Most of us aren’t shameless hedonists. Our approach to life isn’t to grab as much fun and excitement as possible, seeking thrills and highs. Instead, we take a look at the big picture, and we think about financial security, the people we love, the career path we want to follow, our health, and our long term goals.
Along the way, though, we can end up veering too far away from pleasure-seeking. We end up denying ourselves quite unnecessarily – and ultimately, we can feel empty and drained. There may even come a time when we wonder what the point of life is any more, or when we question whether we truly can ever be happy.
So what are you denying yourself? Is it one of these big three?
And is it time for something to change?
When we deny ourselves time, we pack our lives full with activity. Work, chores, even social events, can all become a way to keep ourselves occupied – when what we desperately need is some time alone.
I used to think I was okay with this. Then a few weeks ago, I started reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In that, she emphasizes the importance of a weekly “artist’s date” – two hours (or more) to do something, on your own, purely for fun.
I’ve managed it once in four weeks, and that was only because I was sick and couldn’t work one Saturday.
That shocks me a bit. I know that I have two hours a week to spend on myself. But somehow, there’s always another blog post to write, or my novel to work on, a podcast to listen to, or my neglected fiancé to pay attention to, or the housework … And when I am too tired to do any of those, I end up doing something mindless like playing around on the internet.
Of course, I enjoy all those activities – but they’re not what Julia Cameron has in mind. I’m not sure why I’m denying myself the time to do something meaningful and fun. Perhaps it’s because I’m not even too sure what I would do with a couple of spare hours!
Are you denying yourself time to simply be? Could you find two hours – or even one hour – this week to do something which you really enjoy for its own sake?
Do you ever feel, deep down, that your happiness doesn’t really matter? You might focus a lot of time and attention on taking care of other people – partners, children, parents – but your personal mantra is “So long as they’re happy, it doesn’t matter about me.”
You might know intellectually that your happiness is important too, but do you really believe that?
I know I struggle with this sometimes. I tell myself that I’m happy when the people around me are happy – which is true, but it’s not the whole picture! Charlie Gilkey’s post really struck a chord with me:
“Being happy counts. Feeling good counts. Enjoying the moment counts. Singing a silent song of joy counts. They count without qualification or justification”. – Charlie Gilkey
Are you denying yourself happiness? We come up with all sorts of reasons to do this:
- “I can’t afford to have fun” (but being happy doesn’t need to cost anything)
- “I don’t have time” (see above…)
- “I need to keep my partner/child/parent happy”
- “I’ll be happy when I’ve achieved this”
- “It’s selfish to focus on my own happiness”
What really needs to change, though, is our attitude towards ourselves. When did we learn that our happiness doesn’t matter? Why do we value our friends’ happiness over our own? Is it really so impossible for us to find a few little things in each day and week which we can truly enjoy?
Often, we’re denying ourselves time and happiness in the name of something else: success. We’re chasing a promotion, we’re forcing ourselves to study, we’re trying to get fit, we’re starting a small business, we’re working diligently through our list of should-dos.
And, along the way, we’re sabotaging our chances.
Denying yourself success takes lots of forms. It’s hard to recognize because we rarely do it consciously. But all of these are ways to subtly self-sabotage:
- Trying to achieve too many goals all at once
- Focus on what we feel we should do rather than what we want to do
- Refusing to spend even small amounts of money which would help us
- Refusing offers of help from friends and colleagues – insisting on going for it alone
- Not taking good care of our own health and wellbeing – burning out
Perhaps we’ve convinced ourselves, on some level, that it’s safer to fail: after all, we can then blame the world for being against us. In a perverse sort of way, we can stay secure in the life we currently have, and insist that we tried changing, but it just didn’t work out.
What are you denying yourself? How could you start making real changes?