Getting Uncomfortable to Get Happy
"Vulnerability is the Birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change" -B. Brown
Play has all these awesome physical benefits, and perks for cooperation and interpersonal wellbeing… AND, um, it’s really FUN. So why on earth do we abandon play in our adulthood? Adult responsibilities and obligations hijack our attention and schedules. The demands are never-ending, and play and fun get squeezed out… and we don’t seem to question it much. All too frequently, I think we blame “lack of time” for our decrease in play and joy. That may be part of the story, but I really don’t think it’s the whole picture.
Here’s the thing – play (albeit pleasurable and awesome) is frequently just outside our comfort zone. Why? Because we simply don’t do it much anymore; it’s a bit foreign and can be kinda’ awkward. AND we are constantly intaking messages that dissuade play. I mean, not in a literal way. So far, I haven’t heard anyone utter the words “Don't play! It is bad.” But, our culture *does* heavily praise and value success, hustle, sacrifice, and attending to your own needs last. If you read between the lines, the messages are:
“Play is a luxury”
“I can’t afford to play until I’ve earned it”
“It’s selfish to play, have fun, or take time for myself”
Play can be vulnerable in another way as well. In play states, we are our true self (we’re not who we think we should be, or who others wish we were… we are authentically and uniquely ourselves). And, well, whenever you allow your genuine YOU-NESS to show up to the show, there’s an element of vulnerability, right?
And maybe sometimes we DO go for it. We engage in play, really true play....the type that engulfs us and elates us. What do we, so frequently do, next? We condemn ourselves; we criticize and feel guilty.
“I should have been working”
“I can’t believe I wasted that time”
So, I suppose this post is ALSO about self-compassion. Both vulnerability and self-compassion are non-negotiable ingredients in the recipe for happiness. Are you even willing to participate when your playful heart asks you to engage? I hope you say "yes."
“I wish I had allowed myself to be happier.”
That is one of the most common statements from folks on their deathbed (according to a study that collected data from Hospice workers). Brené Brown, expert in shame and vulnerability research, talks about this idea of "foreboding joy." Basically, she says joy is a terrifying emotion, because we are acutely aware that situations can change and that joy could be ripped away from us. So, what do we do? Many of us tend to dress-rehearse vulnerability in an effort to beat disaster to the punch. We keep joy and pleasure and happiness at an arms-distance to protect ourselves from potential hurt. That's one way. But it's NOT the way that earns you a fulfilled, vibrant happy life (or a peaceful passing when the time comes). Because the thing is...it doesn't protect us from pain. (Just because we practiced the pain, doesn't mean it's easier to navigate). It DOES, however, keep us from fully experiencing the awesomeness of it all while it's here, available for us.