Why do we resist joy?
And yet, so many of us resist joy. We put hurdles in our own way, we get caught in negative thought cycles, we hide away from our own dreams and ambitions. We make our lives more difficult than they need to be (both consciously and subconsciously), and we steer ourselves away from the joy that we deserve.
But why? Well, that’s a question I’ve found myself doing a lot of research about recently, and here are my findings…
We’ve been taught that joy is hard won
The majority of us have grown up in a society that teaches us that the most traditionally successful people are the ones who work the hardest, who sacrifice the most, who hustle harder than anybody else. We’re also conditioned to believe that traditional success is correlated with happiness.
So it doesn’t take a huge leap to correlate the two, forming a belief that joy and happiness requires a lot of hard work and effort. But the truth is, living a joyful life doesn’t have to be difficult. We don’t have to graft for years in order to qualify for joy. You can start accessing more of it in your day to day life right now, without any extra effort or work. You just need to change your mindset.
We don’t think joy is important
It’s easy to belief given the current political, economical and social landscape that joy isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. There are more important problems to solve, like inequality and injustice and the divisive issue that is Brexit, right?
Well, yes, there are some pretty big global issues to tackle at the moment. And I’ll bet that you have some pretty big things to concentrate on in your personal life too, like your career or your home or your family.
But the truth is that having more joy in our lives is only ever a good thing. It only ever helps us to tackle big issues with more empathy and resilience and strength. If we want to do more good in the world, and if we want to improve our chances of personal success, focussing on our own joy first is a pretty good investment.
We don’t believe joy is available to us
One common reason why people tend to resist joy is that they don’t believe joy is available to them. There are many reasons why somebody might believe that - perhaps they’re going through a particularly difficult time, or experiencing a bout of poor mental health.
I’ve certainly experienced periods myself when joy has felt outside of my grasp, but in truth, those are the moments when we most need to concentrate on our own joy. We might not be able to live lives that are all sunshine and rainbows, but reaching for those little sparks of joy can help us to start turning things around.
We don’t think we’re worthy of joy
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, I think we’ve all resisted joy at some point in our lives because, deep down, we don’t believe we’re worthy of it. Maybe we think we haven’t earned it yet, or that other people are more worthy than us. Maybe we feel guilty experiencing joy because people we love are struggling.
Whatever it is, if you hold a belief that you’re not worthy of joy, I want you to really examine that belief and pull it apart. Because the truth is, we all deserve joy. Sure, our world makes it more difficult for some of us to access than others, but we still deserve it all the same. In the words of the wonderful Jen Carrington, “joy is our birth right”.
Joy makes us feel vulnerable
Last, but by certainly no means least, so many of us resist joy because it makes us feel vulnerable. We avoid leaning into happiness and joy because we hold a belief that when we do, surely everything will start to fall apart. We worry that celebrating and championing joy leaves us more vulnerable to failure and loss and disappointment. And if there’s one emotion us humans like to avoid at all costs, it’s vulnerability.
But the truth is, we’re all vulnerable, whether we like it or not. Whether we choose to prioritise the things in life that bring us joy, or allow ourselves to be paralysed into inaction, we are still just as vulnerable to tragedy and trauma and upset. Resisting joy doesn’t protect us from vulnerability, it simply starves our lives of hope and happiness and love.
To live a truly fulfilling life, we must accept that there will be some vulnerability involved. But we must also know that nestled in amongst that vulnerability is that deep sense of joy we all crave.
If you’re ready to stop resisting joy and start inviting more of it into your life, my new class, Joy School, is for you! Enrolment closes at midnight on Friday 31st May, and you can save 20% off the launch price using the code JOYSCHOOL20.