No matter who you are, where you may roam, or how big and beautiful your life becomes, chances are you know a killjoy. A stick in the mud. A wet blanket. A doomsdayer.
These people are the friends, families, or coworkers who have become so comfortable with their glass being half empty that they convince themselves they aren’t thirsty anyway. The ones who go out of their way to see the storm, and if there isn’t one, they’ll wear their rain jacket “just in case” instead of just soaking in the sunlight. The Debbie and Donny and Dana Downers who suck the air out of our rooms, the helium out of our balloons, the melody out of our music.
Sometimes, we can create a healthy distance from these perpetual naysayers and finger waggers. Sometimes, we can’t. Whether it’s something we have to deal with occasionally from someone based on mitigating circumstances or it’s an inherent characteristic of someone close to us, we all have those moments where we are ready to celebrate only to be met with some version of party poopery.
When the Negative Nelsons rear their pessimistic heads to start spewing messages of dread, I remember this simple, but essential truth: I don’t need anyone else’s permission to love my life.
I remind myself that I don’t need consensus or agreement or even a reason, really, to rejoice in something — and that people who try to shrink my joy, limit my delight, dampen my spirit, and hinder my happiness are simply not my people.
And it’s true. All of it. But if I’m being honest; if the people who try to shame me out of joy are not my people, then sometimes, I’m not my people.
It took me way too long to understand that joy, peace, and happiness can actually feel like triggers for some people. Brené Brown talks about how, in her opinion, out of all the emotions we may experience, joy is the “most terrifying, difficult emotion we experience.” She directly connects our limited capacity to feel joy to vulnerability, saying, “When we lose our tolerance to be vulnerable, joy becomes foreboding. So what we do in a moment of joyfulness is try to beat vulnerability to the punch.” She wraps it all up with this mind-blowing soundbite: “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. And if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.”
As a result, these people don’t respond the way we expect them to when we choose to love our lives. Instead, they react, reminding us in a million ways to know our place, stay small, and maintain our joy at levels that may somehow fly under vulnerability’s radar.
It took me even longer to recognize that their knee-jerk instinct to quiet our spirits or shame us into believing we need to ask the world’s permission to be happy is far less about us — and far more about their own trauma and where they are in their own healing journey.
But I know this now. And this knowing has helped me see the flicker of it in myself in my own life.
I recognize that visceral, fear-based reaction that wants to rise up and keep me in check every time something wonderful happens. The inherent need to justify my delight — and keep it carefully contained in very measured doses. The rampant urge to regard joy as a finite resource that must be rationed to ensure it lasts.
Yes, everyone knows a killjoy — and sometimes that killjoy is me.
Not ever again.
Here’s to knowing that we don’t just have to live our lives; we get to love them—unabashedly and unapologetically.
Here’s to knowing that joy and peace and happiness aren’t things we have to EARN — they are things we get to FEEL whenever and as often as we can.
Here’s to endeavoring, again and again, to lift the limits on our joy so we can always be our own people.
Today’s Soft Never
Today let’s put a Soft Never on the belief that we can never fully surrender to joy. Let’s lower the volume on the voices that tell us limiting our joy is somehow a viable way to avoid hurt, disappointment, and vulnerability so we can celebrate our lives fully and wholeheartedly.