Joy, shame, and guilt are often intertwined. We see it all the time. There’s 104 days until Christmas and someone puts up their decorations. Next thing you know a picture of their house is online. Dozens or more comments mocking the home owner for putting up their lights. Pumpkin spice arrives in shops and no one can leave it alone. But the people that love pumpkin spice are rarely heard. Instead we hear everyone complaining about enough being enough – “No more pumpkin spice!” they shout.
If these were the only ways shame and joy were intertwined, it wouldn’t be so bad. We could chalk it up to being silly and no real harm. Except this isn’t the only way it manifests. But this public acceptance of shaming joy shows how deeply ingrained it is in us to silence happiness.
We see it when a child laughs and laughs over something and parents tell them to be quiet. We hear it when a teen loves reading fanfic and parents curl their lip and demand to know what their teen sees in that garbage. We Feel it a little more with each passing year until the adults of the world no longer show joy. They forget how. Joy brings shame. Joy brings pain.
How can we be joyful when we’ve spent so much of our life being told it’s wrong? Joy is too loud. Joy is too bold. Joy isn’t logical. Joy isn’t controlled.
How to Fight Shame and Guilt
Shame hold us back from allowing ourselves to either feel or express happiness. Guilt maintains our silence. But if we identify that pattern in our lives, we can fight against it.
It starts by seeing the small things to be thankful for each day. Use a gratitude journal to keep track of people, events, things etc you’re thankful for. Experiencing gratitude opens yourself to deeper feelings of happiness.
If you find yourself feeling shame or guilt because you feel happy, take the time to correct the lies those thoughts are telling you. It’s okay to feel happy or joyful. Feeling happy doesn’t mean something bad will happen. It doesn’t mean you’re not paying attention. It doesn’t mean you’re disturbing others. Or if your happiness does disturb others (pumpkin spice anyone?) that’s their issue, not yours. It’s okay to be happy about the little things. It’s okay to be joyful about the big things.
Define Your Own Happiness
Rewrite the lies your brain tells you. Those thoughts and words come from the broken child hiding inside you. That child doesn’t know better, but you can show her. You can re-write your thoughts and open yourself to happiness.
Allow yourself to be happy. I don’t mean just a smile or laugh here or there, but actually happy. When you feel yourself lighting up, take the time to really experience the moment. How does your body feel? How does your mind feel?
As the feeling fades, or as soon as possible after, write down what happened as you felt happy. Write down as much as you can think of about the situation. Where were you? Who was there? What drew your focus?
Gratitude, happiness, and joy are all interrelated. The more we feel one, the more we open ourselves to the others. The stronger these thoughts and feelings are within us, the less shame grips us.
Allow Others’ Joy
Happiness is contagious. If we smile at someone, they usually smile back. Let go of shame and guilt and allow yourself to feel happiness. You also need to let go of shaming others for their own happiness. If you continue to shame others, you’re subtly telling yourself you don’t deserve joy either.
This takes practice, but it does get easier. Once you allow others to feel their own joy, you open yourself to experiencing those same feelings when you them feeling happy.
Stop shaming others. Let go of your own guilt related to happiness. Be thankful for the good things in life. These are all small things that have enormous impact on your life. Allow yourself and others to be happy and your world will be transformed.