You see them everywhere, the perfect people. You see them on the streets, at school, at work. You know the people I’m talking about. The ones that are always smiling, surrounded by friends. The people that never stop talking and their laughter is so contagious you can’t help but smile. You see these people everywhere. They seem to have it all. The perfect life, the perfect friends, the perfect everything. But the truth is, under all the smiling and laughter, no one truly has a perfect life. I have friends, two in particular, that I thought had it all.
They both experienced things that you wouldn’t expect when you see them. They laugh and smile, just like everyone else. However, underneath, they were, and still are, struggling to be the people they appear to be. The easiest thing to do in this town is fake a perfect life. Even when we all know that someone’s life is hard, we assume that they’re fine. From anyone looking in, it would be hard to imagine anything being wrong with anyone. The big houses with green lawns and white picket fences create an aura of perfection. They create an illusion of everyone being happy with the best life; but that’s simply not the case.
When I was in grade eight, my friend Audrey’s parents divorced. At first, she was the same, she still smiled all the time. She still joked around. She would still laugh at my incredibly bad puns, even when we both knew they weren’t even worth laughing at. I hate to say it, but when her smile started to fade and I didn’t hear melodic laugh anymore, I didn’t notice. To me, she was still the happy and funny Audrey. To me, she was still a perfect person. She had it all, a nice house, good grades, and she’s was one of my best friends, one of the most amazing people that I had ever met.
I couldn’t fathom how she could be anything less. She hid what she was going through from me so well. When she skipped school, she had a cold, or she needed a mental health day. There would be weeks when I wouldn’t see her at all. Still, when I did see her, she smiled. It wasn’t until I noticed her skipping lunch for a week, I truly noticed the change she had gone through in under a month. I finally realised the absence of her laugh in our conversations, and the bright smile that I didn’t see anymore. The girl who I thought had it all, was truly hurting on the inside.
When I started asking what was wrong, she started coming clean about what she had been going through. At first she was quiet and reluctant to talk about it, not wanting to draw attention to herself. But the more we talked, the more it became clear that she was suffering from at least slight anxiety and depression. The only reason that I knew she was suffering from it was because we talked. To everyone else around us, they thought she had been sick. They didn’t notice the faded smile, or the absence of her laugh, but I did. They all still thought she had it all, and that everything in her life was perfect.
They were wrong. Audrey wasn’t the only person that had made me think she was fine. My other best friend had done the same thing to me. Margot and I had been friends for 3 years. Her life was even more perfect than Audrey’s. How could anyone that lived on an island be unhappy? But in seventh grade I began to see Margot’s smile fade, and scars start to appear on her arms. That was something that caught my attention immediately. The recurring cuts on her skin were something that I couldn’t ignore. Being 12 at the time, I straight up asked her what was wrong.
She lied. To this day I still don’t know why it was so easy for her, but it was. I quietly asked her what was wrong, as we strolled casually down the hallway, moments before debating what movie to see that weekend. “I’ve been busy, so I’ve just been tired,; and the cuts are from sports,” she said calmly, staring at the ground, almost sadly. I asked her if she was sure. “I’m fine,” she said, her voice raised and steady. I immediately let the subject drop. Maybe it was stupid to believe her, but in my 7th grade mind I figured there was no way she was lying.
Two years later I would find out that she was. A few times I had the notion to question her again, but she seemed fine. Still smiling, still laughing, but something still seemed off about her. I got used to it though. The change was gradual, and when she did come clean about what she had gone through in the last 2 years, I was silently cursing myself for not doing anything. I saw her clearly for the first time in years. The closed-off person that I had come to know, had been hiding something for so long. The person that I thought had everything, wasn’t as well off as I thought.
I found us walking down the hallways again a few years later, now in high school. Our footsteps immediately syncing together. The moment she opened her mouth and staring at the ground said, “So I need to tell you something,” I knew it wasn’t good. From there she told me what she had gone through the last few years. Depression, Aanxiety, and finally rolling up her sleeve to show me what she had done to herself. In that moment, I didn’t know what to think. But that’s when I truly realized that even the people | think are happy all the time, aren’t.
Even some days I find myself lying or hiding things from the people that truly do care about me. “Yes, I ate dinner” to my parents, or “I’m not feeling well,” to my friends when I skip a day of school. From the outside, they still all see me as the happiest person. Most of the time I am happy, but sometimes the pressure of life is too much, and even if I want to talk to someone about it, my friends just wouldn’t understand. I know they see me as a person who has everything a girl could want, and I know I do. Whenever I had days that I wouldn’t eat, or felt like nothing could make me happy.
I felt stupid. I felt as though I hadn’t lived through enough to feel the way I did. There would be days or weeks when everything would feel out of control. Those weeks were the times that I would find control in what I had myself eat. I knew should talk to someone, but I knew people would think that I was only doing it for attention. And anyways, skipping a few meals wasn’t going to kill me. If I did tell someone, the person people thought I was would be ruined. Even if my life wasn’t as simple as people thought it was, it was easier to let them think it was than prove them wrong.
Audrey, Margot, and I, are all still trying to be the happy people we once were. We are all still trying to be the people we present ourselves as. Whenever I’m out, I always act happy, it is a reflection of how I want to feel inside. For Audrey and Margot, I’m sure they feel the same. I’ll always find myself questioning the happy and “perfect” people | see now. Asking myself, are they truly happy? Or are they hiding something deep underneath their smile?. When they are alone, are they still happy? Can they think without thoughts of their imperfections crowding their mind?
You never know what a person might be feeling on the inside when on the outside they’re smiling. You can never know what a person truly feels or has been through from the way they act around a lot of people. Even the happiest people you see and know could have or could be suffering greatly when they’re alone, or with other people. The next time you feel yourself envying a person who you think has it all, think about what they may have gone through. Even the happiest of people have had hardships that changed their lives.