General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Are perky happy people usually being real, or are they covering over something?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) December 9th, 2008

So many people I’ve met have hidden pasts, once I get to know them. Disappointments, deaths, addictions, and abuse. These people usually don’t appear to be happy. Just ordinary folk. I also know some people who put on a happy face all the time. Generally, I do not get to know these people well.

I’ve been thinking that I can’t crack that facade. An excess of happiness scares me. I don’t know how to relate to such people, and I feel like I can’t know them truly. Now I’m wondering. Maybe they really are happy and cheerful all the time. What’s your take?

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48 Answers

taotree's avatar

Although there are some people who put on a facade, there really are some people who are genuinely cheerful and happy all the time. They choose to view whatever happens in a positive light.

LostInParadise's avatar

There have lately been a lot of books dealing with the nature of happiness. One finding is that a person’s level of happiness seems to be fairly constant. Lottery winners who were gloomy before winning shortly return to their gloomy state. Happy people who become crippled will eventually return to being their happy selves.

cwilbur's avatar

I have a friend who’s had significant personal tragedies in his life. He’s one of the most bubbly, chirpy, optimistic people I know, and I don’t think it’s fake.

loser's avatar

I always thought it was one of thoses “fake it ‘til ya make it” deals. Like overly perky people were just trying to create their own happy reality. I suppose some people could be born like that but then again, I really don’t know and probably shouldn’t even be answering this question because I am so not like that.

bythebay's avatar

daloon: I can only speak for myself. People often refer to me as a very happy person. I think I also get the perky comment, yet I think that’s really because I’m short! Anyway…I have a tremendous amount of hurt & strife in my past, and a relative amount floating in my present. I choose to wake up and face each day with a positive outlook, not to be “happy”, just positive. Think glass half full. My outlook doesn’t mean I’m perpetually pleased or that I live in a dream world of denial. I just despise negativity; I abhor it; I find it tedious and nauseating, therefore, being positive works for me. I was raised in a household where being negative was considered being ungrateful. My father believed (and preached to us endlessly) that being outwardly negative was like begging for attention, ie: ugly and desperate. If we were negative my parents told us to stop and reevaluate our situation, and then to try and come up with a way to be part of the solution and not our own problem. I’m nothing if not grateful for every day, no matter what circumstance I might find myself in. That said, while I’m not often negative, I am a realist. Some things can never be fixed or made better. When faced with those situations, I accept them. I acknowledge my grief, loss, anger, confusion or sadness and work through it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days (months) where I really struggle to find a positive center for my life; but I do the best I can. As far as your statement about relating to happy people, I can see where it might be tough getting to know someone if you feel like they live behind a facade. I’m an open book and pretty forthcoming about my feelings. If people are put off by me or my outlook, I choose not to chase them down and beg for their acceptance – nor do I imagine they would want me to. In thinking about my circle of friends and my husband, I would generally describe them as happy. Perhaps that’s because we often surround ourselves with those of like mind? Whatever disease I have, it must be hereditary because my children are two of the happiest most pleasant people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

I try not to judge people based on their demeanor or approach. I figure we all just do the best we can with the tools we’ve been given.

cak's avatar

daloon – you and I have gone round and round about this – you posted this on another site and I answered, curtly. I am trying something new…a kinder approach – with reason.

You are correct, a lot of happy people have something in their past. I do. Hell, I just went through a bone marrow transplant, over the summer and I’m facing more chemo. I’m pissed at the thought of doing this all over again, but it serves no purpose. I generally approach things in an upbeat manner, but it doesn’t make me fake. I’ve just made the decision that I lived with a negative attitude before and that didn’t seem to work for me, so I tried to look at the positive side of life, yes, I can still find the positive.

I’ve had murder, robbery, assault, date rape, divorce, suicide, and many other things in my life, but I can be a positive person. Being positive and upbeat doesn’t mean someone is trying to hide, it’s just a choice in how to put one foot in front of the other!

Had you meet me 10 yrs ago, I was more angry and less likely to be called a happy person. I took a good long hard look at myself and realized I hated being that way. It accomplished NOTHING! Slowly, I worked on how I viewed things. I turned the crappy events into life lessons. I vowed to no live in the shadows of the past and use them to move through life. With that, I found myself smiling more, laughing more and generally just happier. Does it mean I never have a bad day? Hell no. It just means I approach them in a different way than I used to approach them.

You’ve been open about having a hard time trusting happy people, and I take issue with that, I wonder about people that can never find something positive in life. It’s hard for me to understand that, considering what I’ve gone through and continue to go through and yes, I know the history and the bipolar is an issue. You know my sister is bipolar and depressed and hey…an alcoholic, too! The trifecta of doom, as she calls it – but she can name at least 3 things she’s grateful for, not things I would hope she would name, but hey…it’s her computer, her dog and coffee. I was kinda hoping my parents would land on the list, but nope. I knew I wouldn’t!

There’s not always a facade. Sometimes, people are just happy. Don’t look for fault in them or you – there is no fault. It is what it is. Maybe try to approach getting to know someone as not an investigation. Just take it as a casual thing and a friendship in progress. Don’t dig in someone’s past. Don’t expect there to be things hidden, there may be – but unless they offer it up to you, it’s none of your business if it’s there or not. Allow them what they want, to be happy – just as you want people to understand how you are.

fake happiness, is annoying, but again, not all happy people are faking it!

wundayatta's avatar

I suppose we should be defining our terms about what we mean about negativity and positivity. For me, being realistic is important. I need accurate information so I can do what I need to do. If the information is being slanted, it makes it hard for me.

So, if it’s bad news, I want to hear it. You can give it to me gently, but you better not withhold it. On the other hand, if it’s good news, don’t exagerate. Don’t puff it up. Just place it in it’s proper context. I tend to thing that people do both things: exagerating good news and pulling their punches on bad news.

This annoys me, especially when it’s a contractor doing work for me. It also annoys me if I feel like I’m being manipulated into changing my attitude.

Now, it’s not like I don’t think positively. I just do it realistically. I’m motivated differently, maybe. I’m motivated ideologically, instead of emotionally. In my mind, emotions are for feeling. They are not good grounds for taking action. I like my happiness to be understated. Partly because I don’t want to get very attached to it. It goes away so fast.

It’s also not that I’m ungrateful. I think life is the most incredible gift there is. That’s a real helpful thought to have when you are contemplating suicide. It’s a gift that makes me realize that thinking about suicide is not about suicide. It’s about the pain I’m in. It also offers me a bit of humor in very dark moments, because all my life I’ve wanted to live forever, and now I want to kill myself?!? Hah!

Maybe that’s a good symbol there. The extremes about life and all at the same time. It balances out in the end, but when I’m in it, I can see no other point of view. I exagerate the negativity. I become one of those people I mistrust.

Now CAK, you’re supposed to keep my secrets. What will people think when they find out I’m recycling questions? Have you no loyalty? ;-) I do have to say that Flutherers give much more thoughtful replies compared to that other site (CAK and a few others excepted). Maybe flattery will throw them off the scent!

bythebay's avatar

daloon, you said “I like my happiness to be understated. Partly because I don’t want to get very attached to it. It goes away so fast.” The same can be said about unhappiness. When the beat of my heart is too still and I can’t find the sun, I just go looking for the light. Often it is found in the most unexpected places.

cak's avatar

@daloon – I didn’t tell them that you were really an octopus, not a human! OOPS!

In all fairness, I posted that I’ve answered it before, only so you could see I was looking at it in a different manner.

susanc's avatar

I think it’s insulting to suppose that people are faking who find beauty
in the world as well as difficulty. That is childish, childish in the sense that
life is more complicated than that. “Are they lying? Can I trust them?”
No. Yes.

cak's avatar

I agree things need to be realistic. Sometimes, I wonder if you perceive happy people running around all the time just bubbly and happy – getting horrible news and laughing. That’s not how it works. If it did work that way, I’m sure the hospitals would be flooded with people trying to commit others!

Deal with me straight, that’s how I deal with things – let me process it and I’m still going to look for what I can learn from it. I certainly didn’t go home and say, “hey guys, I have cancer! WOOHOO!!” I was scared out of my mind! Eventually I had to find something in it that could teach me to be a stronger person and then, I started laughing again.

I know that you struggle and I guess I believe that this is something that is difficult for you to understand so you might have some image of “happy” people that may not always be what it really is. You know it’s funny, just as you don’t understand how happy people can be this way, without really faking it – it’s totally lost on me (even though I get the bipolar/depression side of you) how one approaches things from negative to happy and not happy to negative.

It’s not always smoke and mirrors. Sometimes, happy people cry, yell and get angry. Just like sometimes people that approach life in a different way more negative way, are just in a good mood. It happens.

bythebay's avatar

I don’t know cak, everyday for me is just rainbows, sunshine, butterflies & unicorns…just kidding!!!

cak's avatar

what the heck are you taking and send me some! :)

windex's avatar

wow…i am Not one of those people…

cdwccrn's avatar

We all are carrying one skeleton or another, one heartache or another. Our wounds make some sad, others bitter, and some carry a joyful soul in spite of it all.

wundayatta's avatar

Since I first asked this question, things have changed a bit. My therapist thinks that I feel safer with pain and depression. Happiness is too risky, and I’m a risk-averse kind of guy. It hurts me more when happiness is lost than when I’ve got stability in depression.

I’m not sure I would equate unhappiness with negativity. There are many things I believe in passionately. Of course, that may also be a cause of depression, since the things I think should happen in this world, don’t, and much pain is caused to many people.

Sometimes I wonder why I keep fighting for these things. I guess I always have hope that we can make the world better. That we can help people better.

I’m not sure whether or not I don’t feel joy and happiness. I know that different things make me happy than others, but then I’m sure we’re all unique that way. Did I ever tell you about the champagne bottle I kept in the refridgerator in order to celebrate a success? It got older and older because nothing seemed good enough to celebrate. Finally, I said the hell with it. I brought it out when some friends were visiting. Since a few of us had turned fifty that year, we decided it was in honor of turning fifty.

Do I have a point? I don’t think so. I have a niggling suspicion that we’re not quite talking about the same thing, and we probably couldn’t until we point out specific people to look at. The looking would have to be done in person, so that’s out of the question.

I feel a desire to protest “I am happy. Really. I am.” It’s just a different kind of happiness. A Daloonish happiness. Daloon just happens to be happy when he’s sad… no. That’s a lie. It’s just different. More uncertain. More coltish. Not the kind of happiness that can advertise itself, nor the kind that can stand on its own, when other people seem overwhelmingly happy. Joy in others can make daloonish happiness seem like depression in comparison.

CAK you always did have loose lips. Getting you to keep a secret is like trying to capture the ocean in a sieve. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling them the exact latitude and longitude of the ocean where I happen to be happily eating clams!

cak's avatar

@daloon…that is almost offensive, I have many secrets! I just let the cat out of the bag one one recycled question AND that you aren’t really a human…a sea creature, yes.

I think, yes, the unhappy and negative do get used interchangeably probably too much, but it’s the same way you assume happy people could be hiding a horrible past. Just about the time you let that notion go, I’ll let go of mine – deal?

I don’t think you are unhappy/negative – more of unhappy/suspicious. It seems the more happy a person is, the more suspicious you are…you start to assume they are hiding something.

It’s hard not to think of someone as not unhappy and negative all at the same time. I’m talking about someone that is not clinically depressed, not bipolar. I know some people free of those things, but are generally unhappy, negative people. The glass is half empty, the sky IS falling and occasionally, they do work their way to happiness – but they are not comfortable there!

bythebay's avatar

daloon, maybe instead of happy you need to just strive for content?

cak's avatar

@bythebay – content is good!

Judi's avatar

I just had this conversation recently. I was thinking about when I found out that I was going to be a teen mother (28 years ago.) I made a conscious choice to be happy about it. Happiness is sometimes a choice. It is what you choose to dwell on. I have had a lot of death and disaster surround my life but I choose to dwell on the positive because dwelling on the negative gets me no where. I chose to be happy to have a child. To anticipate the smell of baby feet instead of the smell of poopy diapers. Some of the happiest people I know have the most tragic stories. Without them they may not appreciate the good times as much

syz's avatar

Perky people make me grumpy.

SuperMouse's avatar

I am a pretty high energy kind of gal, as a result I tend to come across as rather upbeat. I am not one of those syrupy sweet people who would make Syz grumpy, just a pretty friendly, outgoing person with a decent attitude. I’m not hiding anything. There are times I am in a rotten mood but I try not to take it out on other people, at those times I tend to keep to myself.

shadling21's avatar

They’re for real. Shiny, happy people holding hands.

I’d argue that many people who have experienced tragedy can more fully appreciate happiness as a result.

Knotmyday's avatar

I find that everyone is neurotic in some way or other, and people who smile all the time are hiding as much pain and resentment as the dour ones aren’t. Sorry to parse, but I haven’t the time to edit.
We’re all jacked up, but everyone deals with it differently. In other words, more or less irritatingly.

smile, hug, eat a bug, up yours, jack

basp's avatar

Life is too short and too precious to waste time with negativity.

wundayatta's avatar

I agree that content is good. the first time I read that, I thought it was content in the sense of contents of a box – LOL It’s tricky for me, though. Sincerity is important, and I guess, sometimes I misjudge other people’s sincerity. Maybe the style of presentation makes me think something is faked. Sometimes people seem a little over the top, and that makes me suspicious as to the reality of the emotions.

However, when I’m depressed, it’s hard to imagine ever being happy, and hard to imagine others being as happy as they seem. Perhaps the other thing is that the positive attitudes are often prescribed as a way to get out of depression.

For some people, maybe most, that can work. For a few of us it doesn’t work. In fact, it can make us worse, as we try, fail, feel guilty for not succeeding, blame ourselves for being sick, and this spirals down.

For me, it seems to be better not to try. It’s better that when I’m feeling bad, I just acknowledge how I feel and let the badness happen. I can’t fix it. All I can do is weather it. Cliche though it sounds, I just have to be with my feelings. Believing that I’m not responsible for my depression really helps, because I no longer have to blame myself for not being positive enough. It also seems to make my episodes much, much shorter.

Perhaps (thinking aloud here yeah, like that’s different from any other post I’ve made here) there is a gap of understanding between people for whom different methods work. People who can choose happiness, or who can work themselves into it with a positive attitude know that taking responsibility and making choices does work. People for whom making choices, or attempting to do so actually makes things worse, feel quite differently about positivity.

I think that most people believe that if something works to make them happy, it must work for everyone else. We become proselytizers of the good news. Maybe it’s important to remind ourselves (and I’m really talking to myself here as much as anyone else) that one size does not fit all.

CAK, deny all you want, I have it on good authority that in addition to your public participation in the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Crustaceons and Arthropods (SPCCA), you are also a secret member of the supposedly defunct Octopus Awareness League (OWL), a group dedicated to the unmasking of Octopi that drive gold-colored hybrid cars! Be honest now. It’s clear that your efforts to unmask me are part of a global conspiracy to give clams civil rights!

susanc's avatar

@daloon “coltish” cool
@knot “parse” “dour” cool
I agree vehemently with daloon that what makes one person happy may not fit another person.
Like daloon, I’d rather be woeful than unreal. I see you struggle for realness, d. It’s the only way. Guess we gotta love it.

bythebay's avatar

*Above all be true to yourself, and if you can not put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” * H. Jackson

emilyrose's avatar

I have a lot of these friends who “fake it till they make it.” They act happy or overly excited when they are not, and it drives me crazy. But, I have learned to try it myself sometimes and it really can change your mood eventually. The science of smiling for example. The physical act of smiling does indeed make you feel better.

susanc's avatar

The physical act of smiling does make you feel better but it can be kind of ghastly for the people around you….

wundayatta's avatar

Our emotions are felt in our bodies. If you put yourself in a prayerful posture, you will start feeling a little bit more serene. If you open yourself up to the sky, you will feel like your heart is opening, and you will feel blessed and loving. If you smile, you will feel happier. If you make music in a major key, you will feel happier.

It’s not clear whether emotion causes expression, or expression causes emotion, or the two are intertwined in a cycle; each causing the other. Personally, I find externally motivated emotions to be more satisfying and comprehensible than internally generated ones.

El_Cadejo's avatar

daloon i think your my twin :P

Trustinglife's avatar

I’m coming in late, but do have one thing to add…

I have gone way into the study of an ancient personality system called the Enneagram. It has opened my eyes to how differently other people see the world. We communicate with each other as if we’re all basically human beings – and of course we are – but we see things so differently. And we are motivated so differently!

There is a type in the Enneagram (the Seven) that tends to be quite shiny, perky, outgoing, and fun-loving. Could this be the type of person you’re talking about, Daloon? What I have learned about Sevens is that they have their fears too. I have found that when they find a way to deepen – often through tragedy – they can become some of the most amazing people I know.

Oh, and the Enneagram has helped me have lots more compassion for myself. And the comfort of knowing that with the challenges I have, I’m not messed up, I’m just like millions of other people of my type (the Five).

If you’re curious, here’s a link to learn more about the Enneagram. And if you want to take the test to see what type you are, there you go.

bythebay's avatar

Trustinglife: I had done some reading on the Ennegram system some time ago but had forgotten about it. I just took the test; very interesting! Thanks!

emilyrose's avatar

I LOVE the enneagram! I’m a 6 with a 7 wing. I was thinking the same thing about 7s. I think two and nines also do that, but sevens most often.

emilyrose's avatar

@trustingfor some reason I think fives are the easiest to peg. Not sure why : )

Judi's avatar

But I’m going to have to look up “nihilism”

Knotmyday's avatar

AKA, “much ado about nothing”

Judi's avatar

Yikes, is this me??—- AKA Enneagram 5
ni⋅hil⋅ism   /ˈnaɪəˌlɪzəm, ˈni-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [nahy-uh-liz-uhm, nee-]

–noun 1. total rejection of established laws and institutions.
2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.
3. total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large and including oneself: the power-mad nihilism that marked Hitler’s last years.
4. Philosophy. a. an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
b. nothingness or nonexistence.

5. (sometimes initial capital letter) the principles of a Russian revolutionary group, active in the latter half of the 19th century, holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society and employing extreme measures, including terrorism and assassination.
6. annihilation of the self, or the individual consciousness, esp. as an aspect of mystical experience.

emilyrose's avatar

What does nihilism have to do with the enneagram 5?

Judi's avatar

The description says ” “They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation”

Judi's avatar

On the plus side, “visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.” I think I’ll take that part.

bythebay's avatar

Did it mean that you (personally) would have problems with eccentricity, etc., or that you had problems dealing with those persons who exhibit traits such as those? Because I have to say that from reading your posts…you don’t read that way! :)

emilyrose's avatar

They also usually describe the type along a spectrum of “healthy, average, unhealthy” so if you are in the “healthy” range you would not be exhibiting that as much

Judi's avatar

I’m just saying that I scored a 5 on the Ennegaram test and that’s what the website said about 5’s. I typically don’t like to be bound by rules though, I am always looking for a better way and I was nick named ‘Goofy” in my youth. I am now the “crazy granny,” so maybe a bit eccentric.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I scored a 7
“The busy, productive type. Sevens are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness. At their Best: they focus their talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied. ”

emilyrose's avatar

FYI lots of people test as 7s because that is how a lot of people like to see themselves—as energetic, positive, and fun. Maybe we need a separate enneagram question since we’ve gotten off topic.

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