Are you struggling to be happy? Do you find yourself watching people whose very essence seems to scream ‘I love life!’ and wishing it was that easy for you?
I am watching my youngest daughter in gymnastics and I am in awe of her inner joy. She smiles when she waits her turn, she laughs as she jumps on the vault or pulls herself over the bar. One might say she simply loves gymnastics and while that may be true, it is equally true that she just bubbles with joy. BUBBLES! I wish I could claim she got this trait from me, but it skipped me. My mother and my younger sister both have it. Not me! I have often wondered what it is like to find the good in nearly everything. The truth is, I honestly can’t even imagine.
Do you want to unlock your JOY?
I have attempted to unlock my joy. I’ve read a lot of books. One of my favorites by Gretchen Rubin (“The Happiness Project“) points out that happiness is something you need to pursue and work at daily. So I decided to pursue my happiness. I made a commitment to have only positive thoughts for 7 days. No complaining. No negativity. Only 7 days.
For 4 days I tried and failed. Every. Single. Day. I kept asking myself “why is this so hard?” I have a sign in my office that says “Happiness is something to decide ahead of time.” Well, I did that! I decided! And you know what?
I’ve tried other things. I’ve exercised, did yoga, filled out a gratitude journal every day (for four months). I’ve completely overhauled my diet (no sugar, no wheat, no dairy) eating more vegetables than I have EVER eaten in my life. I’ve tried the whole anti-depressant thing (with side effects I was not willing to live with every day). I even tried the “fake it till you feel it”. I gotta tell you it was exhausting. I so desperately wanted to be that person who had inner joy! I was trying every day and it was so hard and felt so….WRONG. It takes a lot of effort to fake it and you know what? It doesn’t feel very good either. I personally don’t like people who are fakes and here I was being one! The truth is I shouldn’t have to be fake every day and neither should you. After these experiments-gone-wrong I was left with wondering what was the secret? How do I unlock JOY when it feels so contrived? And you know what I discovered?
JOY is found in acceptance.
Accept that though you may not BUBBLE over with joy like my daughter, your joy simmers or comes in bursts or it’s a dim light that you struggle to see. I was so focused on trying to bubble with joy that I failed to recognize that I already had joy–it just looked different and it wasn’t necessarily there every day. Is it helpful to be grateful, eat healthy and exercise? Yes, but I was doing all those things in an effort to be something I was not. It’s so easy to look at someone else and see their talents and value and think that we are less than that. The truth is we can’t all be bubbly and optimistic. We have to allow ourselves to embrace our nature. That doesn’t mean I am giving up on joy, I just know that mine is reflected in a different way.
We value the nature of others what business do we have not to value our own? Who am I to decide who is the best? So what is your nature? What is your value? To help you get started I will share what I learned: I value my ability to see someone who is hurting and be able to listen and relate with them. We need people like you and me to be writers, poets, singers, actors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, moms and dads who can help others find their way.
While we can value those who express joy easily, it does not diminish our own value, our own nature.
You can beat yourself up and read one self-help book after another trying to change the essence of who you are OR you can look inside yourself and see your nature as valuable. The world NEEDS YOU.
I encourage you to embrace yourself–all of you. Those “faults” you see in yourself, just might be your strength. They may be different from your family, your significant other, your coworkers, and sometimes maybe different from what you really want, but they are YOURS. You will ultimately find your joy by wishing you were YOU.
What do you need to value about your nature? Share in the comments and find the JOY in being you.