It’s been about six years since my husband and I started trying to have kids and sometimes it can be hard when my social media feeds seem to constantly fill up with pregnancy announcements and baby birthday parties. As much as I wish I could just brush them all off and not let them affect me, there are times when hearing someone else’s good news feels like a punch in the stomach, and if I’m not careful my mind can start to swirl with all sorts of envious thoughts about why this happened to me instead of them.
Every time this happens I ask myself the same frustrating questions. Why do I care so much? Why can’t I just live my life and not care about what anyone else does? Why does it hurt so much to see other people blessed with something I want but don’t have? Why can’t I just be happy for other people?
I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings. Even though not everyone in the world knows what it’s like to experience infertility, I’m pretty sure that everyone in the world knows what it’s like to struggle to be happy for another person when they have something you don’t. Whether it’s someone who seems healthier than you, more beautiful than you, wealthier than you, more successful than you, happier, luckier, smarter, or better liked than you, we all struggle with feelings of envy at one point or another in our lives.
There’ve been times in the last few years when I’ve let this kind of envy take over my thoughts, and the only thing it does is make me more miserable. And it doesn’t fix anything. It’s definitely not always easy to be happy for other people when they seem to be swimming in joy and you are drowning in pain, but I think it’s much easier than trying to conquer the sorrow that comes from wallowing in self-pity. I wish I could snap my fingers and suddenly wake up with all traces of envy gone from my mind, but, as with most things in life, learning how to be happy for other people is a skill that takes work.
Just like crochet or any other type of tangible craft, it takes a lot of study, practice and persistence. I’m no expert and I definitely have a long way to go in developing this skill, but I wanted to share a few things that sometimes help me as I’m trying to learn the craft of being happy for others.
Recognize the difference between being and feeling
Even though it’s hard to remember sometimes, it helps to remind myself that just because I don’t feel happy for another person doesn’t mean that I’m not actually happy for them deep down. Of course, I want my friends and family to be happy and to have good things in their lives. But sometimes pain can cloud our vision, and I’ve realized that often times the best thing to do is to just let my feelings pass through and take the time to cry or be alone or whatever I need to do.
A while ago I was invited to a gender reveal party for some good friends and the night before I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to handle it. I knew I was happy for them, but I didn’t feel happy for them. I felt sad for myself and I didn’t want to have anything to do with the party. I tried to think of all the ways I could get out of it and excuses I could make to have to miss the party, but I knew our friends would be disappointed if I wasn’t there. In the morning I went for a walk outside by myself and just took my time and tried to focus on the beauty around me as I let myself have a good cry.
After I let the storm of my emotions pass, my head started to clear and attending the party didn’t seem so painful anymore. It was just a party. It wasn’t meant to hurt me or highlight my problems. It was just a celebration of a new person coming into the world. I ended up going to the party, and I was able to celebrate with my friends with a clearer perspective that wasn’t clouded by my emotions.
Find something positive to say
Sometimes when people share good news it’s tempting for us to joke and pretend to be angry and say things like “You’re so lucky,” or “I hate you.” These kinds of phrases may have started as jokes, but I think they’ve led us into a culture where we constantly shoot down people who are more successful than us or have what we don’t. One thing that helps me is to consciously find something positive to say whenever someone announces that something good has happened to them or that they’ve achieved a goal. I need to not just think a positive thought about them, but actually say it out loud, whether it’s in person or on social media.
Since we’ve started this crochet blog it’s been amazing to realize how many kind people there are in the crochet community and how liberally they give out encouragement and compliments to their fellow creatives. It’s inspired me to not be so shy on social media (or in real life!) when opportunities come to say something nice to someone else. There is definitely a powerful type of healing that comes from taking the time to build up another person.
Try to broaden your perspective
Over the last few years there have been several times when I’ve been tempted to distance myself from people who seem to be thriving in the thing I’m struggling with. But if I take a step back and try to broaden my perspective a bit I can see that each of our lives are filled with peaks and valleys that we are all climbing at different times and at different speeds.
Someone I know may be celebrating a happy time in their life right now, but chances are that they’ve had hard times in the past or they will have hard times in the future. And even though I may be going through a hard time right now, I’ve had good times in the past and will surely have more good times in the future. We need people in our lives in both good times and bad. Even though it’s a challenge, if we look at life as a whole instead of constantly trying to compare and contrast each other, we can help each other through our various peaks and valleys, even when we are on different parts of the climb.
Embrace the reality that life isn’t fair
As fun as it is to sit around and think about all the ways we would like our lives to be different, at some point we all need to accept the reality that life simply isn’t fair and that it’s not supposed to be. I believe our lives were designed to help us grow and turn us into better people if we let it, and part of that growth comes from learning how to live together despite the unfairness.
I think it’s a good thing that our lives are not all the same and that we experience things at different times because it allows other people to be strong when we are weak and vice versa. It allows us to learn how to overcome envy. When we learn to be happy for other people even when it’s hard, our relationships are better, our minds are more clear, and we have more strength to overcome our trials.
Remembering these things and trying to learn these lessons is hard, but I try to think of it like crochet – the more I practice, the better I’ll get. Most of the time it’s small and simple things, like stitches in a blanket, that are helping me to learn the craft of being happy for others no matter where I’m at in my life.