” is something that must be cultivated and nurtured. I’m a process kind of person. The means is just as important as the end. The declarations of the perpetually “happy” to me, are like reading the last page of a novel without reading the rest. It’s a happy ending, but why? To me, without the process, without the substance, the perpetually happy are inspiring in the same way an advertisement is… sure it looks good, but of course it’s been airbrushed, staged, and scripted.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’ve never met anyone who claims to be happy all day every day, but I’ve met a lot of people who SEEM to be happy all the time from the outside looking in, just because that’s what they focus on. I think I’d be creeped out by someone who claimed to really never have to CHOOSE to be happy in the face of some serious life crap.

  7. Nanna says:

    Ah, see, and I ASSUME that the happy people have their own story, just like any of us. Some of the most amazing people I have ever met have been the nursing instructors I’ve had in the last few years, and these aren’t kids. They are women who have had big time losses, cancers, widowhood, etc. And they have said – each one, separately – that they learned to seek the positive, and celebrate the bliss. So I never see happy people as fake. I see them as having come through some fire and earned a rare gem. Except, really, it’s not all that rare.

    • Nyt says:

      Respectfully, I never said anyone was fake. I actually said that I see the perpetually happy as one-dimensional. Just as I perceive the perpetually unhappy as one-dimensional. I think it’s wonderful that people choose to celebrate the bliss and seek the positive, but, for me, the journey and the process is what gives it dimension. Yes, everyone has gone through trials in life, and many make the choice to embrace the positive. It’s that active choice that happens daily, in the face of whatever challenges, that adds a layer of credibility to the perpetually happy and makes people want to emulate that same behavior.

      • Miss Britt says:

        I think, perhaps, the difference is that some people assume there is an underlying story/active choice – even if they don’t see it – and some people need to see proof in order to trust that the work has taken place.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think you have more faith in people than anyone I’ve ever met.

  8. Cat says:

    “I will cry when I need to cry, but I will make note of laughter knowing that we multiply what we celebrate.”
    I love this. It is so true- happiness can be hard work sometimes. Sometimes it is easy, magical. Some days, I have to really look for it, struggle to find the things to be grateful for rather than the things to complain about. I think this is so important- to celebrate and honor when we possibly can. It doesn’t just change us- it changes the world around us.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m really grateful for the weekly practice of doing my “Happiness Highlights” on this blog. Some weeks I reallllly need that extra push to look for the good.

  9. Debra says:

    I love this post. I’ve had similar conversations with some of my friends.

    “You’re so happy.” — not said as a compliment or in a ‘way to go’ kind of way. Though I’m not sure what they mean by it, I always assume they mean for me to either cut it out or dial it back. I usually respond with a “Yes, and why aren’t you?” People who prefer to wallow in the muck of misery mystify me.

    Sure, life is hard and disappointing and sad and tear-inducing but sometimes? It is downright glorious. We should celebrate those moments more often.

    You go, happy girl!

  10. I see you writing this with a furrowed brow, but a twinkle in your eye … its good to go thro hard times and come out the other side – happy. Appreciating the good we have and learning to focus on it each and every day. I too, choose to be happy. I can only listen to the negatives for so long and then try and steer the conversation away – there is no good to come from it.
    There is a difference between real misery and griping – and I will be there for anyone who needs me. But the day to day griping, backbiting … count me out.
    I’d rather face the world head on with joy – and you.
    So glad we met :)

  11. Kristin says:

    I love this post! I have many of the same thoughts! I loved seeing you guys so happy!

  12. daniel says:

    Good for you. I might be more than making up for you lack of grump lately, so keep your light shining. The world needs more light.

  13. Sarah says:

    You are so, so right! Unhappy people get mad when other people aren’t unhappy too. But you can’t fix them to be happy like you, and they don’t have the right to try to “fix” you to be like them.

  14. Cindy says:

    I used to think the same way. I am the Pollyanna of the blog world. I am disgusting. There was a time when I most definitely was not Polly and the blog was a reflection of that. It was ugly and it made me feel ugly. I post positive and happy now because that’s the person I’d rather be. I have my bad days. I don’t post on those days. There’s enough crap out there. It’s our job to balance the scales, maybe even tip them.

  15. Angela says:

    So true! I am trying to be positive and grateful as much as possible now. I have heard the same, “no one’s that happy all the time”. I think there is a time and place to share our grumps, to acknowledge them. However, spending too much time in those places just isn’t helpful-for me at least. I think it’s true that we make the world with our thoughts and deeds. Thanks for this happy post!

    • Miss Britt says:

      There absolutely is a time and place. I have to admit I didn’t always put much thought into where or when that was and just unloaded wherever and whenever I wanted! The results were not so hot…

  16. Corri C says:

    I think that under the idea that a happy girl can’t be that happy, is a general wish that we were that happy. But what so many of us aren’t taught as children is that most of happy is a choice. Sadness, fear, anger, often are thrust upon us. Happy takes work and most of all deciding. But it multiplies and ends up being life changing. This is not something we can teach but only show.

    And in the end, I’d rather annoy others with my upbeat attitude, than annoy myself and bring others down without it.

  17. As a fellow happy girl (who often is questioned over said happiness) I LOVE this post. Thank you for writing it.

  18. Hockeymandad says:

    We were always happy when in the company of you and your family!

    I think people that get upset with happy people while they are down is out of jealousy. You could try to console them, but unless you are a best friend they won’t listen because they are too self centered and closed off to anyone outside of themselves to let anything in. Either that or they simply choose to dwell in a negative place because they enjoy sympathetic attention. We all go through highs and lows but they is to not shut out those in the highs when you are low. The highs of others can rub off and help your own lows. Like Tylenol or something, it won’t fully fix your problems, but it might just help get you started in the right direction. Misery loves company, but happiness is what they all truly seek.

    For what it’s worth, I really like the happier you. But I also really liked the “less” happier you as well. Perhaps that’s biased because I consider you my friend. So I accept all versions, but I have to admit I like this version a tad better. ;)

  19. Megan says:

    Perpetually unhappy people wear me out, which is one of the main reasons I want to leave my job right now – there’s a black cloud over this building and it’s sucking me dry. I’ll take happy any day of the week. It’s hard to be creative around a bunch of Debbie Downers.

    Did you take that picture? Gorgeous!

  20. I love this. Grab on to the happy and don’t let go. There’s plenty of misery to pick up like a cheap whore…happiness has to be wooed.

  21. Lisa says:

    I had a friend tell me “I need you to tell me the bad things so I know your life isn’t perfect. Because you always say everything’s great and that makes me feel bad.”

    I’m not as close as I used to be to this person because someone who needs to see my misery to make themselves feel better isn’t a friend. I choose to project happiness because you get back what you focus on. Of course my life isn’t perfect, but there are parts of it I really love and that’s what gets my attention.

    I love that you are loving your life. I love reading about your happiness updates. I think it has helped me look more toward the positive things that have happened in my week as well. Rock on with your happy self!

  22. as you know, i’m naturally happy, content and upbeat. it never dawned on me to question whether or not people considered it annoying that i like to smile, that i always initially see the good in people, that i consider myself insanely blessed. sure, i have troubles and heartaches, but i prefer to concentrate on the good. maybe it is because *i* know that i have downs that i just didn’t care if every last person knows of them. not that i am hiding anything, but more that i prefer to talk about the ups because it feels better. i deal with the downs, yet concentrate on the ups.

    my entire life i have had some incredible friends so i guess what i want to say is why worry if people that question our sincerity or assume our upbeat outlook is annoying? there are PLENTY who not only like, but downright love a happy girl. those who don’t can stick with others like themselves who want to concentrate on bitching about their lives instead of appreciating them. and that is ok, too. just so long as i am not around them for extended periods of time. (see how that works? they probably don’t wanna be around me a bunch either. win for all!)

  23. the muskrat says:

    As long as it’s sincere, there’s nothing wrong with writing about being happy or finding “the happy.”

  24. hi. back again.
    today of all days a spammer commented on a post adam did for my birthday in 2009. i saw the title of the post in the emailed comment (sunda becky sunday) and went over to see why my name was mentioned (birthday!). because everyone likes to read good wishes, i read the comments. and you called me “the issueless wonder” to which i replied, “i have NEVER claimed to be issueless. fuck, quite to the contrary, i know i am fucked up!”
    anyone who KNOWS me knows me on anything other than a superficial level knows i have issues and stressers and problems, but that i am grateful for those around me who enable me to get through the not pretty stuff and back to the sunshine and rainbows and general happiness and grateful for the tools i have been provided to get through crappy moments on my own. just like friday when i came home all “blurgh!” and after eight minutes of talking to you i was all, “wahoooooo, let’s get to game night; bring on the gyros!”
    breathe in, breathe out, move on.
    i love a happy girl. especially when i am one.

    • Miss Britt says:

      One of my greatest joys in life has been getting to discover all of the depth that lies underneath your happy – especially because most layers are just as good as the before.

  25. I am all in favor of happy. In fact, I am actively working on un-following, blocking, hiding, etc. the continually grumbly voices that are creeping into my happy. I want to know if someone is hurting or has a need, sure. But constant complaint seems to be some people’s default. And I don’t need that in the background noise of my life. Way to make a conscious decision not to contribute to all that!

    • Miss Britt says:

      I need to do more of that, but I struggle because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And sometimes I think “man, I KNOW you are a smart/funny/kind person, but UGH there is a lot of negative crap coming from this direction all the time.”

  26. Chibi Jeebs says:

    After reading the post and the comments, I’m starting to *finally* realize just how much power I have over my own moods (or my outlook on life, at least) – I’ve been working on feeling my feelings, but that doesn’t mean I have to wallow in them. There’s something to be said for dusting oneself off, going “Huh. Good lesson.”, and moving on.

    • Miss Britt says:

      That is such a hard balance to find, I think – the one between acknowledging and wallowing. Because, you know, it’s not any healthier to push through stuff in the name of not being messed up. THEN you wind up in therapy with this weird headset on while your subconscious brain works through crap you’ve been trying to ignore for YEARS.

      So I’ve heard.

  27. Tara R. says:

    I’ll admit perpetually perky people get on my nerves. I perceive them as insincere. No one can be happy all the time, and for me, when someone constantly tries to see ‘the bright side,’ is not being realistic. When I do meet someone who seems to be genuinely cheerful, I want to know their secret.

    I also decided to not focus so much on troubles I’m facing in life. They are still there, but I’m not dwelling on them, trying to find more positive things to work on. I’m not a perky person, but I do try to be pleasant. Grumpy people can be even more annoying than perky ones.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think perky is more a personality trait than a life outlook, maybe, and I can get how that might not mesh with everyone. Oddly enough, I totally consider you a positive person from what I see of you online!

  28. Harmony says:

    I absolutely love this post! It rings true for me on so many levels. I’ve found that on Twitter and on blogs, a good number of people do not like my happy tweets or my blog posts; it appears that I irritate the grumpy people when I respond positively to something they have tweeted or posted that was negative or mean spirited. Because of that I decided to stay away and not comment/reply to those people. But I haven’t let them stop me from seeing the brighter side of life and working hard to see my cup as half full; I created my blog to inspire myself and others to do the same.

    I’m so glad that you’ve written this post. So fantastic.

  29. Carly says:

    Well I like you quite a lot and I’m incredibly bummed that it just isn’t in the cards right now for me to have a chance to get to know you better in person. The internet will just have to do :)

    It’s sad that this post is so true and so authentic in a universal sense. So many people do like to wallow in their disappointments and insecurities. It makes it challenging to walk a path of positivity. But then cool people like you come along and restore my faith in humanity. And inspire me to be better. I am so grateful to have met you at Podcamp.

  30. I couldn’t agree more. This is one of those posts that you read and wish you had written, ya know? I can completely relate.

    My favorite part was “Incessant snark makes me weary.” A to the men. I don’t think snarky always equals funny and I think there are a lot of people who think they are the same thing. And it makes me tired.

    There is PLENTY in my life that is crappy that I could write about, but that’s not the legacy I want to leave. Hell, it’s not even the life I want to live. There is way too much good in my life to focus on the bad! You go head girl!

  31. YES. Because the reality is that happiness is a choice, not the default. Anyone can be unhappy, and most people can be happy. I’ve lately had the very irritating experience of friends telling me that they are jealous of my happiness. Guess what? I have worked my butt off to be happy, and have made a daily choice to wallow in the good, instead of the bad!

    I’m proud of you for making that choice. It is possible to be a creative person who is still happy, and I’m so delighted to see that in you.

  32. Windy says:

    Great post! I have always said that we are all given the choice to be happy. We just often don’t make the “right” choice. Given that choice, I chose to be happy. My closest friend has told me several times that I work harder at being happy more than any other person she has ever known. Sometimes, it’s more work than others, but it’s ALWAYS worth it. It’s an easy decision, for me. I feel that my children and all the other people who bless me with their love and companionship deserve for me to choose happiness. What would it say about how I feel about them, if I chose, instead, to be miserable? I get down, like everyone else. I cry, take a hot bath, have a little chocolate and go to bed. I wake up and start the new day. Life is full of opportunities for happiness, if we just open ourselves up to them. There is nothing wrong in finding happiness in even the little things, like the store having your favorite chocolate in stock! Go on with your happiness and give a good raspberry to those who insist on burying themselves in their own misconceptions of truth and happiness!

  33. Janet says:

    hear, hear! I vastly prefer happiness over snark, drama, etc. Welcome to the other side ;-)

  34. Marta says:

    I love this. I love the permission to be happy. It’s unfortunately something we feel like we often need. No one does like a happy girl, and it’s because we’re jealous. We want it too, but don’t know how to attain it. We get so bogged down in what is wrong that it becomes impossible to see what is right. I hope when I get back to a happy place, I can remember that it’s okay to be happy. It’s good to embrace it and share it and hopefully make others happy in return!

  35. annettek says:

    I’m a perpetually positive person and I like it that way. There are many things in my live that could easily drag me down but I try not to let them. We all know that wallowing in misery is a vicious cycle, but the reverse is also true, being happy feeds on itself and brings more happy into your life. You just have to choose which way to turn.

  36. kateanon says:

    I’d be interested to know if it’s changed your online presence. I feel like a couple years ago, I wrote a little less, and lots of it was positive and happy. That was after years of a blog with negative, sad, angry things. My readership plummeted. As I’ve started griping again, it goes back up. I try to keep my blog neutral, sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it isn’t, but I wonder how it affects my writing. Misery loves company, happy posts tend to get ignored.

  37. Amber says:

    I love this post, it really resonates with me. In fact, reading it makes me (dare I say it?) HAPPY.

    Yes, life can be hard. Yes, bad things happen. But even knowing that, it’s possible to choose happiness, pursue happiness, and be happy. It’s such a gift to know that, and I wish I’d realized it far sooner in life.

  38. I was listening to NPR yesterday when Rick Steves was on and they were discussing French culture. Apparently people that smile too much are considered insincere and not all that smart. I have to say that I can see where some people may be insincere in their seeming happiness, but why discourage those that are truly happy? Why dismiss those that make that choice to see the positive when there is so much negative to drag us down? Interesting, and I love a happy girl myself. ;)

  39. [...] know how to explain why we decided to travel around the United States. I know why I choose a positive attitude over a negative one most days. But what started it all? What made me turn from not pursuing [...]

  40. [...] decision that Britt Reints made to pursue happiness also resonates with me. Her recent post about openly acknowledging and choosing happiness was simply outstanding. She wrote about the struggles that everyone faces, and the grief that life [...]

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