Some messy thoughts have been a-brewing this week. While I haven’t quite gotten them all cleaned up, organized in their own little labeled thought cubbies, I want to explore them a bit here with you. Partly because I’m not sure I’ll ever successfully sort through them… Partly because I’ve love to hear your thoughts…
It all started when I had a few friends encourage me to remember that I don’t always have to be a joyful person. Sometimes, I might not feel the joy I think I should in all situations, and that’s okay. I don’t have to get on my case. I am human after all. (Dang it.)
After this exchange (one that I completely agreed with), I started pondering on a deeper level what joy I’m “aspiring for” as I write weekly. The last thing I’m trying to do with these musings is beat myself up or speak in a “corrective” tone. Nor am I aiming to fake joy when that’s not what I’m feeling.
Instead of a grand aha, this question led to more questions, and I found myself looking up some definitions to these words I’m exploring.
JOY – A feeling of great pleasure and happiness
HAPPINESS – The state of being cheerful, merry, joyful, gleeful, untroubled, delighted…
Differently stated: joy and happiness are feelings. Emotions. They are born of the same family as anger, melancholy, fear, apathy… Feelings, by definition, are an emotional state or reaction: the instinctual result of marrying general circumstance, biochemical reactions and the uniquely mysterious computers of gray mass in each of our heads.
As a natural next step, I came to two very important conclusions:
1. I desperately need to rewatch Pixar’s Inside Out, and
2. I firmly believe that we have no power to choose our feelings.
Instead, feelings (even angry ones) are part of a beautiful spectrum of reactions we all experience daily. SO! If I can’t choose my feelings, what is it that I’m claiming to aspire for? Digging into the world of inspirational quotes (thank you, Google images) helped me find what some other joy-seekers have said.
“The one thing in life you have complete control of is your attitude. Choose it wisely.”
“The choice to have a great attitude is something that nobody or no circumstance can take from you.” – Zig Ziglar
“Attitude is a choice. We can choose to be positive, happy and enthusiastic. Or we can choose to be negative, miserable and angry. The choice is ours to make every day.”
– Bryan Bradshaw
So this attitude thing? It had me turning back to Miriam Webster.
ATTITUDE – A settled way of thinking or feeling about something or someone that is reflected in behavior (italics added)
Here was my momentary AHA! I am not seeking to deny my feelings; instead, I’m aspiring towards an attitude of joy. More inspirational quotes enforced this:
“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make someone else (even myself?) comfortable.” – Nicole Lyons with parenthetical statement added by Jen
“Nothing destroys self-worth, self-acceptance and self-love faster than denying what you feel.” – Iyanla Vanzant
“Whatever my outward response is, I have to deal with my feelings… If not, my body can shake; I have headaches, stomach issues… If I repress my feelings, they can do physical damage to my body.” – Donna Matlik (aka. my very wise mom)
So–that is obviously not the goal. How, instead, do I make an attitude of joy part of my daily posture? (Goodness knows I need the inspiration to stand up straighter!) To steal the words from Miriam Webster, I want to find ways to process my instinctual feelings in a way that I settle upon joy–in a way that joy is reflected in my outward response or behavior.
Here’s the kicker (as in right in the proverbial shorts). It’s also the reason my AHA was momentary: I have so many questions as to what this looks like.
- How does one successfully choose an attitude that is in direct conflict with one’s feelings?
- How do you express frustration and deal with less-than-happy feelings in a way that allows you to let them go authentically instead of deny them?
- When does choosing a positive attitude backfire? Can it leave you open to being taken advantage of? If so, how do you find a balance of aiming for positivity while speaking up about what’s negative?
As I stew in this soup pot of thought over the next few weeks, I may or may not come back to some of these questions in future blogs. However, I would love to hear your take, experiences or successes around fostering a joyful attitude. If further conversation is all that comes of this, I won’t have to work hard at feeling pretty darn happy about it.