I Secretly Enjoy Life

A True Story:Earlier this year I was at a bachelorette party, peopled largely by ladies that I didn’t know. We engaging in some ubiquitous small talk – what do you do? how do you know the bride? isn’t it great that Pam and Jim got together? – and I asked one of the ladies if she liked her job. The response was a snort and a head toss and “Not really, but who actually likes their job?!”Um, you guys? I do. I kind of love it.

And I made the (possibly) bad decision to announce that I, in fact, loved my job. And in an effort to engender even moooore eye rolls, I felt moved to say that nobody needs to hate their job and that I thought it was possible to actually pay the bills by doing something that we liked.

So I rapidly became the least popular girl at the party and had to win my way back into their hearts with my awesome dance stylings to ‘Billy Jean.’

Why does this happen? Why is it more socially acceptable to complain about our jobs/partners/thigh-size than to talk about how much we adore our girlfriends, how great the new career path is and how pumped we are that all that yoga is finally paying off?

Of course, there is a notable difference between telling your best friend that you just bought new jeans in a smaller size and asking all of your co-workers to feel your newly defined gluts. Modesty, people. And you probably shouldn’t tell your newly-single friend that your partner? Is awesome to the Nth degree.

Be that as it may, I sometimes feel pressured to down-play my accomplishments or excitement so as not to rock the boat. And I occasionally feel that I have to keep all that Lust for Life tucked away, only to be let out in appropriate circumstances. But the self-censoring, in an effort to placate the dis-affected? I’m going to curb it a bit. Because I *love* my job. I have great friends. I have big plans that I’m excited about.

I shouldn’t be keeping The Happy a secret.

Do you ever feel pressured to downplay your accomplishments or happiness? How do you deal with it?

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  1. karli

    Sarah I feel the same and was just thinking it today.
    I love – adore- my job as a teacher.
    My family dismiss these claims despite the fact that I get such positive feedback from the kids I teach. It seems l like I should play down the joy and happiness I get from my job when in front of my friends and even some colleagues. It is a disappointing feeling, particularly when so many people never actually enjoy what they do.

  2. Lizzie

    I think sincerity is the key. If you sincerely love your life and choices and are excited to share that, then it shows and it's infectious.

    If it's not quite as sincere, it often makes me stop and wonder a little about why you would need a stranger to approve of you or your life. It smacks of desperation. (Though that sounds quite harsh). For example, Yes and Yes, sincere and infectious. Girl in pub with glazed eyes talking ten to the dozen about how great her life is going and how happy she is when we've never said more than hello before? Strange and a little desperate.

    Sincerity. If you're happy, cool. If you're not, let me know and I'll buy you a drink and let you cry on my shoulder.

  3. Geraldine

    I think sincerity is a different issue. I am sincerely happy with my relationship with my SO, but that doesn't mean I'm not insanely happy with it. So if anyone asks if I'm happy with my relationship, I gush about it, I probably come across as crazy happy, but the happiness is still sincere.

    I sometimes do feel guilty for being this happy, particularly when some of my friends are not so happy in their relationships or others just wish they had a relationship. But I don't want to feel guilty for being happy. I don't think it's something to feel guilty about, and I'm working on that.
    Sensitivity is key though. If someone is really unhappy about some aspect of their life, maybe it's better just to let them know that they can change it, that they can be happy, rather than gushing about my own happiness in the same life-aspect.

  4. erica

    Until I read this I didn't really think about it. You are SO right!

    Oh btw, I LOVED my job when I use to work. And even with being sleep deprived & a whole bunch of other unglamorous stuff I LOVE being a Mom!

    And no I do not feel obligated to say that.

  5. A-C

    I have this issue with my accomplishments. I went to a *very* good school for undergrad which just happens to be the best in the state I live in. Its also a smaller private school with a lot of out of state-rs. When I tell people I went there, well, the reaction isn't so great. I'm proud of it, I love the school, but I feel like I often have to tell people where I go to law school first (less out of state-rs and not as highly ranked) and THEN tell them about my amazing undergrad. I know I'm not bragging or making myself look smarter when I tell people my undergrad, but the image that has been conjured for them by others is too strong for them not to overlay it on me too.

  6. Sonja

    Oh, I absolutely love my job and wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Sometimes I do worry that I come off as insincere or trying to impress someone, but I generally don't worry about it.

    Fortunately, no one envies me since very few people *want* to do what I do and I work such long hours that I'm exhausted all the time. 😛

    I've found that being outrageously happy means being outrageously boring – no one wants to hear about how you love your life and your apartment and your relationship is great and your job is awesome. It's way more exciting to hear about messy lives. Like Tolstoy said: all happy families are the same.

  7. Jennifer

    I've become an advocate for positivity, and no one seems to like it. It's almost like being the know-it-all in Primary school. I know that I smile on the inside about how happy I am with my life. Since I don't have any complaints, I often don't say anything at all and try to divert the conversation to more positive grounds.

  8. Gene

    Considering that we have but one life, we can never be too happy. We can, however, be too negative and cynical. Such pessimism and cynicism only breeds more of the same, and optimism and happiness do likewise. I would advise you to never put a muzzle on your own happiness, it's yours and a good reason why so many people read this blog.

    Besides, your joy may be just the inspiration that casual acquaintance needs.

  9. Jamie Michelle

    Just keep on representing The Happy as much as possible (I love how you wrote this in all caps). Sometimes those strange looks are not a judgement about you – sometimes being happy, glowing, alive is enough to cause others to stop and think about themselves. Be true to your own Happy!

  10. Francine

    Good grief, you literally opened up my brain and projected it onto your blog.

    No one ever seems to feel happy for me for anything, they just get jealous and annoyed. It's almost like I'm not allowed to love my job or my life, and god forbid I mention something positive that happened to me.

    Good thing I don't care what they think 😉

  11. ashley.readings

    i don't love my job but i don't think that i should accept that. i'm currently looking for something that will help sustain my freelance career when things are slow but still make me happy.

    it makes me sad that people will settle for things they don't enjoy and then pretend like that's where they are supposed to be.

  12. Pic (K) Me!

    glad i found u!
    thanks for commenting my blog, which, by the way, is about to go under MASSIVE re-construction.
    hope to find u again, when its all done ..meanwhile i'll keep ur link in my faves.


  13. Ayesha

    Ah yes, I most certainly feel pressured to downplay my accomplishments or happiness. I don't even want to share my joys in life with friends because all I feel is jealousy or negativity.

    Perhaps it's because we live in a "culture of complaint". We relate to each other through sharing negativity. But relationships formed over such a bond seem awfully weak & shallow…

  14. maraluce

    great post!
    the social acceptability is probably why i've stayed miserable for so long & keen to complain about it, which is just ridiculous, i know. but now that i'm happier about things, i barely feel pressure to downplay my accomplishments or happiness. & if i do, i tend to ignore those feelings. i agree that happiness isn't something that should be kept a secret (:

  15. Genevieve

    FAB post!

  16. Erin

    Absolutely don't keep it a secret. Your Happy is contagious, and I want to catch it!

  17. Arlina

    A while back I had a complete nervous breakdown, I just fell in a heap, and as a result I haven't done all those things that someone my age (Im 21) "should" have done or been doing, my life by average standards is so unimpressive…I dont even have a job! And Im happy. And Im proud of myself for what I have accomplished. And i like who I am as a person. And I hide it all the time because people dont understand and think I should be ashamed because you cant write "emotionally honest" or "lives consciously" or "learnt joy is a choice, and chooses it regularly just because she can" on a resume or pay the bills with it.
    I continue keeping myself small playing the part of "girl with depression" that they are comfortable with and I only recently realised it and now Im working on adding "unashamedly herself" to my resume!

    Im so glad youre happy!! What a fantastic post!

  18. Vanessa

    I know I feel like this a lot when it comes to academics and intelligence. I consider myself a pretty smart person. I had a 4.0 in high school and I got in almost full ride to an expensive and pretty prestigious university. I don't feel like I struggle with most material in school, though my GPA is less than what I'd prefer due to The Most Awful First Semester of Freshman Year Ever. When I'm working in a group and people and everyone is complaining that they don't understand something, I don't like to be the one that gets it– well, I do, I just don't want to SAY it, because then I'd sound like a total tool. I don't really know why I feel like that. I remember one day in a high school English class, a girl gave me this evil look and told me I was a know-it-all and kiss-up for wanting to answer the teacher's questions. I don't think I raised my hand anymore in that class.

  19. JO

    I think sometimes it takes a while for people to find out what they really want. It's also unfortunate that people have the mindset that college is only for career preparation and nothing else–this mindset leads them into "practical" majors that lead them to "practical" jobs that don't necessarily work for their personalities or talents. So, some people put a lot of work into building a career that they can barely stand. Also, in this economy, people are taking whatever they can get. I wish there was a magic formula or exercise for figuring out what one is best suited to do. I am not in a job I love, but boy I am trying to figure that out! Good for you for knowing what you want and loving your work!


  20. happyshoes

    Yes and yes.

    I don't know, I am pretty happy with life for the most part. Sure, few things are ever perfect but it's pretty good overall and there's a lot to be happy about. I feel pumped a lot. Many people I come across don't really seem to agree so I usually keep it mostly to myself. Not sure how to handle it other than to treat others kindly in the hopes that they'll join the life love club, too.

  21. Hannah

    I came across my own moment like this a week ago. I was on campus with my friend and we were giggling about boys and such and I mentioned how amazing my legs were and instead of chiming in with her own self-love she was more "uh cocky much?". I feel like God blessed me with a good self-image and there's no need to downplay such blessings. 🙂

  22. Nahl

    You're so right…a lot of times it's socially acceptable to only complain about stuff. The moment someone says they're happy with something, they're the odd one out. That needs to go!

  23. Patricia

    I also try to avoid saying that I live abroad when I'm back home, and I avoid mentioning that I'm a physician (even to my own doctor here) because people change their attitude with you immediately after that. I do not think those things make me better than anyone, but somehow people seem to think differently about me.

  24. Danielle

    I absolutely LOVE dancing. I'm taking as many classes as I can, private lessons and just did a salsa and swing performance for my company's holiday party with a group that I put together from work. I would dance all day for a living if I could.

    When I told my mom, all she said was, "Hm." And then she changed the subject. That definitely hurt.

    I just don't understand why it's acceptable to complain about things like weight, wrinkles and your job, when there are so many more fun things to talk about. Misery loves company, I guess.

  25. Glynis

    This post=close to my heart.

    I also have a job I love, am studying things I enjoy, have great friends and yoga paying off? Soon and very soon.

    As opposed to feeling pressure to downplay the awesomeness of my work/school/life, I usually end up bragging sbout it. (To be honest, the bragging is more on the work/school side, and less on the life in general side.)I mean, I work at a theatre! I get PAID to watch opera!

    It does begin to grate on one, only ever hearing people complain. I am endeavouring to do less complaining.

  26. nifer

    Oh I know the feeling… and I hate it! Unfortunately, I usually keep my mouth shut, but I'm going to start living as you do and share my happy! After all, when I'm feeling down on my life, the last thing I want is for my friends to feel that they have to hold back their joy from me!

  27. Anonymous

    Never commented on your blog before, butt this is so true. I TOTALLY AGREE!! I'm in college now, and it seems impossible to talk with our girlfriends about the classes we're so happy we're taking, the grades we're so glad we made, or even how fun last night was or how great the guy we just met is. why is this? jealousy on the part of our friends, or too much modesty, or what? but you're right, we should all get over this habit and sometimes bask in our happiness. life is so much better that way.

  28. Sarah

    I totally understand this. I think I've accomplished a lot for only being 26 and some of my friends have not. I often feel guilty when I talk about how my day at work was awesome or what I'm doing on my house. But I try to remind myself that I worked hard to get where I'm at and shouldn't feel bad.

  29. April

    I think it's totally wrong to downplay your own happiness or successes for the mental health of others… I mean, if you show/tell someone that you are really loving life/your job, maybe that will inspire them to make the changes they need to get to that place also. When my husband and I "dropped out" a couple of years ago and decided to go this whole new direction, people were overwhelmingly supportive. I think everyone dreams of loving their job and they have a hard time hiding their jealousy when they meet someone who does, so they turn that into "doesn't everybody hate their job?" No need to rub their faces in it, if you do love your job, but maybe it's just the spark of hope they need.

  30. runningfiance

    This is a wonderful post! I have actually lost friends who "thought I was too happy." You think I'm kidding. But misery loves company and they were only happy if I was willing to complain about school, work, boys etc with them.

    I think it's a sad piece of our society that requires people to downplay themselves.

    I try to follow this…

    “Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.” M. Williamson

    Shine on, lovely lady!

  31. {Tara}

    I absolutely, 100% concur. I actually feel like I cannot, most of the time, find a single person who would want to hear me say good things about life/love/work. I even find myself complaining about something just to make the other person feel comfortable or to make sure there is something to talk about…how sad. Maybe that is why I blog?

  32. Michelle

    Totally agree. I feel weird being ultra happy about my job because it's not very impressive or anything, but I LOVE IT. I love my coworkers, I love waking up in the morning and heading to work, I even love my boss. Actually, I especially love my boss. She's amazing.

  33. Amy --- Just A Titch

    I have found myself apologizing for not having some bit of "drama" to share when people ask how life is going. It's so silly—I should be GRATEFUL that my life is lovely. Great post, as usual.

  34. Pony

    it's odd, isn't it? it doesn't actually make sense.

    i recently (very very recently) began a job in retail, for a lovely company. and as soon as i did, even my lovely friends were asking me how my job was going with their sympathy faces at the ready.

    i replied, "it's really awesome. everyone there is a lot of fun and really relaxed!"

    their disappointment was palpable. what was that about? am i meant to to join an employment commiseration club? did i miss that memo?

    if i did, i'm glad.

  35. colleen e

    I often feel that kind of pressure. But when I do, I go out of my way to find SOMETHING that the other person finds fulfilling in their life and play it up like theres no tomorrow. I like to hope that optimism is contagious.

  36. ebony.arwen

    Hear hear sister!
    I often feel that pressure from people over 18.
    I honestly try to not be around people who are part of that 'club' of down-playing & putting-down, everything. Sometimes this leaves me @ parties with one person to talk to, but I refuse to find something I'm unhappy about to lessen their insecurities.

    Fabulous post, as always.
    🙂 You rock!

  37. lisa

    One of my ex-boyfriend's mothers (who is Caucasian) took it upon herself to downplay my accomplishments for me once. We were talking about university entrance scholarships and she said to me, "Well, it probably helped that you're a double minority–Chinese and a girl." Ouch.

    Anyway, I learned from that experience that people who go out of their way to put the kibosh on your happy moments are probably grappling with their own issues (in this case, my ex-bf and I were in the running for the same scholarship and I got it, so she was probably a bit sore on behalf of her son). It's not a reflection on you even though it might hurt you, it's more of a reflection of what they're dealing with in their heads.

  38. Kristen

    I totally know what you mean. I feel like this a lot with some of my old high school friends. I feel really lucky that my close group of college friends and I genuinely support each other and celebrate our achievements. None of us are totally Happy with a capital H, we all tend to be positive thinkers and try to live life to the fullest without being bogged down by pettiness. Because that what this is all about, isn't? It's about being miserable and trying to take other people down with you, and that is something I cannot do.

  39. melissa marie

    wow oh how i wish i loved my job. i really really don't, but i do love just about everything else in my life, so i've got to keep it real somehow. i liked this post a lot, though. and congratulations on loving your job. (lucky)

  40. Cathryn

    No, definitely don't downplay your achievements or excitement! Let your Lust For Life come out! We definitely need more happy people around, definitely.

    By the way, I love that you mentioned Pam and Jim – not sure if you were referring to real people or The Office people, but it's awesome either way!

    (Bahahaha my word verification word is whiner! How apt.)

  41. Ali

    Amen to all of this! You're happy! You deserve happiness.

    PS: Was the couple really named Jim and Pam? As in The Office?

  42. Sarah Von Bargen

    Cathyn and Ali – no, we were talking about The Office! Hahaha! 😀

  43. La Historiadora de Moda

    I absolutely LOVE my job, but unfortunately, I'm only there for the year (one-yr academic position at a fantastic liberal arts college). I'm hoping something just as amazing comes along for me permanently. I think it's wonderful that you are happy in your work!


  44. MissBliss

    i like mine! it's the result of having a few I didn't like that I appreciate and like it… 😉

    we should realize liking it is a compliment to those of us who do like our jobs since we put ourselves there 😉

  45. Mon

    I enjoyed this!
    Have you heard of Tall Poppy Syndrome?
    You pretty much summed it up in this post

  46. Jen B

    I've just started to read your blog, I love it. Voila. And I'm all over this particular post. My man is HOT, charming and funny. Sorry!

  47. Esti

    I think this weird phenomenon has something to do with the fact that, for most people, the two foci of their lives are their job and their family/relationships. The latter are something we all try to work on (in theory), but people are weirdly prone to getting stuck in dull, unfulfilling careers. Granted, there are more boring or unpleasant jobs in the world than great ones, but isn't part of the fun in the pursuit of something? There's a weird complacency when it comes to work, and I suspect it's maintained by the perpetuation of this myth that everyone hates their jobs, therefore anyone who's individually miserable is at least in like company.

    Then again, I'm the one taking out thousands of dollars in loans to pay for a graduate degree that will probably get me mediocre pay for the rest of my life. Most people would think I'm nuts, and not stick around to listen to the 'but I love books, and I love teaching!' part of the story. I probably am nuts, but I'm going to be happy (thanks to my own hard work!), and I see no reason not to be proud of that. Your job sounds completely amazing, and your dance moves should only be used for doubling the amount of love you get, not re-earning it : )

  48. kimmie

    What a wonderful blog 🙂

    I never realized how much I downplay things to "fit in" – since it seems like everyone else is complaining about their jobs or body image or debt, maybe I should too. Yes, I would feel a bit awkward sharing that I love my job and that I'm proud of my post-partum weight-loss, and that I'm debt-free (except mortgage) when others around me are complaining, but hopefully that will be something that turns around so that everyone can be more positive! 🙂

  49. Lady Smaggle

    Oh hell no! I NEVER feel like I need to make excuses for my happiness or downplay my successes.

    I have frighteningly high self esteem and state it all the time. But I'm in my close group of friends I'm kind of celebrated for that.

    I do enjoy my job. Obviously I'd prefer to be a full time actor/writer/queen but in rent paying reality my job is pretty flipping sweet. And I say so all the time.

    Loved this post!

    And LOVE that you love your work.


  50. muchlove

    I love this post, as well as reading everyone's comments.
    You're so right, many of us (me, included) tend to play down happiness and accomplishments, and it's so unnecessary. We deserve to be proud of our achievements!

    P.S. your job does sound AWESOME!

  51. Anna

    still giggling about the "that Pam and Jim got together" part. i love you! so funny!

    p.s. i agree with you 100000%.

  52. penn

    I love Karli's comment! I teach kids environmental ed (and I want to be a middle school science teacher). And the most disheartening thing is listening to teachers whine and moan about their work. Hello? Why do it if you don't love it? I have a year and a half or more of school before I can be a teacher, and I would so switch places right now with any of the teachers who don't love their job.

    I do need to apply your advice to the rest of life. I don't have a job right now, and I live in a pretty small place with not many people my own age so that my boyfriend can work. It's hard not to get down on my no-friends, nothing-to-do life and start looking on the bright side and actively working to fix the parts I don't like.

  53. Anonymous

    You hit the nail on the head my friend. I'm a freshman in college majoring in sociology and art education and couldn't be happier! I love my school, I love my classes and I love my friends! The issue is, the majority of my friends are miserable in their chosen career paths/major and don't understand how I could be happy majoring in something that ultimately won't make me a millionaire. When they complain about the path their lives are currently on, I can't help but wonder why they choose to live that way. We can all CHOOSE to be happy. I do it almost every day! I hope your post will inspire more people let out their lust for life instead of filtering and hiding it away!

  54. emma wallace

    What a wonderful post! I think that's true in so many ways that it's more socially acceptable to complain about things. I remember being so shocked when my college professor said most people were unhappy and I (aloud) said, "That's not true!" And then he took a poll and only one other girl and I said we were happy in life! Crazy!
    Thank you so much for posting this happiness!

    P.S. Discovered you via MuchLove and now I'm following you!


  55. Cme

    this is so true. i told my friend that ive taken on a new attitude for the new year and i dont care what anyone thinks. and it has helped me in all my classes…and that im doing sooo great. and my "friend" thought my optimism was annoying and we havent spoken for 2 weeks.

  56. Anonymous

    Reopening this convo because Sarah posted a link to this in her newsletter this week. I hadn't seen this post before and it kinda hit home. I remember all through school, lying to people about my good grades because it wasn't cool to strive for straight As (maybe in high school, especially uncool to be a smart girl and I wanted so sadly desperately to be popular, which I never attained anyway).

    As a much older person, I realize that there is so much small-talk centered around "ugh, work." I have been making a lot of progress in being more positive and pro-active in other areas, but not in this one.

    And I would probably feel like punching someone who just LOOOOOOVED their life and job and was proclaiming it proudly, but I need to re-think that response and wonder why that would bother me so much. I have to work pretty hard to be positive in life, but I shouldn't squelch that feeling in anyone else. I hope I could find it in my heart to feel more inspired, than jealous.

    Thanks for opening my eyes to this! xo

  57. women day

    nice post… I have been making a lot of progress in being more positive and pro-active in other areas, but not in this one.

  58. statree

    this is so true.I leave you 120 quotes about change in life and have a happier new life of great historical authors. Among them are Gandhi , Stephen Hawking, Walt Disney, Nelson Mandela, Wayner Dyer or Steve Jobs. They will help you reflect on what you need to change and have a happier new life.

  59. balani seo

    I always try to enjoy my life with my family.


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