girl laying on green grass

The Power of Choosing Joy Over Pain

The Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t a time for joy. If you told someone to be happy while people were massively being laid off, natural disasters were hitting other parts of the country, racially charged attacks on Asian Americans while Black Americans spent their time in the streets with others trying to let people know that they too matter, we would all be insulted. I was going through my personal battles with trying to find purpose in life (through meaningless work) and my father passing away. It was hard to be joyful.

It’s easier now that we’ve endured all this heartache to say that we should be joyful despite what we perceive as pain, but it’s not less true. My actions solidified my feelings of pain rather than treating them as meaningless. The times when I grieved, spent time alone, or didn’t talk to anyone about my hurt only confirmed that I was hurt. Actions of joy, although may not change our feelings of grief, give us a better chance of overcoming our feelings at a faster rate. I could have responded in a more positive way like taking the spotlight off of me and being generous to others.

There’s a common belief that in order to have happiness you must go through suffering. No pain, no gain right? If you want to be successful, there’s a price that you have to pay. That means staying ahead of the competition. Wake up at 5 a.m. because the early bird gets the worm. You have to work a crazy amount of hours because if you’re not working, someone else is. After work, you work out. You have to get that body right. That leaves you no real room for rest because once you get home, you have that side project to work on. It’s a belief I long held onto, but no longer subscribe to.

They say in order for you to be healthy, you have to put excruciating hours into the gym and eat food you don’t like. Little do we know that the gym videos we take and the diet we subscribe to become our identity. Being keto when you like eating cookies isn’t going to be enjoyable. We spend an extra couple of dollars on organic produce not knowing if it really makes a difference. We swallow all kinds of pills in the name of physique. So why do we continue to do it? We believe that without pain, suffering, and sacrifice we won’t be able to meet any of our goals. We think these goals are going to make us happy.

This isn’t to say that you don’t have to diet, exercise, or work on your side project. We should be doing the things that make us happy. Be conscious of what you eat, but don’t feel like a terrible person if you decide to order dessert. Don’t feel the need to kill yourself when you’re at the gym. You don’t have to hit that random acronym no one knows the meaning of. Enjoy your work, but don’t prioritize it over time you could be spending with your real family and true friends. I don’t know why we have an infatuation with suffering. Even more, why do we believe that suffering is the prerequisite for happiness? Like it’s some type of general education requirement.