Giving Myself My Joy

Geneen Roth

A few weeks ago, ABC premiered Inside Out and it being one of our recently seen loved movies, John and I sat down to watch it.

Like I imagine most do when watching it, I asked John which emotions he feels most deeply represents him – joy, anger, sadness, or fear. Like usual, he says he doesn’t really know.

I said, “Well, I think I am mostly sadness with a little bit of fear and anger.” He didn’t respond so I went back to focusing on the movie.

A couple of minutes later, he said, “I think you are mostly joy with some sadness and anger.” I texted Mama, who was watching the movie too, and told her his response.

“Wow,” she said, “I am glad to see that he recognizes in you what we all see in you. You are a very joyful person.”

I am taken aback by this. It happened again last week when a client couple said they didn’t mind me talking to them so much that I caused their meeting to start late because they thought I have a great laugh and when my coworker said, “You really never meet a stranger, do you? That is a real gift.”

I don’t think I am devoid of all joy, as I love to laugh, find humor in nearly everything, am a “smiley” person, and I am always making fun of myself or things I find ridiculous on TV.

I love to bring joy to others. To make them feel less burdened for a few moments. To help them see humor. To make people laugh and feel relaxed and alleviate stress. My sense of humor is often to lighten the load. Life can either make you cry or laugh and I prefer to laugh and help others do the same.

To project a feeling on someone else, there has to be a source, a place where that emotion comes from.

I always hear you can’t love others or have compassion or empathy for others if you don’t share those feelings/beliefs for yourself.

But what if the truth is, you actually can do and feel empathy, love, and compassion for others because you do possess those sources in yourself but you don’t know how to give them to yourself so they aren’t acute feelings inside of you?

I know I love myself. I have compassion for my struggles. I find joy in what I do for others and how I uplift them. I just tend to hold back on allowing myself to dip into my own source to replenish myself.

I always have the excuses: no time, no money, I don’t know what I want, I don’t deserve that, I will do it when…

It feels so vulnerable to ask myself what would make me feel happy, light, relaxed, and uplifted, but even more vulnerable to allow myself to do it.

Maybe it goes back to being called egocentric, selfish, and self-absorbed growing up when I stood up for myself and drew my boundaries.

Maybe it draws back to growing up with a father who treated play as something loud, noisy, exhausting, and stressful and who talked of withholding what I really wanted to do until I had achieved financial security and stability. Who just wanted me to sit down and shut up and live a very by-the-book life.

I imagine a big part of it is growing up female, especially a southern, Christian female.

I guess if I listened to the fear and sadness that I feel are my dominant feelings, they would also have me sit down, shut up, and stay on the straight and narrow. Cheer from the sidelines. Make everyone else feel great.

Actually, that is mostly fear, my dad’s dominant feeling, talking. Sadness is when I don’t give in to my twitching legs and feet and get up and dance or when the weather outside is perfect for a walk and I stay planted in my chair. I also feel so angry at myself in those moments too, and the Critical Voice roars.

I know it is my sadness, fear, and anger that feed my compassion and empathy for others. I don’t want anyone to feel as down as I so often do.

But how do I turn all of this inward?

So often, my own feelings of loneliness, rejection, and inadequacy come from relying on others to love, consider, treat, and reach out to me like I do for them.

I don’t give in order to receive, but still, I catch myself wondering why I don’t get the same compassion, empathy, understanding, affection, and joyfulness from others.

And this is where I want to become better at mining those things for myself while expressing them in my love language for others.

My love languages, referring to Gary Chapman’s book, in receiving are definitely Words of Affirmation and Affection. In giving, I tend to be more Acts of Service. Wires get crossed when the givers’ love languages are not the same as my receiving ones.

But now that I think about it, I realize I cross my own wires. To feel better, I give myself things: food, books, sleep, a trip home or to the movies. And these are great (except when I attach shame to them like, Don’t you need to be paying off your debt instead? or Do you really need all of that sugar?).

But do I give myself Words of Affirmation or pats on the back or affectionate touches? Empathy? Compassion? Something that would make me feel comforted and loved?

Not really.

I can make myself laugh at stuff but so often it is at my own expense.

How do I love myself the way I need to be loved? How do I bring joy to myself in the way I feel so great in giving it to others?

How do I see my joy in my own reflection as much as I see it in the reflection of others I give it to?

I know it is okay and good that I get joy out of connecting with others. I am glad for the times I get joy out of giving joy.

Besides other people, things that give me joy now are dancing, baking, singing, hiking, watching Disney princess movies, writing, cycling, running, traveling, reading, ice cream, and having time to myself. I want to learn calligraphy and Christina gave me a practice book to try it.

But yet, I am afraid or something to do any of these things.

Or I feel they aren’t important enough.

Or they cost too much and I really need to focus on paying off my debt…again.

Or if I accept my body at its current size and buy clothes that fit and give it what it wants, I will become unhealthy.

Or it feels too vulnerable, like initiating sex and asking for what feels good for me.

Or I don’t want to sit in traffic getting to Zumba class but I also don’t want to find a class on YouTube even though whenever I do this, it is fun and I wish I’d done it sooner.

Or I am tired.

Or I am afraid my stomach will decide to act up and there’ll be no bathrooms nearby.

Or I need to go home and spend time with John since I only see him 3 days a week (even though more often than not, we sit on separate couches and stare at our phones).

Or I need to stay late at work and finish something for someone else even though they never asked me to do that.

Somehow what I want to do for myself will inconvenience or burden someone else and I can’t let them feel down or upset because of me.

How do I make my own joy and happiness a priority? John says all the time, what makes you happy is what makes me happy because I want you to feel good.

Why can’t I say that for myself? I give others a mile and myself a few feet then shame myself for the little bits and pieces I give myself.

I don’t mean to sound like a martyr or victim. I just don’t seem to know how to include myself in people to offer joy to unless I am totally on my own. Or I do know but see the above list.

This is all part of my journey to see myself as others see me, as my Compassionate Voice sees me, and not as the Critical Voice constantly accuses me of being.

I also still need to see and believe I deserve the joy, love, empathy, affirmation, and compassion I give others. That while caring for others is good and honorable, I am in need of self-care as well.

I don’t mull over what to do when others need encouragement, support, or something to laugh at, I just jump right in and feel better for it in the end.

Let me be like this for myself.

2 thoughts on “Giving Myself My Joy”

  1. I haven’t read “The 5 Love Languages” book, but I have taken the online test and done a little digging into each of the five descriptions. It didn’t occur to me that a person can have different ones for giving and receiving until I read your post. Interesting. Now I need to look deeper. I’m glad I know yours now. Unlike with the Myers-Briggs test where I can usually guess where someone’s type will fall, I find it very difficult to figure out someone’s love language unless they tell me. My love language is “Receiving Gifts”. At first I hated the way that sounds and was like “I don’t want/need people to buy me stuff!!” But after thinking about it, I realized it is not the gift itself, but the sentimentality that comes with it. The “someone actually cares and thought about me” part. Looking around my room, I see so many things that I received from people; a necklace from my sister, a doll from my mom, a painting from my cousin, a “Groot” toy from my brother, and many little inspirational-type gifts from friends including the “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful…” quote that you gave me a while back. When I see each of these things, I think about who they came from and…I feel loved.


    1. I did not know there were giving and receiving love languages until John and I were in marriage counseling and it was like, omg, this is part of why John and I have issues expressing our love for each other: our receiving and giving love languages are the same!! Haha. We both feel loved when affirmed and given affection and we both give love by doing stuff to help each other.

      It also made me realize a similar dynamic with my dad. Growing up, I wanted his approval, love, and affection but rarely got these so I felt unloved. But when I thought back to how he helped me move a billion times, helped me financially when he had no money himself, and did so much for mine & John’s wedding, it dawned on me he showed me love growing up but it didn’t show up in MY language. It was like we spoke 2 different languages.

      I highly recommend you read the book. It’s a quick and very valuable read. I definitely see that as your love language as you give the best and most thoughtful gifts and those make me feel loved and considered too. I wish I was better at giving gifts without being prompted to what others want by their Amazon list, lol. I do appreciate that list though, lol.

      And you and I may seem worlds apart when it comes to social interactions and sense of humor, but at heart, we are very similar which makes finding gifts for you very easy most of the time. Quotes, journals, pens, books, haha.


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