We can’t control our emotions, so why do so many of us berate ourselves for not being happy 24/7? Here’s how to cope with being an ‘emotional perfectionist’.
If there’s one thing most people want out of life, it’s to be happy. That happiness might look different for everyone – for some, it could come from success at work, while for others, it might be related to a specific relationship – but at the end of the day, everyone wants to spend their life feeling pleased with their lot.
For some people, however, this desire to be happy has become more of a need than a want. Fuelled by a surge in self-improvement content on social media, happiness has become almost like a status symbol. And as a result, many of us have come to see being unhappy or sad as some kind of personal failure rather than what it actually is: an inevitable part of being human.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to boost your mood when you’re feeling a bit down. But feeling as if you need to try and be happy all the time isn’t just an unachievable goal – it could also make you feel worse in the long run.
That’s according to Sharnade George, a therapist, writer and founder of the online therapy directory Cultureminds Therapy. George describes this modern urge to be happy 24/7 as a kind of ‘emotional perfectionism’ – and warns that trying to avoid ‘negative’ emotions such as anger and sadness isn’t just unrealistic, but it can stop you from confronting issues in your life.
“Always wanting to feel a certain emotion – happiness, in this case – often means you lack an understanding of the value other emotions can offer,” George explains. “Every single negative emotion is a sign pointing towards a problem that needs your attention.”
As well as this, George explains, putting pressure on yourself to be happy all the time can ironically lead you to get “stuck in a negative state of wanting to be perfect,” and leave you feeling guilty for experiencing a completely normal and healthy range of emotions, whether that’s anger, sadness, fear or disgust.
While there’s no quick fix for unpicking emotional perfectionism, George says there are some things you can do to slowly unravel your attitude – starting with some emotional reflection.
“There are a number of ways for you to improve if you struggle with emotional perfectionism,” she explains. “For example, you could try to take some time to really feel and get to know your emotions, and notice how they feel in your body.
“You could also practise describing your emotions out loud or writing them down to help you reflect on how you feel – and if you’re struggling, you could find a therapist who can help you to take these steps.”
Dealing with emotional perfectionism may not be a big deal in the short term, but it’s clear that forcing yourself to be happy 24/7 can have bigger consequences further down the line.
It’s completely normal to experience all kinds of emotions on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis – and at the end of the day, denying yourself the chance to feel those feelings is only going to make you feel worse.
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