The Benefit of Distinguishing Perception From Reality

Going For Smiles Story #13

I started Going For Smiles (and Happiness367 before it, in 2016, which you can read about here) so that handwritten smile cards could give everyone a chance to be kind to one another. These stories contribute to the goal of gathering 5,000 shared-smile stories so we can prove that little gestures can have a butterfly-effect impact.

Maybe the bias of the smiling person she knows me to be influenced her perspective of how I looked. Or maybe that cry, and pep talk from my boyfriend, really did relieve so much tension that a calmer glow emerged.

Either way, I consider Lucy a new friend and I wanted to be open about how a usually-smiling and genuinely happy person can have a terrible day, too. As expected, she was sympathetic and appreciated that I let her see the real Andi. Seeing her reaction inspired me to share the experience on Instagram as well, and it was very rewarding to receive encouraging responses. For example, one friend commented, “I think you were being very selfless by sharing your story. Many of us are too prideful to show vulnerability, but you chose to inspire, thank you.”

Recognizing and accepting our emotions is the first step, but the difference is how efficiently we re-center ourselves and what methods we use. I would like to unequivocally advocate for human connection as the way to help us through sadness (and encourage us during happiness).

Please don’t cast me off yet; I know self-help industry generally advocates for turning inwards, and it can be harder to find the person or people who you can turn to. But I don’t wish to advocate for the self-help industry, and I have seen first-hand the power of human connection. Do you have at least one person who you can always lean on? Do you have different people who you turn to depending on the occasion? Are you self-reliant? Regardless which question you answered yes to, I would still encourage you to seek human connection since support doesn’t need to always come from family and friends — it can come from teachers, colleagues and even strangers.

The best gift we can give ourselves is the openness to recognize and accept support in whatever form it may manifest.

Dr. Susan David, an award-winning Harvard psychologist, said during her TED talk, “my eighth grade English teacher fixed me with burning blue eyes as she handed out blank notebooks. She said write what you’re feeling. Tell the truth. Write like nobody is reading.” The experience opened Dr. David to experience a life of authentic emotions, but the core lesson that I take away is how a human connection with her teacher changed her life in ways that turning inwards never would have.

Allow kindness to reach you. Recognize it in even the most unexpected of places. When possible, turn towards the people or people who can offer a shoulder.

And when you have kindness to give, allow it to penetrate perception. Share it randomly. You never know who you will touch in just the right moment. It could be lifesaving.

Emotional Health | Student Debt | Career Advice. Repaying my student loans w/ a proprietary method & helping others save tens of thousands too. Let’s talk debt!

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