Books, Encouragement

Choose Joy Part 5

Be Authentic

The options we’ve discussed in choosing a more positive and joyful life have been relatively easy. The next two posts are going to tackle some habits that are much more difficult to create and maintain. This is the hard work, but it is worth it.

Perhaps you’ve seen the meme that reads “People don’t deserve to know the real you. Let them criticize who they think you are.” Honestly, this breaks my heart every time I see it. How you live your life should have nothing to do with what other people want, need, or deserve. Your life should be lived based on what YOU want, need, and deserve, and you DESERVE to be YOURSELF. You DESERVE to know that the people around you love YOU, not the character you’ve chosen to play.

This is not to say that you can’t be a private person. You don’t have to share your deepest, darkest struggles with the cashier at Target to be true to yourself. Not everyone you meet is worthy of evaluating your beliefs and it is ok (and sometimes essential) to limit your engagement with Joe Smoe on the street (or the internet comments). But you deserve not to hide yourself from the people who are a regular part of your life.

This is a topic that requires a lot more work than a random mommy blogger, like myself, can really advise you on, but here is where I started.

Stop lying about how you are feeling

When anyone asks me “How are you?” I don’t automatically answer “Good.” I tell them the truth in the simplest way possible. I started this when I first realized I was loosing myself in motherhood and it made a world of difference. For me “Good” is mediocre. I love the days that I can answer “Very Good” or even “Excellent.” But most days my answer is “Tired” which is relatable is some way to most people, sometimes it’s “I’ve been better” or “It’s been a rough day.”

Now, because I choose to be optimistic I choose to re-frame these hard days with something I am legitimately grateful for. So “I’ve been better” is followed with “…but I’ve been worse too!” and “It’s been a rough day” may be followed with “…but I’m out of bed” or “…but I’m breathing.” and a big corny smile (because it releases feel good hormones). This is an important thing to do because it allows you to be positive while still acknowledging your very real feelings.

We will discuss more about the importance of a positive mindset in the face of trials next week.

And if you are thinking that it is just easier to give a fake positive answer, I’ve been doing this at least since before my miscarriage in 2010, and in about a decade NO ONE has asked for more details with out being sincerely interested. And those people who are sincerely interested are the ones who deserve some sort of place in your life.

Be kind

Ok, so there may be some people who think “but the real me isn’t a kind person”. Be it comes down to the golden rule. Treat others how you WANT to be treated. Not treat others how your internalized shame believes you deserve to be treated. Everyone has some issue(s) that they think means they deserve to be treated like crap. For some people those issue(s) rear their ugly heads with more frequency and strength than others. But do you really WANT to be treated terribly? Or is your deepest desire to be treated with kindness, grace, respect, and love? If you want to be treated kindly then you are a kind person deep down, even if it is scary.

Generally you are going to get from people what you give to them. The more kindness you put out there, the more you will get back. There are, of course, exceptions. There are people who will insist on behaving in the most unloving ways no matter how kindly you treat them, but that is about them and not about you. It’s ok to let go of those people. You can’t fix anyone who doesn’t choose to do the hard work on themselves.

There are also amazing people who will give you so much more love and kindness than you may be capable of giving back. Hang on to those people, learn from them, and treat them the very best you can, and apologize when you need to.

Separate your opinions from your worth

Because it is usually easier to show others grace than yourself, I think this starts by separating your loved one’s opinions from their worth. Our culture loves to divide things into boxes. Republican vs Democrat, Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice, Toilet Paper Roll Over vs Under, Michigan vs Ohio State. It’s very easy right now to look at an opinion and assign value to the person who holds it based on the most extreme examples of other people who hold that opinion and whether or not we agree with them. For example, I could have seen my husband’s Ohio State shirt and thought There are some very obnoxious OSU fans, he must be obnoxious and therefore horrible. But we do the same thing to ourselves too. I could have seen his OSU shirt and thought, but I’m a Michigan fan and Michigan is on a losing streak right now. I must be a loser. I better not tell him I’m a Michigan fan or he will know I’m a loser. Either way I would have missed out on an amazing relationship with him because I would never be able to be myself with him.

When your opinions are not tied to your worth, random internet trolls won’t ruin your afternoon by telling you that you are wrong. Your self-esteem will not rely on pleasing everyone and sharing the same opinion with everyone around you. This is a game-changer folks.

Clearly, some issues carry a lot more emotional weight than sports teams, but none of those opinions determine your worth. The people who are important to you deserve to know what is important to you and why. Don’t hide yourself to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Also accept that you can have a difference of opinion and still both be worthy of love and kindness.

Let go of people with toxic behaviors

Society is very quick to label people as toxic, and it is easy to hate on and blame “toxic people”. This is a bit of a scapegoat sometimes. But it is hard to deny that there are some behaviors that are very toxic to other people. It’s not only ok, but essential, to let go of the people who chronically hurt you with their toxic behavior. That behavior is about their personal hurts, not about you. Don’t devote any more energy to responding to their behavior. And yes that includes not holding a grudge, forgiving them, and moving on.

Be brave

I want to leave you with the encouragement to be brave in your decision to be authentic. Bravery doesn’t mean you are fearless. I’m well practiced at this and it still terrifies me sometimes. Bravery means that you do it even though you are afraid. I believe in you. You can do it.

More resources on being authentic

See the Series

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