At a broad level, that tendency to let go of our own agency may simply be a product of a society that de-prioritizes feelings and emotions. “We’re trained in this country to respond to, ‘How are you?’ with a simple ‘fine’ or ‘good’ and not to really get into it,” says Harry. But in not deeply considering the feelings of others, it’s easy to lose sight of your own, too, she adds. And that subtle detachment from authenticity is what lies at the root of common habits that can steal your joy.
- Grace Harry, a joy strategist, philanthropist, creative director, and life coach who believes “joy is your birthright”
Below, Harry walks through three mental processes and behaviors that can sneakily rob joy right out of your hands.
Here are 3 habits that can steal your joy, according to a joy strategist
1. Ignoring a gut feeling
It’s tough to feel joy if you aren’t allowing yourself to feel, acknowledge, and address the other authentic emotions swirling around within you. “As a coping mechanism, we become really good at responding to a negative feeling by pretending it doesn’t exist,” Harry says. But when you don’t listen to the feeling, it’s easy to lose track of what’s best for you at that moment. “Every time you think a ‘no’ in your head but say a ‘yes,’ or whenever the words inside of your head don’t align with the words you say, you’re not feeling joy,” she adds.
“Every time you think a ‘no’ in your head but say a ‘yes,’ or whenever the words inside of your head don’t align with the words you say, you’re not feeling joy.” —Grace Harry, joy strategist
To shield yourself from this tendency, Harry suggests abiding by your internal “feelings GPS” as closely as you can. “If, for example, you walk into a party and feel uncomfortable, lean into that feeling and look for the 'why',” she says. Maybe it’s because the energy simply feels off, and you’d be better off leaving. Or, maybe you’d be most comfortable finding an outlet to be authentically yourself. “Perhaps, you find one person, and say, ‘I feel totally awkward,’ just like how a little kid would,” Harry says. That simple act can have the effect of bringing you back to you.
2. Putting others before yourself
Making other people the star of your own show, as Harry says, is one of the habits that can steal your joy quicker than you can say “self care.” As an example, consider a work project for which you take on the work of teammates who are falling short and end up extending your workday in exchange for your evening. “Suddenly, you’re overworking, and you’ve allowed someone else to drive your joy away,” says Harry. “You've given your time to that other person, and now, you no longer have the time you’d set aside to take a bath or watch a movie or finish a book that night,” she says.
Play that scenario on repeat in different contexts, and it’s easy to see how constantly prioritizing the needs of someone else could leave you chronically missing what you need to feel like yourself.
For the same reason, Harry suggests that her clients not only calendar in time for whatever they truly enjoy every day—be it yoga, cooking, a bath, or something else—but also that they actually use the things in their home that they might normally just save for company. “Put out the nice glassware, use the throw blanket, the dish towel, whatever it is that feels special,” she says. The idea: If you consider your visitors worthy of experiencing the joy of these items, why wouldn’t you be worthy, too?
3. Surrounding yourself with people who sap your joy
While other people can’t necessarily give joy to you (Harry contends that joy comes from within), the energy you expend on people can certainly steal joy from you—not necessarily because the people are inherently “bad” in any way, but more so because they aren’t aligned well with you. “Sometimes, we get into a habit of spending time with people whom we’ve either outgrown or who just don’t get us,” Harry says. And that can apply even to certain folks who’ve been in your life for what feels like forever.
Creating distance from those people might be the very thing you need to re-find joy. “They can still be in your world, and you can still see them every once in a while,” Harry says, “but the people who are closest to you, they have to help you stay in the energetic space of your heart’s desire.”
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