Nobody has the ideal life
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Lena Horne
Angie was one of those people who usually had a smile, saw the positive in even the darkest of work situations and rarely complained or gossiped. She was not a pushover. Well aware of the things that were dysfunctional and toxic in her organisation she used her authority as a senior manager to take constructive action.
Some misinterpreted her upbeat style to mean she had a ‘problem-free’ life. Of the five teams that reported to her, three regularly undermined her because she would not be drawn into their petty, obstructive approach to problem solving. They dismissed her offers of constructive help as ‘being out of touch with real problems because she had such a smooth life.’ What few people knew was that she was in an awful marriage. Each day she went home to a dictator husband and demanding, manipulative mother-in-law who lived with them: an arrangement imposed on Angie. As pressured as work was, (she had a narcissistic manager who was very volatile), it was respite for her, a great professional opportunity and a relief from the demands at home.
If Angie was on Facebook, we might see posts of gratitude for the support one of her team leaders gave her that day. Perhaps on a weekend she’d post photos of her outings with the Garden Club she and her husband were part of- probably commenting on what lovely weather and how nice it was to be with such a good community of friends. And those would just be slices of her life. The slices that would not be mentioned might be that the team leader’s support was the only shred of support she received that week in the midst of a number of battles with the undermining teams. Or the slice that revealed while posting the Garden Club photos and status update, her mother-in-law, (who of course had to join them in the outing) complained to her son that Angie should not be ‘working’ on the weekend, when she mistakenly thought Angie’s smartphone Facebook posts were work. None of Angie’s positive posts would have been dishonest. And like many of us, Angie would not have been trying to create an illusion of an ideal life. Her intention would have been to focus on the positive and not give extra ‘air play’ to the negative.
Remember that behind every smile, positive post on Facebook, career or personal breakthrough, celebration, or positive story, there is a journey that also includes moments or entire seasons of self doubt, self-criticism, discouragement, heartache, rejection, isolation, loneliness, anger, health concerns and many other negative emotions or thoughts you’ve experienced. Every human being experiences it. Many counsellors advise us to ‘not compare our insides to other’s outsides’. Celebrate with people’s positive stories and life events, but resist the natural inclination to feel like they’ve ‘got it all together’ while you are still battling some big challenges or missing out. No one has a trouble free life. Everyone has a load. Those who are smiling and positive have just learned how to carry theirs without allowing it to break them.