Stop Feeling Bad About Feeling Good


Marc RoyceFrom Health magazine

It was one of the best—most awesome—weeks of my career: Within 36 hours of my latest novel hitting the best-seller list, I signed with a publisher for my novel-in-progress plus a second book. I was beyond ecstatic that all my hard work had paid off.

My husband was the first to know. Then I called my parents. After Mom and Dad, I … well … I wasnt sure who to tell next. I just couldnt bring myself to pop the proverbial cork on the news. Instead, I let my husband and my parents do the telling for me. And once the word leaked out, I still insisted on downplaying it with a humble preface (“It barely made the list”) and epilogue (“Itll probably never happen again”).

To their credit, my best friends wouldnt take the self-deprecating bait. “Stop being so modest!” shouted my friend Rachel. “You! Are! Awesome!” But its not just me. Lately, Ive noticed a general reluctance to share good fortune—of any kind. One friend completed her first half-marathon but swears she nearly died at the finish line. A family member reached her goal weight but warned shes just one cupcake away from exploding out of her skinny jeans. A colleague thanked me for praising her book, then called it the biggest piece of crap not only in the history of crap but in the history of history.

Why are we so tight-lipped about our good fortune? I polled my friends, and two themes emerged, both tied to the fact that were being bombarded with media stories about lost jobs, homes, savings. First, to talk up our happy news in the face of others adversity just seems insensitive.

And my friend Carolyn accidentally reminded me of the second reason we keep mum: “Im thrilled for you when you do well,” she said. “Of course, if I didnt like you, I might put the voodoo on you.” She was kidding—I hope. But her joke brought up our very real fear of being jinxed. That all the good stuff could vanish. Just. Like. That.

Fortunately, theres no evidence that such hexes actually work. On the other hand, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, have observed that happiness spreads virally throughout a social network. In other words, hearing about positive occurrences—whether theyre achieved through hard work or good luck—can boost morale for my friends, my friends friends, and their friends friends friends, too. So, while its important to open up to pals about your challenges, you can have a much bigger impact by sharing your bliss.

That makes total sense to me. When something great happens to one of my friends, it makes me happy, too. Of course, I have to know about it first. So dont hold back! Work that joyous mojo. Just imagine what would happen if we all made an effort to celebrate, not self-deprecate. The collective power of positivity could trigger an epidemic of awesome.