In recent years, there’s been a switch in what society considers most important in life - no longer is wealth seen as the ultimate marker of success, but rather happiness.
Inspirational Instagrammers tell us to “banish negative thoughts”, self-help books claim to provide the secrets to perpetual positivity, and we think we must never feel anything less than awesome.
But according to a Danish psychology professor, our obsession with happiness could have a serious dark side.
Svend Brinkmann from Aalborg University says forcing ourselves to be happy all the time could leave us emotionally stunted. And what’s more, happiness simply isn’t the appropriate response for all situations in life.
It’s news that may make you breathe a sigh of relief - not only is it OK not to feel constantly happy, but it’s right according to Brinkmann, whose book Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze was a Danish bestseller.
“I believe our thoughts and emotions should mirror the world. When something bad happens, we should be allowed to have negative thoughts and feelings about it because that’s how we understand the world,” he says.
Brinkmann believes that by desperately trying to be happy all the time, when something bad does happen, we won’t be able to cope.
“Life is wonderful from time to time, but it’s also tragic. People die in our lives, we lose them, if we have only been accustomed to being allowed to have positive thoughts, then these realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen - and they will happen.”
Inspiring body positivity quotes
Inspiring body positivity quotes
1/12 Kate Winslet
"Nobody is perfect. I just don't believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, 'This is who I am and look at me not being perfect.' I'm proud of that."
2/12 Iskra Lawrence
Stop comparing yourself to anybody else. The [pictures of] movie stars, even the Disney characters, that’s not real. That’s not attainable. You can’t be anybody else. You are you. You can’t be them. So you really just have to start embracing yourself and accepting so-called flaws that society has given the name ‘flaws’. It’s just our body, our patchwork quilt.”
3/12 Jennifer Lawrence
"It should be illegal to call someone fat."
4/12 Ashley Graham
"And cellulite, I have not forgotten about you. I'm going to choose to love you even though you want to take over my whole bottom half. You're a part of me and I love you."
5/12 Demi Lovato
"Instead of looking in the mirror and focusing on your flaws, look in the mirror and appreciate your best features... everyone has them."
6/12 Danielle Brooks
"Sometimes I don't like what I see, but I have the power to change the way in which I relate to my body both physically and mentally."
"You just want something that someone else has, but that doesn't mean what you have isn't beautiful, because people always want what you have and you always want what they have - no one is ever 100 per cent like, 'Yes, I'm the bomb-dot-com - from head-to-toe!"
8/12 Kim Kardashian-West
"See this little dimple of cellulite here? It was so worth it for that cookies 'n' cream ice cream!"
9/12 Mindy Kaling
'Insults about the way I look can’t be the thing that harms me and my heart the most. It has to harm me the least. If I have a daughter, I’m going to tell her that. Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart, or not a leader."
"The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence."
11/12 Selena Gomez
"I’m learning that you can be comfortable and still look beautiful.”
12/12 Tess Holliday
"Never compare yourself with others and celebrate what makes you, you."
Of course, there are people who seem naturally to have more cheery outlooks on life, and Brinkmann acknowledges that.
But he says there’s a danger in happiness becoming a necessity and warns of the perils of companies insisting on employees being perpetually upbeat.
“When you engage with people and you work in teams, then these personality traits become much more important. That’s why we put much more emphasis on them, because we want to exploit humans and their emotional lives,” says Brinkmann.
“I think this is a dark side of positivity. Our feelings tend to become commodities and that means we’re very easily alienated from our feelings.”
He also fears society is getting to a point where people don’t even feel they can discuss their worries and problems with their own friends because they think they need to pretend everything is rosy all the time.
We’re all subjected to a pressure to be happy, according to Brinkmann - he is anti self-help books that tell us we’re all responsible for our happiness and to blame for our sadness.
Because without the bad things in life you’d never appreciate the good, and it’s fine to feel sad, angry, guilty, ashamed and happy too.Reuse content