A few observations struck me over the past few days that had me thinking about when did we lose the joy of ourselves. When did we leave behind the pure essence of ourselves like a faded photograph in some strange exchange for fitting in? When did we lose sight of our true inner beauty selling ourselves out to be, well, accepted? When did we start to believe what others thought of us mattered… so much so that it started to define us and where we may have put out intentions to meet those expectations or arbitrary criteria for being “normal” or to be like everyone else, or even worse to be someone else?
It was a pleasant spring day and I stopped by a park to get some fresh air and sunshine. I first noticed small children simply playing. Simply just being—running, laughing and overall just oblivious to anyone around them. They were not worrying about what others may have been thinking about them or what they were doing. After all, they were just having fun and in their moments of joy.
As I sat in the sun I saw many people walking, running, etc. In particular, there was one women who caught my attention. Unlike the others who were going about their walk or run in what one would say was more conventional or how most people go about their walk or run, she was “dance-walking.” She had her ear-buds in and was walking at a good pace—but along her walk, she was dancing—breaking out some moves, stopping briefly along the way in a fluid flow of dance.
I saw her circle around the path a few times, all the way moving to her beat—to her song. I have to say, it made me smile and think good for her! There were a good amount of people along her path, but she never stopped. She did not get self conscious or try to subdue her moves. What also caught my attention was how the adults along the way seemed to “ignore” her as they noticed her, but more so how the little kids gravitated to her. They would stop, look back at her, smile and put a dance move in their steps. It was like magic.
The next day driving home from work I decided to take a different route. I passed an elementary school that had on its marquee a Dr. Seuss quote from The Cat in the Hat, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out.” The Universe sending me a message for sure—connecting my observations from the past two days.
Somewhere along the early path of our lives, we start to get self-conscious. A phenomenon subtly but increasingly occurs where we start to be compared by others or compare ourselves to others, and where we start to pay more attention to the noise around us about what we are suppose to want, how we are suppose to act, etc. When we don’t think we live up to those expectations or criteria, we work even harder to meet those myths. In a paradox of thinking we are working to stand out, we are actually working to fit in. We work so hard to blend in or to be like others that we forget to just let ourselves be ourselves.
Some people put so much effort or energy into this that their joy is lost. The happiness of being satisfied with who they are, where they are and where they are going gets buried. The music of their souls is drowned out by noise and the colors of their worlds fade. But all is not lost. As I thought about the small children at play, the dance walker and the Dr. Seuss quote, it brought back into focus the importance of re-discovering joy, to heed the advice of being true to yourself and to hear and sing the song of your soul.
Just as anger can be a powerful and palpable emotion, so can joy. Feel it. Let yourself go and be happy. Immerse yourself in it no matter what your situation. When you are grateful for something, feel that completely. Take a few minutes and feel that joy. Stop being so self-conscious. Stop comparing yourself to others and don’t worry so much of what others think of you. Remember, joy comes from within. Joy requires no one else’s approval, validation or permission. Rediscover your joy!