Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why Groups of Laughing, Happy People are So Bloody Annoying

What, you don't want to join us? (from
Janine sat alone, her music blasting into her ears through her headphones, her eyes focused on last-minute revision, but she could still hear them. Those peals of laughter, breaking through her music and drilling into her brain, insisting to be heard. Insisting that she know how much fun they were having while she sipped her luke-warm latte and tried to focus on the words between their dancing shadows. Glancing up, she saw them; all toothy laughs and blushing cheeks, perhaps not beautiful but confident enough to fool anybody, jumping and rolling around in the sun. She clenched her teeth. How annoying they were, these fools who had nothing better to do with their summer holidays than to play and laugh and drink and dance. How irritating. How lucky.

If you hadn't guessed, Janine is spending her summer working hard, while everybody around her seems to be having fun. Does her predicament sound familiar to you? Have you ever tried to enjoy a relaxing revision session in the park, only to be interrupted by some frisbee-playing maniacs? Are your ice cream café breaks turned sour by the sound of laughter from a nearby table? Do you find yourself feeling annoyed when a big, rowdy group disturbs your day?

Look at the story again. Was Janine annoyed only because she needed to get her work done, or do you think something else was going on in her mind? Well, I wrote her, so I'll tell you that she was jealous. Jealous that she wasn't part of the fun; jealous that those people probably saw her as the studious nerd in the corner and not as their fun-loving friend. She might have been jealous because her own friends never suggested volleyball in the park, a dip into a freezing lake or a midday picnic, or that they never invited her if they did. She might have been jealous of the brave, almost careless way that those people let themselves go, not caring about what they looked like from the outside, only living in the moment and going with the flow.

Be honest; how easy is it for you to relax and let go like that? Do you spend your trips to the beach running around on the sand with reckless abandon, splashing around in the sea, or do you spend your time worrying about sunburn, jellyfish and sand in your shoes? Does the thought of camping with your friends fill you with joyful images of singing over camp-fires or with terrifying thoughts of hungry mosquitoes and make-shift toilets? If somebody asked you to take a day away from working or studying, and to join them for a hike in the woods, a swim in the lake or a weekend trip to France, would you leap at the opportunity or quickly find a hundred other things that you had to do instead?

In my last article, I talked about the importance of saying no to things we don't really want to do, but it's just as important to learn to say yes sometimes. I'm not talking about things you're doing to please other people. I'm talking about things that you wish, deep down, you were brave and exciting enough to do - but you worry too much to enjoy them. You worry about every possible problem - the dirt under your nails, the uncomfortable ground, and mostly about what other people will think of you. What would they do if you showed too much of yourself - you might laugh too much, make a silly joke, trip over or say something you shouldn't - and if you make a fool out of yourself, then what will happen? 

This is why it's easier to sit in the shade and watch other people having fun, to find things to do to avoid joining in on those parties and trips, and to turn down anything that sounds a little bit dangerous or uncomfortable. That's perhaps also why you tell yourself that those happy, laughing people are annoying or stupid - because you wish that you could be having as much fun as they are! Sadly, that just isn't going to happen unless you start taking steps towards being confident in your own skin. When you learn to enjoy the moment, and to stop caring about every tiny detail, you not only have more fun but you show other people that you are fun to be around - which means more invites to fun events, too!

You don't have to take up sky-diving or go on a long trip through the jungle to break out of your comfort zone - everybody has a different limit, and many of us will just never feel happy sleeping under a mosquito net or doing stand-up comedy in front of a huge crowd. For some of us, joining in on a party game, enjoying a joke with strangers or getting our shoes muddy in the woods with our friends are big and quite scary things that aren't easy to deal with. If you join my summer programme - Summer School 2012 - we will look at ways that you can slowly break out of your comfort zone. Perhaps today, having lunch alone is terrifying, but in just a few weeks' time you'll be laughing and jumping around in big, happy groups like the rest of them, without worrying about how messy your hair looks or whether you look like an idiot. Or, of course, you can prove me wrong and let me know how happy it actually makes you feel to watch those happy fools and feel smug and superior! 

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