My #1 Insight from The Happiness Project

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Have you read The Happiness Project? I know I’m a few years behind, but it’s taken me forever to get going with it – more than a year. It’s a great read, but for some reason I wasn’t making reading a priority, or maybe I was reading at the wrong time because I kept getting interrupted by small people and I found myself in that doldrum where you keep reading the same paragraph over and over and over again but never move forward….

I finally decided to make this book a priority because I really did want to see what sorts of insights Gretchen Rubin would come up with, and I loved her voice and her down to earth nature.

I probably need to re-read the book and take notes, because there are a ton of great insights throughout, but the biggest take-away I found was her mantra to “Be Gretchen.” She talked about how she was sometimes ashamed that she liked the things she liked because she thought others would think she was juvenile or boring or unsophisticated. She made an important distinction between liking the idea of something and actually liking something. I think her example was world travelers. Their lives look so interesting and exciting and romantic and many of us think we’d like to do something like that, but for Gretchen, nothing sounds better than her New York apartment and a good book. Sounds pretty lame compared to being a world traveler right? Perhaps, but the point is to be ok with that, to own it, and hold fast to the things that make us, us. 

That got me thinking about my own life and the things that I love, many of which get pushed on the side or suppressed because I’m trying to appear like I’ve got it all together, or that I’m interesting or cultured or smart or whatever. It could be anything depending on who I’m with. I had a thought today – I often look at others and wish that I had what they have, or wonder what it would be like to live their lives. Today I wondered if anyone thinks that of me. I hope I haven’t projected the idea that my life is perfect, because it is FAAAAR from.  I think the commandment “Thou shalt not covet,” has more to do with us being content and living in gratitude than harboring jealousy. It’s essential to happiness and I suck at it.

When I do this dance of comparison I feel drained, inadequate and pathetic, but I’m a Grade A people pleaser – and I will do almost anything to win your approval, so much so that I will  betray myself and forget to Be Joelle.

I’ll be 30 in a couple months, and while I don’t want the drama of being a teenager/early 20s, those were also the years where I felt most like me, and most comfortable in my own skin. I was unlike anyone else I knew, and I certainly didn’t try to be like anyone else. I practiced a lot of self love, and did what I enjoyed. Because of that, I could hang with anybody. I was very slow to judge and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and get to know people on deeper levels. I was not afraid of what they thought of me. I was up for anything. It was amazing and liberating and fun. 

Considering all this, my main focus for the foreseeable future is to Be Joelle, and really pay attention to and do the things that genuinely feel like me vs. the things that I do simply because I’m trying to win approval or appease people or even make money.

I’ve started simple.

Thinking about and considering these things is the first step.

The next is vocalizing some specific things that I need to do in order to be more congruent. Keola and I have had lengthy discussions on the topic as we’re both feeling incongruent with ourselves at the moment.

Next comes adding in the things that are missing from my life. That means being more creative – writing, taking photos, drawing, being musical again (singing, playing piano/guitar/flute, writing music), being more physically active after baby arrives (running, hiking, maybe dancing hula and maybe joining a canoe club), spending more time in nature, and reading actual books (not clicking through articles in my Facebook feed.) To be honest, I don’t do a lot of these things not because I’m worried what people think about me if I do them, but because they’re hard to do with 3 little ones. They were pushed on the side for more practical reasons, but it could also mean that I’m trying really hard to be a good, self-sacrificing mom (so other people say “Wow what a great mom you are!”). I wear fatigue like a badge of honor.

Some might argue that removing the things that are incompatible with us should come before adding the things we love, but letting go is often the hardest and longest step. The years since we got married have been challenging and I haven’t completely healed from some of the things that we went through. This will take time and compassion, but I think that by filling my life with the things I love can help me be free from the things that aren’t good to hold on to.

How about you? Are there aspects of yourself that have been pushed on the side over the years that you’d like to bring back? What does living in congruence with yourself mean to you?