If you’re like most of my career coaching and leadership coaching  clients, you probably hold yourself back from feeling fully alive. Because your joy matters, and because it can feel so reassuring to understand why we struggle, in this series of articles, I’ll share eight reasons why you might struggle to take in the good and what to do about them. We’ll cover the first two reasons here.

1. You feel guilty for feeling joy when so many people are suffering.

If you’re awake to the world, you experience pain—millions of people sick, fires and tornadoes decimating homes, pipelines built, reminders of the threat of fascism. If you feel really good in the midst of it all, you might feel like you’re betraying people who are struggling. You may believe that you must sacrifice yourself or that you don’t deserve to relax or enjoy your life.

If this is you, I invite you to remember this—integrity means wholeness. Although a part of you may believe that it’s out of integrity to feel joy in the face of so much pain, I invite you to entertain the notion that integrity means holding the both-and, the pain and the joy.

2. You don’t want to participate in toxic positivity.

Dominant culture perpetuates toxic positivity, gaslighting, and spiritual bypassing:

  • Toxic Positivity – pretending things are great when they’re not, insisting we should just get over our challenges, and convincing ourselves if we’re not happy, there’s something wrong with us.
  • Gaslighting – manipulating someone else (or yourself) to question reality and their sense of sanity.
  • Spiritual Bypassing – using spiritual practices such as meditation to ignore injustice, hardship, and challenging emotions.

If you conflate paying attention to what brings you joy with any of these, of course you’d feel reluctant to take in the good.

If that’s you, I invite you to entertain the notion that being fully alive means experiencing the full range of emotion—sadness, fear, anger. And joy. Experiencing the delight of sunshine on snow, a mug of hot chocolate, or an enthralling book—and admitting that we feel joy while we feel joy—is not the same as toxic positivity.

Click here to read 8 Reasons Why You Might Struggle to Take in the Good: Part Two.

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