It was a pretty big life moment. My biggest business win to date. The ante: upped.
And yet, for a couple of spirit-grinding days in early February after launching Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted, instead of allowing myself to feel intoxicated by wonder and revelry and JOYFUL ELATION – I sprinted the other way.
In the moments where I could have been celebrating, I was instead laser-focused on a not-so-subtle prickle in my stomach. Oh hey there, guilt.
In the moments where I could have, creative exhaustion in tow, smiled and owned the fact that A Big Thing Had Been Achieved, I could feel myself slicing my satisfaction into tiny cubes to make it more palatable.
It was textbook Upper Limit stuff – ‘This is all happening exactly as I hoped and now I’m freaking out and do I even deserve this?!’ and I felt like I’d abandoned myself in the very moment I’d been working towards.
Which is precisely why I want to talk about the ways we diminish our joy (and why we need to stop that madness, stat.)
The truth is, it’s a bit of an epidemic.
So I decided to put a call out on Facebook late last week for some real-life examples of the ways we downplay our joy, and here are some of the tender-hearted, beautifully honest responses I received back.
We have the tendency to skim these things (go on, admit it!) but I encourage you take the time to read through them all and let that strong, silent ‘YESSS… I know exactly what you mean’ reverberate through you.
We’re all connected. The form may be different, but our feelings are universal. See yourself in these stories; a reminder that we’re never alone in our suffering or our silent suppression. These words are truly the backbone of this post.
Diminishing my joy looks like….
“I smother my joy by comparing myself to others – mainly when looking at others as examples of how they do things. This usually happens when I get an idea – a spark of potential, a hint of something expansive – and instead of following my own gut, trusting in my abilities and launching right in, I look to see how other people do similar things. Following someone else’s truth.
Which of course brings up the “I’m not good enoughs” and “there’s no way I can do it as good as that” – which metaphorically speaking is like throwing a big bucket of water over my beautiful spark of an idea and joy gets drowned in the process (never having had the opportunity to flourish in the first place).” — Amy
“When I’m flying high, achieving all I have set out to do – connecting with amazing people, showing up to love, stepping out of my comfort zone and daring to be different, expressing myself authentically, indulging in what makes me happy – there are many moments of intense joy and a beautiful deep sense of gratitude. My days are often filled with ‘pinch myself moments’ and many thank you, thank you, thank you’s being uttered.
But then, often out of no where, I get struck by comparisontitis. I catch myself comparing what I have achieved and how long it took me to get here with other people’s journeys.” — Leah
“I think a huge thing for me is when I’m on the cusp of something big and my whole being is vibing on a gigantic frequency – the connections are happening, the support is rolling in, the creative juices are flowing, and out of no where comes this bolt of ‘hey there girl, hold your horses!’….
For me it’s the tiny mad idea that tells me that I’m too big for my boots, that stepping and shining is egotistical. I diminish my joy by believing the tiny voice rather than embracing my soul’s whisper to ‘go for it’.” — Jennifer
“I have never really liked to show my excitement to other people. I often get uncomfortable when the spotlight is directed my way. So I deflect when people ask questions about me or want to know more about what I have going on. I have been conditioned to believe that to step out and share my successes or joy with those around me who aren’t experiencing a similar set of circumstances is cruel, mean and even rude. So I play down my wins, deflect any seedling of praise and avoid the spotlight.
I don’t allow myself to completely experience the wondrousness of joy in case I offend someone or bring up any uncomfortable feelings for them. I am learning that it’s okay to be pursuing something that completely lights up my entire being even if no one around me is experiencing anything remotely similar.” — Meg
FEAR OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
“My dear husband and I have been planning a BIG overseas adventure. Because of my constant worry about others thinking that chucking in my job and spending a house deposits worth of cashola on our venture was irresponsible and immature I tended to downplay the sheer excitement, joy and exhilaration I felt and put all of our wild plans down to just following my hubby’s crazy ideas – blame any fallout on him right?
As our departure date neared I realised how silly (and detrimental to my happiness) this was and now proudly claim this crazy idea and all the joy that comes with it as totally mine as well. The more conviction I show for my ideas and actions, the more support I receive.” — Jessie
“I diminish my joy by not shouting from the rooftops how friggin crazy amazing my life is, how I’ve manifested all that I want in life. A spiritual relationship, living in paradise and working full time in my meditation business. I diminish expressing my joy thinking I’ll make others feel bad if they’re struggling with what they’re creating and I don’t want to separate myself from others.
I want them to see me as equal and that I empathise and understand their struggles. And I do! It just gets screwy in my head as I confuse empathy with complaining alongside someone.” — Mish
“I played down and shrinked away from my achievement of healing my body of adrenal fatigue, Hashimoto’s and PCOS to once again become fertile (in a medical/health definition) without traditional medication. As a uni student with little to no disposable income, I was spending all my money on organic, nourishing foods, brewing my own kombucha, getting fortnightly acupuncture and osteopathy, instead of spending my spare money on going out, music festivals and alcohol like my peers.
It took two years of sacrifice, self-doubt and determination, and I’m so filled with joy that I was able to actually make it happen! Until very recently, I downplayed this big time, playing it off as ‘I guess it was just a temporary thing’ when people and clients have awed at me. I was nearly apologising for making it seem like such a ‘big deal’ too!” — Helen
DOUBT AND SELF-SABOTAGE
‘I’m someone who works hard to achieve my goals, tick things of my ‘must do’ list and put into action those heady dreams floating around in my head and heart. I’ve noticed however that when I’m really in the thick of the ‘doing’ part, when all the bits and pieces and odds and ends are properly coming together, I tend to freak the hell out slightly and instead of embracing the awesomeness presenting itself on a platter, I almost want to run away from it or I begin analysing and over-analysing, doubting all the efforts I’ve taken to get to that point and ultimately sucking all the joy out of the moment that I’m in.” — Naomi
“I always have a knack of averting eye contact and deflecting compliments by complimenting others or changing the subject. I’ve never been very good at accepting compliments because I was always belittled and teased through most of my schooling years. I never thought that I was good enough to get anywhere with my ideas.
It’s probably part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to realise that my novel and starting up my blog have taken me so long. Sometimes that little seed of self-doubt gets too much and I’m guilty of listening to it instead of trudging through it and believing in myself.” — Mandi
LIMITING THE EXPERIENCE
“I find myself sometimes diminishing joy by sometimes slipping in to being detached from certain things that I normally would be invested in and enjoying. Compliments paid are brushed off. Random acts of kindness are sometimes met with being curious of others motives. Moments for connection with others are occasionally met with a noncommittal ‘it’s all good’. Too much planning and wishing for future events becomes a way that blinds the happiness of the here and now.
In an effort to not seem egotistical, boastful or proud I find myself actually limiting the experience of that moment by not fully embracing the love and joy that it holds.” — Alyce
Any of those scenarios resonate with you? Oh yep? I’m hearing ya.
So, what about the other side of the fence? What happens when you consciously choose to share your joy, enthusiastically, unabashedly?
Let me share exactly what happens.
// Experience true presence – the intensely-aware-of-everything, tingly-toes, huge-beaming-grin-stretched-across-your-face type of presence where NOTHING else matters.
// Become the lighthouse, painting pictures of hope and possibility and giving others a living example of what’s also accessible to them.
// Lift people out of their suffering, instead of joining them in it. (I can actually visualise this. The lifting up looks like two arms outstretched, two sets of hands wrapped in each other, two souls rising; the second looks like a slippery slope into doom and gloom.)
You also, of course, call in more of it. And that’s what we’re seeking, no? Joy, peace, meaning, deep fulfilment, a rockin’ life that makes us smile?
All that seeking is one thing. To be joy – to really be in it, and wear it proudly – is another thing entirely.
Let’s aim for the latter.
Feelings come in daily waves – cresting, breaking, rolling in, rolling out – and joy, like any other spike in human emotion – can be fleeting.
Just like we endeavour to give our shadow the attention it deserves, I’m putting it out there, beauties: let’s be bold and brave in honouring the magic of our ‘lighter’ experiences, too.
Catch yourself in the moments you start shrinking.
Awareness is everything. When you feel thoughts and sensations arising, step away from the dimmer switch and gently steer it back to the truth of that moment.
Feeling stoked about achieving a big goal or manifesting a killer opportunity?
Lit up on new love?
Proud of your progress on the yoga mat, or the running track?
Own it. Let enthusiasm envelop you, and – here’s the clincher – roll OUT of you, before the feeling fades into oblivion. Your joy matters. And remember that the people that matter want to hear about it.
Set the tone.
Expressing your elation for your life might just be the catalyst for someone else expressing their happiness. As Marianne Williamson famously said: ‘As we let our own light shine, we give others permission to do the same.”
If you witness a friend or loved one diminishing their joy, go ahead and ask them why they’re hiding their happiness. Tease it out of them, little by little. Watch them come alive.
Without a shadow of doubt, creating that kind of safe celebratory space for someone you love will have a remarkable effect on… everything. Deeper connection, better conversations, more fun, trust, unity… Not to mention, it’s thrilling to be around people who radiate (in fact, studies have actually proven that happiness is contagious. See, everyone wins!)
Mute that critical inner dialogue.
No-one likes a bragger.
I’m going to feel separate and disconnected if I share this.
Ahh, I just know this will make so and so feel weird, jealous, inadequate.
I don’t want to seem like I care too much. I mean, really, no biggie.. right?
(and the story goes on.)
Let’s clear up the differences between boasting in an arrogant, showy, superior, egoic way – and simply sharing your joy. Humble, but proud.
The first comes from a place of lack – grasping for external approval, seeking validation – but the second, the one we’re honing right in on – comes from a sublime place of gratitude and abundance.
Joy is our birthright. Joy is our essence. Joy is who we are. So to deny that is to deny a natural, integral part of our human make-up.
Shine bright, sista.
Before we go, I want to leave you with this little ‘my-soul-speaking-to-your-soul’ style reminder:
Downsizing your joy won’t actually increase, elevate or multiply anyone else’s. ALL it does is decrease yours… and leave you wanting.
May we all rise, together. High on joy.
And now… I’d LOVE to hear from you in the comments below with an answer to this:
Do you diminish your joy? How does it tend to play out for you? Share away below.
Like I mentioned above, awareness is everything. When we illuminate what’s holding us back by calling it out, our inner wise self starts to look for ways to move through it. Aren’t we clever little creatures?!
Thank you for being here. x
Images: Kelly Ann Mount | Ryan Pernofski