“Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.” –Adela Rogers St. John
I have been thinking about maximizing joy; about immersing in the joyful moments that come so fleetingly and about embracing the warmth that accompanies it. Nowadays, with the preceding unpacking of issues like depression and suicide or the even earlier exploration of my subconscious privilege (given by one’s mere place of birth or by race), I find myself seeing the world around me through a new lens of gratitude. With more curiosity than ever before, I am questioning the norms we readily perpetuate that necessarily compromise the joyful moments that are actually so abundant, so accessible and so incredibly, incredibly beautiful.
In the words of Dr. Brene Brown, we are living in a culture of scarcity – one where everyone is hyperaware of lack and where we are always feeling “never enough”. Never good-looking enough, never rich nor stable enough, never certain enough; never smart enough. Today, we spend more but enjoy less, soaking in our thoughts of “if only” – if only you could have that or if only I could be her/him. I learn this from an incredible read, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, that until we are able to embrace our imperfections and acknowledge our vulnerability, until we can say “this is who I am and I am worthy of love and belonging”, we will constantly be awaiting the impossible ideal of perfection before we fully engage ourselves in experiences of joy and love. Until then, we deprive ourselves of feeling the depths of these emotions to their truest and most powerful intensity.
“Scarcity is the great lie,” says Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money. When will we finally put down the rigid yardsticks of success and worthiness in our culture that prizes what we have over who we are? Perhaps, only then, will we believe truly that we are deserving of joy and that being vulnerable in embracing happy moments is okay.
We have a deep desire to connect with others – paradoxically, it is this very same desire to connect that drives us to evaluate (and re-evaluate) our worthiness for fear of disconnection. We wonder if we are ‘enough’ for the people around us, we hold back. We fit in by changing ourselves rather than truly belonging. In engaging with others with anything besides our truest selves, we experience further isolation and disconnection. Unfortunately, we use these feelings of isolation and disconnection, then, to reaffirm our conviction about scarcity – we say yes, we are lacking within and I am not enough. We despair about the worthiness that we cannot find. Slowly, we start to believe that maybe (just maybe) it does not exist.
I am hustling with worthiness; I am learning how to engage with others with my authentic self regardless of the tempting idea to “improve myself first, until I am enough” or the seductive mechanism of affirmation to lean into external judgment. I want my own “yes” to outweigh the external approval, the “you are enough” on the inside to overpower the measuring apparatus of worthiness that society creates for us – the you must be this by the time you’re 20 or the you should be like this because you’re a lady. I’ll pass; I want to carry a sense of authenticity and belonging within me, rather than search for it in external places.
We do not have to be extraordinary to be worthy, enough is enough. To engage with the world and the incredible rides it has to offer, we must begin in a place of authenticity. It may be scary, risky and even dangerous; but we shall also feel very, very alive. And isn’t that all we really want? To live and love with our whole hearts?
Dear Stranger, our culture of scarcity, of blaming and shaming, and the myth that vulnerability is weakness is distracting us from experiencing love and compassion towards the imperfect beings that we are. You are okay, enough and worthy of love and belonging; you are all that not in spite of imperfections but because of them. After all, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how light gets in. I hope you, too, will hustle for worthiness.