Musings + Essays

On Being Truly Happy for Friends.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above via CollageVintage2.

Do you follow social media icon Tinx? I had a hard time explaining who she was to my husband, as she’s partly self-help guru for the millennial and Gen Z sets, partly comedian, partly influencer? She and I couldn’t be more different in terms of aesthetic or vibe but I appreciate many of her messages (mainly about empowerment and self-care) and find her hilarious to boot. A few weeks ago, she wrote: “Try to be truly happy for your friends.” I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I consider myself a devoted and loving friend. But how often do I congratulate someone reflexively, or issue the bare minimum in response (i.e., champagne emoji or a “wow! you deserve this!” via text)? More generally, how frequently do I move through my life without fully contemplating what my friends are encountering? Tinx’s post jostled me. It has shadowed me and my interactions with friends since. When I hear from a friend — whether she is sharing happy news or venting or anything in between — I have been trying to channel Tinx by taking a minute to fully put myself in her shoes. Sometimes (often?) a promotion is not just a promotion. It’s a recognition of unseen work, a resolution to a stressful financial situation, a vote of confidence from a demanding boss. Sometimes (often?) a pregnancy is not just a pregnancy. It’s years of painful and emotional procedures, impossible-to-live-with interruptions and timetables, and heartbreaks. Sometimes (often?) a new job is not just a new job. It’s turning over a new leaf after a tough period, shedding toxicity from a previous work environment, a brave and nerve-wracking step towards happiness. And on the flipside, sometimes what appears to be a small setback (an ailment, canceled plans, logistical trouble with caregivers or daycare) is in fact a colossal stress. A girlfriend might air the grievance without signaling that she is in fact struggling on a profound level because — “it’s just a snow day.” But it’s not just a snow day. It’s a snow day that falls on the first day her children were meant to be back at school after a three-week quarantine, and she is so behind on work that she has no idea how she will prepare the presentation in time, and she has already exhausted all of her boss’s goodwill, and she is exhausted and frustrated to boot. “But everyone’s going through the same thing,” so many of my friends are quick to say, eager to dissolve the potential appearance of being a squeaky wheel or a Debbie Downer. I am reminded, immediately, of my girlfriend Whitney who told me, when I was struggling, but feeling as though others had it far worse: “Pain is pain is pain.”

My Dad often reminds me to cut people slack. “You just never know what they’re up against,” he says, knowingly. Tinx’s rephrasing put this sagacity in high relief for me. I have been trying to apply these twin imperatives with rigor when I talk to my friends. I have been working to tamp down the instinct to see the world through my own experience and instead emote around what it must be like for my friend to have decided to move abroad, or finally worked up the courage to start a new business, or go for a third baby, or what have you. I have a funny image that comes to mind when I am in the midst of those moments: I imagine emptying myself of all the self-involved thoughts and emotions and to-dos I am carrying with me. They drain to my feet. I envision myself then turning with openness to my friend and letting happiness or empathy or whatever appropriate emotion the situation merits fill me instead.

It’s profound, the impact of this small shift in awareness. First and foremost, I feel that I am being a more authentic and helpful friend. And while the tenor of this mindset insists these moments are not about me! they are about celebrating good things happening to good people!, I have been surprised to realize that I feel happier, too. (A rising tide lifts all boats?). Stepping outside myself presupposes the truth that we are all running our own races. And so I am realizing that it feels good to deliberately forget myself and experience joy through and for a friend.

Post Scripts.

+On female friendships and the things that matter.

+On surviving a failed friendship.

+What beauty tips have stuck with you?

+Ladybird will forever remind me of one of my best high school girlfriends. I miss her.

+On the selflessness of parenthood.

+On speaking my mind.

Shopping Break.

+Target with the HITS! I love these dipping dishes, rice bowls, and spoons. They are porcelain (!) and incredibly well-priced. We have some similar pieces we bought in a small Asian market in Uptown in Chicago that we use constantly. Those rice bowls and dipping dishes in particular are a fabulous size for so much! (Even tea bags, tiny snack plates, etc!)

+I bought Mr. Magpie a cheerful set of chopsticks similar to these and we use them multiple times a week!

+I cannot stop thinking about these punchy lug sole rain boots. So unexpected with that yellow detailing!

+This scalloped heart baking dish is so fun — and under $10.

+These beaded bracelets are so joyful! Someone asked for a good gift for a girlfriend and this is now going to get my top vote. Such a fun and festive surprise for someone sharing good news.

+New heart jammies from Gap for your little one.

+This pretty Lug Von Siga is now 70% off, as is this gorgeous Loretta Caponi. I’ve had gals writing to ask for Easter dress recs and either of these would be spectacular.

+These kicks are just so cheerful.

+Maisonette is running a great sale — I’m eyeing this funky sweatshirt for mini and these patchwork joggers for micro.

+OMG, this smocked top in the pink for Valentine’s Day! More VDay outfits for littles here.

+This lingerie drawer organizer is kind of the best thing ever. I actually use the “sock” grid for underwear, just roll them up! I was just thinking I need another sock grid for my actual socks.

+This cashmere cable sweater comes in such great spring colors — into the lavender in particular.

+Speaking of lavender, also adore this Ann Taylor score.

+In case you want to test my favorite Vitamin C oil in a small size, this is a good value. (More on this wunderproduct here.)

+While you’re there, check out this gorgeous striped longline cardigan!

+Another seriously cute Valentine’s Day card option — the glasses are removable! My children would adore these.

+And how fun are these XO plates and this garland?! More Valentine’s day ideas here and here.

+These bow wall hooks would be adorable in a little lady’s room or closet.

+This little kit full of lip products in trial sizes would be so fun to play around with.


+Smart-looking sneaks for your man.

+These light wash jeans feel fresh for a little boy.

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6 thoughts on “On Being Truly Happy for Friends.

  1. I saw Tinx’s video, and it hit me strongly as well! I found myself questioning if I had done the same thing you mentioned and responded with a knee-jerk reaction of congrats and some form of emoji! A supportive friend is vital, and it’s essential to be the kind of friend we want to have.

  2. Wow – yet again, you have put words to the delicate feelings hidden in everyday moments. This is beautiful.

  3. This is such a lovely reframing of feeling happy for our friends. At this early stage of my thirties, I am at the very heart of an intersection between my friends’ growth (success! setbacks!) and my own. Thank you, as always, for sharing these eloquently expressed thoughts. <3

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