On the outside, her world seemed perfect. Highly intelligent, beautiful, charismatic...she lived in a picture perfect home with a picture perfect family. If you weren't already her friend, you wanted to be . Positivity oozed from her pores and affected everyone that came into contact with her. Her friends told me, “We called her Miss Sunshine back in highschool. You know those people you run into that are always smiling, everything leaving their mouth is dripping in positivity.. well that's her.” I had the pleasure of talking with both the woman and her friends, and this allowed me to see into two sides of her life...
I asked her friends to explain what her life looked like to them. One friend told me, “When we first met in highschool, I thought her life was perfect and I was actually jealous of her, but then she was so nice I couldn't even be jealous. It was almost annoying because you wanted to hate her for how perfect her life seemed, but you couldn't because she made you feel so much better about yourself just by talking to her,” the friend explains laughing. They explained how when this woman was around, life just seemed brighter. She would be the first to find solutions for problems, the first to cheer up someone who was down... I asked if they ever wondered how she did it and one responded “Well her life seemed perfect, so we figured it was easy for her to be so happy and cheerful.”
Out in public this woman came off as strong, incredibly confident, and very very happy. Where did this optimism come from? Did she really just have this picture perfect problem free life like her friends thought? When I spoke with the woman herself, she opened up to explain that behind the closed doors in her home..her life was from far perfect. She explained that her optimism started as a facade back in high school actually. In the morning, she would leave the house in tears. but by the time she arrived at school she had wiped her eyes dry, slapped a smile on her face and whipped up the best positive attitude she could muster. “Back then, my home life was a mess. I tried to be a rock for my family but I couldn’t fix them. I had this epiphany one day that 'ok I might not be able to change my home life, but outside of my house, I could be anyone I wanted.' So basically I decided to become the person I wished I could be at home.. for everyone around me outside of my house.”
Her home life consisted of a workaholic father that valued money over his children and spent any free time he did have, with a bottle of whiskey in front of the tv. Her brother was severely depressed, rarely left his room and was on suicide watch many nights. Her mother did her best to make the kids feel loved, and to hide the fighting with her husband, but she was worn down and almost completely emotionally drained. “I actually got the idea of putting on this positivity facade from my mom. I would hear her crying in her room but when she came out she would have a smile on her face and would fill us to the brim with compliments, making us feel like we made her whole world better. I knew my mom was in pain and I wanted to fix hers, but since I couldn't, I figured maybe I could make other people feel the way she made me feel, and then if I could do it for others, maybe eventually I could help my own family.”
This woman ended up putting on this facade day in and day out.“In trying to mask my pain I threw myself into being a person people would love by basically enacting who I would be if my life was problem free.” By faking it for a while, this woman actually grasped that optimism is a choice we all have. By grasping this, the “optimistic act” turned from a facade, to her greatest asset. “You can only fake a smile for so long, eventually it turns real.” she says, while smiling. “I learned, we choose to cry and sit in our own misery ...or we can choose to try to move forward and make other people happy.” In choosing to be optimistic every day regardless of her home life she made a difference in the lives of so many around her.
Optimism is birthed from pain, just as strength is. Sometimes the seemingly perfect lives we are envious of, are actually harder than our own. This woman could have easily become depressed and withdrawn, yet she chose to show up everyday and smile, and treat others the way she wanted to be treated.At a young age, she learned one of the most valueable lessons of life... we choose our outcome and our choice affects the lives around us as well. Choose to make a difference!
- A the word changes contributor