Just Jennifer: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

It’s inevitable. When you’re on Facebook, your newsfeed will be flooded with images of two friends and some trite saying about how true friends are there for you when you need them most.

I say the opposite is true. Want to know who your real friends are? Be totally, completely happy and see who sticks around.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re going through a messy divorce. Friends will flock to your side to help you. They feel sorry for you and they want to do what they can to ease your pain, because, well, you’re sad and pathetic. But then fast forward a year later to when you are done with your divorce, 50 pounds lighter, and have a hot new boyfriend with whom you’re having tons ‘o sex. Are those exact same friends still around?

Probably not.

See, this is what happens. Friends who are not real friends will come to your rescue when you’re down, because, you know, you’re down. Their motivations may vary. Maybe helping you makes them feel better about their own crappy lives. Or on a shadier level, they derive some sort of pleasure from knowing that you’re going through a tough time.

This, my friends, is known as schadenfreude. Get to know it well. This is very, very common.

But then, you come out of your moment in the rain. You’re feeling better. You work on making your life better—and it inherently improves. Only your real, true friends will be happy for your successes. How do you know if their sincerity is real?

Here’s the clue: They are happy for you — and can not benefit from your good news in any way possible.

For example, you get a raise. The real friend is not thinking, “Yay, now I can borrow $5,000 from her!” You buy a new car. Your real friend does not ask to borrow your baby because she’s still rocking a Cheerios-encrusted minivan. True friends are happy for you because they love you, and know how hard you worked for what you have. They are proud and supportive of you in the bad times AND the good times.

It can be downright painful to realize that the friends who supported you when you were down in the dumps are unhappy to now see you happy. Even if their own lives are not peachy keen, they should still be rooting for you nonetheless. Your successes become their successes, and ultimately, your happiness should inspire them, not make them jealous or spiteful.

So while you might want to share your good fortune with your friends and family, you should be careful of expecting only positive responses and heaping praise. (Unfortunately, you may get a lot of negative comments and competitive criticism instead.) Sadly, sometimes people can not see beyond their own misery. But don’t let their wretchedness dull your shiny success. Celebrate each milestone with those who truly have your back, because you would do the same for them.

Most importantly, learn to be happy just for yourself. Don’t worry about what others think. Don’t worry; just be happy.

That’s all you need.

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