At work the other day I had a rather high level of happiness and it was noted by one of my coworkers with both amusement and annoyance. I noted how I imagined some people might find my happiness overwhelming. My coworker responded, “You can be happy, but just don’t TOO happy all the time.” I paused for a moment, astounded. Too happy? Hmmph. “No, I’m going to be as happy as I want whenever I want. If people don’t like it that is just too bad. I don’t think being happy is something to be ashamed of.” My co-worker’s eyebrows arched with surprise, but she smiled and agreed.
I’ve been told I am “too much” of something in one way or another most of my life. Too happy, too friendly, too outgoing, too talkative, too outside of the status quo, too sensitive; I’ve been told I think too much and I say “sorry” too much (that is actually true). Hell, I’ve been told I’m too tall. At this point in my life – being an adult I guess – it irritates me when people feel licensed to say this to me. Because what these words can communicate is a level of intolerance, a lack of acceptance, and an implication that I should be ashamed of these attributes. But are they truly shame worthy? No, I would say most of them are not.
It is my natural inclination to reflect on what about me may make people feel comfortable passing these judgments. Perhaps it is my people-pleasing demeanor, or that I show audible concern for the influence my actions may negatively have on others. Something to work on perhaps, but I think the other person has some more important thinking to do.
What I believe people are feeling when they pass these evaluations on a person’s character – if I can project a bit here – is uncomfortable. Perhaps they are stressed or feeling negative, and interacting with a very happy person makes it difficult for them to navigate their feelings in that atmosphere. Perhaps they are tired, shy, or quiet… perhaps they are simply not interested in what is being communicated. Rather than launching into a critical assessment of a person’s behavior in an attempt to shut it down or convey one’s surprise (“You’re too happy…” or “You think too much…”), it would be better to communicate his or her feelings more self-referentially. “I am sorry – I am not feeling too talkative right now. I’ve got my mind wrapped up in a project,” or, “It’s nice to see you’re so excited. I’m pretty tired myself. Keep up the good day.”
It is very possible people might find a behavior annoying or fake or superficial. But this perception certainly doesn’t give that person the right to criticize that behavior, particularly if the traits are generally held as positive by society at large. Truly, if I took the same sort of license with others that historically they have taken with me, I don’t imagine it would be appreciated. If I said, “You’re too quiet,” “You are always so negative,” “Boy you sure are grumpy every day,” I have a feeling people would view that as rather unkind and uncalled for. After all, what do I know of their personal circumstances? Who am I to judge? And why kick someone if they are down? Thing is, we shouldn’t kick someone while they are up, either.
Shy people can adjust to overtly friendly ones, just as chatty-Cathy’s can accept not everyone is going to volley back a verbose reply. Rather than casting judgment, whether silently or verbally, perhaps the best action is to pause and consider who you are interacting with as well as consider the type of person you are (with all your expectations, cultural behaviors, and opinions on proper etiquette). These are simple differences that can be accommodated and adjusted for, rather than noted in an offensive, dismissive regard.
The world needs quiet people and talkative ones, upbeat happy bubbly folks and low-key, laid-back people, too. We can’t all be either a “Tigger” or an “Eeyore”; we need both to give society a little balance. So, I’ll make you a little deal. When I’m super-happy in one of my bouncy-bouncy fun-fun “Tigger” moods, I’ll do my best to carefully circumnavigate the personal space of the “Eeyore” people out there. And maybe they can do best to stay out of my rambunctious path! 😉
The whole idea of not kicking someone when they are up, because you wouldn’t kick them when they’re down, is brilliant. I love your keen observations of everyday conversation!
I do think that when people are irritated with other being “too happy” or any other trait that is generally a good one, they are really just seeing in you a reflection of what they aren’t. Perhaps they are annoyed because you’re reminding them of how happy they are not. I can understand that perspective, however, actually telling someone not to be so happy is quite another thing! In my opinion it’s just rude.
Thanks Raeanne! I totally agree – that it was “rude” was the reason I wrote the post actually. About seeing in others what you don’t see in you… I read once that we form our sense of self as children based off of the perceptions of others, so it would make sense that the tendency to compare ourselves to others would continue and create self-judgments…. Hadn’t thought of it that way though, and it makes so much sense! Thanks as always for your wonderful insights!
Recently I was told by a best friend who can be a bit grumpy sometimes that I am too talkative and upbeat. Hearing this was hard, although she was telling me because I could tell that something I was doing had been bothering her. After words, I asked if anyone else felt this way. Another girl that I had had a feeling didn’t like me, turned out to have started really disliking me because of my happiness. I always feel excluded when she doesn’t include me because that one flaw made her basically hate me. I am also one of those people who uses conversation to make things less awkward. It’s my nature to start speaking when no one is. It makes me sad that when I am in a good mood,
It makes others in a worse mood. Also,
I feel bad that people do not like me because that always somehow makes me feel guilty for the way I act. I want to get better and I want people to like me, but if that means being grumpy and hating the world than I don’t think it’s worth it! I truly do have un happy or angry feelings sometimes, but I do my best to hide them and not take them out on others. I can’t say that the people I surround myself with do the same.
Hi Rose, It is unfortunate others do not appreciate your chipper demeanor. Since I wrote this post, I have been proactively deflating peoples’ criticisms by disagreeing with them. “I don’t think I am too cheerful.” If I say that in response to their criticism it seems to shut it down. When people tease me and say “you are weird,” I thank them and say, “thank goodness! I don’t want to be Boring!” That, too, makes them chuckle. I am learning that the power their criticisms have lessen when I cheerfully disagree. In fact, I have become rather appreciated for my enthusiasm at my job. What I discovered is when I decided this trait was “good” and worth being valued, I easily was able to discount criticisms from others about that. I no longer felt the need to change that part of myself, and now I do not receive that criticism anymore. And when my friends are sad, I empathize, listen, and then eventually try to pick up the mood by sharing hope. That, too, I have found is a great way to negotiate my cheerful nature with those who are on the negative end of the spectrum.
I wonder what your best friend would rather you be? Why would your friend want you to be less outwardly happy? Seems odd to me. Of course, I think there should be times for sorrow and sadness and irritation, because it is not healthy to suppress negative emotions. But I think sharing feelings is very different than being a negative nancy. Sounds to me like you are an optimist and cheerful. Good for you! I hope your friends will grow to recognize what a wonderful trait that is. You keep being happy!!
I cannot explain how much I needed this post! I was just told by my boss here at work that “I am simply too happy, I come off as fake, nobody can be this happy all the time, as an adult I need to be more aware of other people and their feelings.” I took this… and like you thought about it, mulled it over, I even went back and told this boss of mine that it was rude and uncalled for, I would never say that to anyone else good or bad. He continued that I need to tone down. I will tell you, I never come into work (as a radio dj at that btw) bragging or even really talking since it is such a small group of (mostly women) people.
Thank you so much, so so much for this post. I am beyond feeling better, you have brought me out of my sadness ❤ stay happy
I am so happy to hear it made a difference! I feel that the intelligent employer will recognize the value that enthusiasm, positivity and happiness will bring to their company. You keep being happy!! 🙂
I get this a lot too, I’m happy all the time and people are not really in the mood. I like being happy but sometimes people are not up for it. I want everybody to smile but that’s not how life works. Happy is good right?
Wow I really needed this. I’ve encountered the same thing and I didn’t know how to react. 2 older gentlemen said to me that my enthusiasm is an overkill at work. That really hurt and I feel like caving in because them. Picking on me is a bit much no matter how much I stand up for myself.
– I don’t know