Question: What is the main difference between Happy Holly and Depressed Darla?
Answer: Happy Holly is a master in the art of self-deception.
Depressed people do not necessarily possess an overabundance of negative thoughts.
In fact, current research in social psychology suggests that depressed people tend to hold considerably more realistic perspectives than normal, non-depressed folks, particularly when it comes to the self. Did you know that?
Apparently, happy and healthy, so-called “normal” people are basically skilled spin doctors, who organically distort their own thinking processes, in order to uphold a positive self-image. I find this fact fascinating!
Happy Holly, and others like her, regularly employ little tricks to help maintain a reasonably high level of self-esteem. Depressed Darla, on the other hand, struggles with self-deception. It appears to be quite difficult for a sad, depressed person to manufacture the positive illusions required for happiness.
Makes sense when you think about it.
According to social psychologists, Shelley Taylor and Jonathon Brown (1988), there are three positive illusions that happy folks typically share: 1) they overestimate their better qualities and underestimate the less favourable ones; 2) they overestimate their ability to control events and influence outcomes; and 3) they are unrealistically optimistic about the future.
Essentially, Happy Holly is so damned happy, because she’s able to fully embrace the good and reject the bad in herself, she has a strong sense of agency accompanied by a firm belief in her ability to exert control over life experiences and, as strange as it may sound, she feels like she’s got a better shot than most at living the Good Life, as she defines it. Not because she’s narcissistic, or terribly arrogant, but because she thinks she’s a slight cut above the rest. She has to, frankly, because Happy Holly’s happiness depends almost entirely upon her ability to lie to, and deceive, herself about herself.
The key to happiness, it seems, lies within our ability to fool ourselves.
My advice then, should you find yourself down in the dumps, is to track down a pair of rose-coloured glasses and turn them inward. Don’t be afraid to see yourself as the magnificent creature you truly are. Downplay your flaws, highlight your best features, overlook—heck, outright deny, at least in the privacy of your own mind—any failures, but claim every last success. Live the poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley, and affirm to your incredibly resilient self on a daily basis: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Believe the entire universe conspires to assist you in manifesting your desires. And, above all else, hold yourself in the highest of high esteem, even if you must deceive yourself to do so. Be your own spin doctor.
Put a positive spin on YOU.
It may feel a bit weird at first.
If so, remind yourself loudly and often, “This is what normal people do. This is what normal people do. This is what normal people do. This is what normal people do….”
Soon enough, you’ll be smiling, too.