“I am known as Smiley by my work colleagues because I am always smiling, they really have no idea that I am struggling. I’m scared people will notice and not accept me when I am physically showing emotions other than happiness. How should I deal with this?”
This is a great question, and something I think many people struggle with even if they don’t have an eating disorder.
The first thing to realize about the state of happiness is that it is a state. Nobody is happy all the time, and nobody expects you to be.
There are lots of truly happy people out there who live satisfying lives but are not necessarily happy or in a good mood all the time. We place a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to act in ways that please others.
After all, nobody wants to be the office grouch, but it is ok to be genuine when you don’t feel like smiling.
Trust me; I know just how exhausting it is to put on a façade of happiness when you are actually suffering on the inside.
Throughout my entire battle with bulimia I maintained a ‘happy-go-lucky’ attitude when around others, but really felt down most of the time.
Three things you need to know about this situation are:
1. People’s expectations of you are never what they seem.
You probably feel tremendous pressure to act happy all the time. If you came to work feeling sad, I think that people would be concerned, but not disappointed in you. Their opinion of you will not change.
We place so much pressure on ourselves to hide our emotions, when the truth is that people will love and respect you regardless of feeling down or sad at times.
2. Nobody is happy all the time, not even happy people.
In recovery, I’ve found happiness that I didn’t have before. I’ve become more optimistic than ever. I truly believe that each day is a gift. I meditate, eat intuitively and feel adventurous.
Even with all these new amazing things going for me, I still feel down sometimes. I get stressed out every now and then and I get upset about things too. The greatest happiness lies in being authentic about all of those emotions.
3. People know when you aren’t being real with them.
As I recovered, I started receiving compliments that I looked happier, well-rested and even ‘glowing.’
While I was suffering from an eating disorder, I never received compliments like that. People began to notice that my energy had changed. I was genuinely happy, not fake happy.
No matter how much I smiled before, people still knew that something wasn’t quite right. You can force a smile, but you can’t fake genuine happiness.
You probably don’t realize it, but people can tell the difference between a forced and an authentic smile. While you don’t want to sulk or bring others down, its ok to admit that you are having a tough time.
People will respect you for your honesty and you will feel better about being genuine.
I hope this helps a little.
Just remember that most of the pressure we feel from others, we have actually placed on ourselves.
To your recovery, Jen Kneabel Recovery Coach BulimiaHelp.org