Cheery Is Not Your Only Choice

Own Your Feelings

Are there days when you just plain don’t feel cheerful? When possibly no sane person would have reason for a big smile? I say own it! There’s a lot of pressure to present an optimistic, cheerful outlook no matter what is going on in your life. “Don’t worry, be happy” seems to be the mantra. The problem with this, for me, is that when you need every ounce of energy to keep moving forward, using some of that energy to create a bright and shiny facade just seems like a bad idea.

Now, I’m not advocating sinking into a morass of despair, curling up under a quilt and crying through old movies while eating chocolates. (Although sometimes that’s a really good temporary measure.) No, I’m simply saying that it’s important to own your emotions, to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.

Message From the Universe

As I was pondering this notion of feeling what you’re feeling, this message from The Universe popped into my inbox:

“Don’t wait for those feelings of excitement, confidence and clarity before you take action.

Take action first, without them, and they will follow.”

Take action. there’s the key. Take a break to have a hissy fit or a bout of the weepies when you need to. Don’t feel forced to smile all the time. Allow quiet moments when you want – or need – them. Feel discouraged, just don’t let that stop you. I’ve cried my way through enough projects that turned out wonderfully well to know this works.

There’s a Difference Between Cheerful and Optimistic

And that difference has everything to do with persistence and resilience. I have a close friend who is dealing with her second bout of cancer and another who is dealing with her third. Both lead busy, productive lives. One is a basically happy woman; the other is a chronic worrier. Each keep her cancer in perspective. Neither walks around with a perpetually sad countenance. Neither, though, feels obliged to put on a happy face just to please others.

Many of the women in my circle are entrepreneurs; primarily coaches and consultants. We’ve all seen economic upturns and downturns. A few have declared bankruptcy along the way. As a group, we’re pragmatic. And honest. The response to, “How’s it going?” to others within the circle is likely to be flat out honest. When I lost a big contract, I didn’t lie and say everything was wonderful. It wasn’t. I said, “Not so great right now, but I’m working on it.” Others have said, “Could be better.” Nothing wrong with a little truth. In fact, this kind of response has often brought offers of help, leads, joint ventures and all kinds of wonderful things.

One of the women in Fifty Over Fifty, Sharon, reached a point where she needed public assistance for six months. Was she all smiley and cheerful? Nope. She was too busy getting out there and making things happen. It was grit and determination that got her a million dollar plus business, not bouncing up and down and grinning. She put on her most optimistic attitude and kept knocking on doors until she got her first “YES!” and kept trudging up that hill.

So What’s The Plan?

Really, it’s pretty simple. There is a book called The Managed Heart that talks about industries where employees must be permanently cheerful. The author describes the negative impact – increased stress levels, burn-out, poor health – caused by being forced to be cheerful. Every so often, there’s a story of a flight attendant loosing it, and I’m always surprised that this doesn’t happen more often. I wonder what happens to customer service reps after a day of unrelenting good cheer. (Well, maybe not all of them.)

  1. Own your emotions.
  2. Feel what you’re feeling. Express it when appropriate; keep it to yourself – and maybe even stay home – when it’s not.
  3. Listen to what sadness may be telling you. Have you made a choice that needs rethinking.
  4. Take your anger out in the gym or on an inanimate object, never on other people. Shredding mail by hand works – that great feeling of ripping things up can be cathartic.
  5. If you can’t concentrate on work, take a break and do something else. This is often how most of my cleaning gets done.
  6. Take a walk.
  7. Put on some music that matches either your current mood or the one you’d like to shift into.
  8. Call someone. Talk it out.
  9. Journal.
  10. Cuddle up with a pet or a partner.

This is my go-to list. Yours may look different. Go create one now – and sing a new song, “Don’t Worry, Be Whatever.”


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