I have a new mantra. It goes like this:
"You are allowed to be really, really happy - no matter what."
I'm aware that this new mantra of mine may sound a little strange. Although to be honest, I wasn't really all that aware that it might be a strange thing to say, until I shared it with a friend the other day. Their reaction went a little something like this: "What do you mean by allowed?? Of course you're allowed to be happy!"
Please, let me explain.
I only very recently realised that I have a tendency to withhold joy from myself. In the same way that someone saves the most cherished part of a meal until after they've eaten their veggies, or waits until the weekend to watch their favourite Netflix show...I have found myself to hold out on the feeling of joy. On the happy feelings. On the feeling of contentment.
The phenomenon of 'holding out' for something in the way that you do with dessert or a scroll of the gram does have a name. Delayed Gratification is defined as, "the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future." (Britannica)
In a culture that is conditioned for the opposite - Instant Gratification - consciously delaying gratification is a worthwhile endeavour. One that is considered essential to developing self-regulation and self-control. Cue the 'Marshmallow Experiment'.
Delaying a sense of gratification can work wonders for things like saving money for a holiday - e.g. skipping out on your daily donut for 6 months in exchange for a week-long tropical holiday in the future. Or in the case of the children in the 'Marshmallow Experiment'...resisting the temptation to eat one marshmallow, to be rewarded with two marshmallows.
But when it comes to withholding feelings like joy, happiness, contentment; as a force of motivation towards achievement - it's problematic.
I only very recently realised that I would withhold joy and happy feelings from myself to keep myself working hard towards my goals. Working hard towards 'happiness'. Feeling terrified to feel joy or contentment. I was punishing myself by withholding joy, with the promise that it would come upon achieving the things that I wanted to achieve. But of course, more goals and desires would pop up, and I would find myself stuck in a holding pattern.
I was convinced that joy meant complacency. That contentment meant to give up.
Rather than moving from love, I was operating from fear. I was withholding love from myself. Using it as a reward. Conditionally offering love and joy to myself. The moments of love and joy were so fleeting. Fear was my greatest motivator. I would make myself sick with fear. Never really questioning it because it kept me moving forward. The fear kept me striving for more. It felt like the fear was the thing keeping me alive. When in reality, I can see now, that the fear was the thing stopping me from being and feeling truly alive.
"I am allowed to be really, really happy - no matter what."
No matter the day. No matter where I'm at with my project goals. No matter my weight. No matter the weather. No matter what is in my calendar. No matter what my bank balance looks like. No. Matter. What.
I am allowed to enjoy my life. I am allowed to love myself. I am allowed to be happy with where I'm at. Unconditionally.
I am allowed to feel whatever I want to feel. Whatever I need to feel. And joy, contentment, happiness, aliveness, love are no exception.
It's such a simple thought. Such a simple reminder. But merely saying to myself every morning..."Hey! Just so you're know...you're allowed to be so very happy today!"...puts a pep in my step and reminds me that I was built for a beautiful life. To make beautiful things. To be so much more than just some human machine operated by fear.
Where there once was fear, there now is love. Where there once was fear, there is now the capacity and space to appreciate life in a whole new way. To notice the beauty. To allow myself to soak up all of the beauty and magic and colour around me. To dance in the delight of being alive. To dance in the delight of being a joyful, happy human. To dance in the delight of being. Full stop.
Who would have thunk it (sarcasm alert)...but life is so much sweeter when you operate from love. When you allow yourself to feel joy. When you allow yourself to just be. No matter what.