Cultivating Joy, Cultivating Friendships

When I was a teenager, I had no idea how to sustain friendships. This is not hyperbole. I literally did not have healthy friendships modeled for me, and the friendships I did have were with people who were experiencing the same amount of strain or trauma in their personal life as I was. We were all just trying to figure it out without any guidance to show us the way. So, we hurt each other. A lot.

But even with the hurts we were blindly injuring one another with, we still managed to find some lasting and comforting forms of companionship. As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for a friend at a local coffee shop. Someone I’ve known since high school. We’ve managed to stay friends through the years. Through college, career changes, babies and marriages, we’re still a resource for one another.

But this hasn’t been the case with many of the people I once called friends. I’d like to explore some of what brings us together and how to keep these bonds healthy. How do we nurture the initial spark of friendship that brings us together, to last through the years? Let’s start with the spark, and see where it takes us.

What Makes a Friendship?

I’ve said this before on this blog, that Jay-Z’s line, “real recognize real and you lookin’ familiar” has a spark of truth in it for me when it comes to describing a friendship. What I like about it is, that I think we recognize what’s familiar in one another’s experiences and circumstances. We see that we’re in the middle of something that looks familiar to us, and are drawn to one another. I suppose as a way to support each other while we try to figure it out. Two heads are better than one, as they say : ) ( :

We’re mirroring each other in a way. And I believe this brings us comfort. Because seeing someone else succeed helps give us the confidence to succeed. And if we fail, we have each other as support. Someone who can show us the positive in us while we’re busy beating ourselves up for not succeeding. And if you’re like me, you are beating yourself up quite a bit.

So having another around to help show us that we’re human, and bound to make mistakes, is helpful in keeping us more grounded and balanced. For me, it has been invaluable to have that kind of friendship. The one that tells me I’m “killin’ it”, while I’m paying back my student loans after cutting back to only working one job. This friend was also in debt until recently. We are both here for each other, cheering one another on while we work to achieve our goals. And that’s a great feeling. Feeling support from someone who knows how difficult it can be.

Maintaining a Lasting Connection

This was the difficult part for me. It was fairly simple finding people who were/are in similar situations to my own. But keeping the friendship alive was a mystery to me. What I’ve come to realize is, that we were all just surviving, and not able to think past our immediate circumstances. This lead to somewhat superficial connections.

I was so concerned with when the next panic attack was going to come, that I didn’t have the bandwidth to make plans for the future. Nor did I have the foresight to do the basics. Such as putting close friends’ birthdays in my calendar. I was just drifting from day to day without any plan or goal in mind, playing video games and drinking to numb my experience of what was happening to me. No bueno.

So, how did I change this? How did I go from just surviving to being an active role in my relationships? This took a lot of work. And it’s something I’m still working on. Let me show you what I’ve come up with for fostering friendships.

Make a List

I’m a list maker. I get a sense of joy and satisfaction just from organizing tasks, thoughts and events into a functional and attractive looking list. This is why I bullet journal. It gives me the right amount of art to organization ratio I need. So naturally, in order to stay in touch with those close to me, I’ve made a list.

This list is on my phone, and I’ve put various friends and relatives into four different groups of people. In the first group, are the people I check in with once a week. Then the following three groups are people that I check in with every three weeks, rotating through each group every week to make sure I don’t miss anyone. This way, I’m staying current with what’s happening in the people’s lives whom I care about.

Be Diligent

It also pays to be persistent as well. For example I was texting one person on my list for weeks with no response. This was kind of disheartening because this person is going through a lot of life events right now and I want to be a source of support for them. Then, during one phone call from his brother, I learned that he never responds to texts, (my preferred method of communication) only phone calls. So I called him the next day and low and behold he got right back to me with a text saying he was at work and is it important. That felt good. Like unlocking a puzzle.

Diligence has paid off with friendships for me in different ways too. I had definitely left many of my friendships to decay by simply neglecting them for a very long time. And I was a different person to most of the people who knew me before I changed. So rebuilding those connections wasn’t something that was a one and done deal. It took being persistent, but not pushy, and kind to those I was reaching out to. Hopefully letting them know that I’m not the ass I used to be.

But, this method worked. I’m now in regular communication with many of the people I was friends with from my past and I like to think that both our lives are richer for it. For example, a friend of mine that I used to cook with told me to Google search, “gross Jell-o molds” and it did not disappoint. My favorite was the ones with SpaghettiOs in them : P

Remember Your Shared Interests & Look for Experiences to Share

As far as the curriculum of friendships goes, planning events and then executing them might as well have been a trig class while I was still taking fundamentals of math. I’m an introvert, so doing things with others doesn’t come so naturally to me. I believe that in most of my romantic relationships, my partner was the one who was making plans for us. So during the seasons of my life where I’m on my own, I’ve had to find things and experiences to do, on my own.

What I’ve been trying to do is, when I think of something new or interesting that I’d like to get involved with, I scan my friendships to see who else might want to get involved. Then I shoot them a text to see if they’d like to join in. Again, this may seem obvious for many folks. But for us introverts, it’s a bit of a struggle to make that connection.

For example, I’ve been into thinking about my Polish heritage lately and am making my next self-care meal as an homage to Polish cuisine. There are a lot of mushrooms in Polish cooking so I found some recipes that looked satisfying. But the more I thought about mushrooms, the more fun I thought it would be to go foraging for some. I went once when I was a child, chanterelle picking in Vermont, and absolutely loved the experience. So I searched for foraging groups local to me then texted some people in my friend group who I would normally take hikes with. I thought combining the two, foraging and hiking was a perfect match.

If Your Friend Can’t Come to You Go to Them

If you’re like me, you’re pretty busy. Until recently I was working two jobs to pay off my student loans, and on the days I wasn’t working, which were few, I’d be cleaning and cooking for the week. This left me very little time for myself. But, I found the time to visit some of my friends who were equally as busy. Tending to our friendships was a priority for me. And I did this by getting creative with how we spent time together.

For example, one friend of mine worked at a local restaurant until recently. So on my nights off, I’d hop on the train and go visit with him while he was working. I’d grab a beer and a bite to eat while he sat behind the bar a told me about his goings on. His family and what’s been happening with him personally. It felt good catching up with him in this way. Seeing him in another light, another role. I feel like I know him better as a person now.

I have another friend who recently took a job at another local restaurant. We’ve been friends since grade school though we don’t get together very often. A couple friends of mine suggested that we go to his restaurant and visit while he bakes. A fun night out, catching up with old friends seems like a pleasant way to spend an evening : )

It’s also a good idea to be mindful of how much of yourself you’re giving in all of your friendships and be cognizant of your boundaries with them. If you find you are always doing for your friends, then maybe suggest a few changes to your rules of engagement. It’s no longer fun if it feels like a burden.

Take Risks

Also, it’s important to step outside your comfort zone. Building friendships isn’t always a walk in the park. There are going to be tough times as well as the good ones. And, sometimes meeting new people means expanding beyond what your comfortable with.

For example, a friend of mine called me out of the blue because she had tickets to a small venue to see a bluegrass band. It was on a day I had off, so I decided to go. I didn’t realize at the time that there would be close to eight of us going. If I had known I might not have gone. But I went, and had a great time. Also finding an amazing new venue for seeing music that I will be going back in the future for sure.

You are in Charge of Your Belonging

Connecting with others is risky sometimes. The pain of rejection, or being vulnerable around another is not something that is easily tolerated by many. Especially if you’ve experienced abuse or trauma. But it is necessary if we want to feel connection, or a sense of belonging. But don’t forget, you’re in charge.

It’s okay to go slow while reconnecting. That way, you’re taking care of yourself while taking the time in building your friendships. And also to take the time to know that they are healthy and genuine friendships. True friends are truly a blessing. Finding and cultivating these friendships is something that will bring us so much joy the more we tend to them. But we need to take the time to nurture them.

If you’ve found your relationships are less than fulfilling, maybe it’s time to inspect how you feel in your connections with and to others. Is the fear of pain greater than the value of your connection? If so, the relationship my be under strain. Maybe the strain of not feeling like you are totally accepted as who you are in the relationship for fear of being rejected. And being yourself is a large component of feeling genuine connection in our friendships.

So cultivate your friendships. And tend to them with a nurturing effort, and you’ll find joy in them. But also know who you are first. And true friends will help you to be the best version of yourself. Not expect you to change. Friendships aren’t always easy, but few things worth their while are. Be consistent and make your relationships a priority and they will yield feelings of comradery and joy. Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “friendship” by bekassine… is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cultivating Joy: Areas Worth Exploring

I’d like to switch gears a little with this post, and the direction of this blog. I’ve been writing a lot about what’s difficult, but what I’m realizing now is that I’ve left out a large part of the picture. The things that bring joy. So it’s with this idea in mind that I want to begin exploring the areas in my life and in general, that make us happy. It’ll be a little different for everybody, but we all have the capacity to experience joy. I’ll still be focusing on interpersonal and introspective topics about relationships, but I thought I’d throw in some positivity to balance out some of the heavier topics.

In the next few posts, I’m not sure how many yet, I’ll be going over some areas in my life that bring me a sense of ease, peace and joy. I’ll be exploring some of what motivates me and the ways I go about finding joy in the things I do. So let’s jump in with sustainability.

The Joy Of Sustainability

This is a big one for me. I’m not sure why I derive so much joy out of recycling, or using that one plastic cup at work for 2 months straight. But the feeling is a light one. Knowing that I’m doing my part to reduce my footprint and use fewer disposable products makes me happy. Also the feeling I get when I leave the grocery store with only a few containers that are all recyclable is satisfying.

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up that are sustainable, my point of view as to why we’re so hung up on our “disposable” world, and how to change our frames of mind about the topic. So let’s talk a little about why we’re so attracted to a disposable lifestyle. Maybe we can get to the root of our filthy habits.

Disposable Lifestyle: Why it’s so Attractive

There’s no doubt that we are attracted to beauty. It’s advertised to us every day. In the ads we watch and read, to the shows we see and the trends celebrities are setting. But when you think of sustainability, do the words “cool” or “sexy” come to mind? They don’t for me. And let’s face it, there is nothing sexy about sitting in a fast food restaurant shoveling a most likely unhealthy meal into your mouth with a plastic spoon. But what if we made that the new sexy?

I’m joking, kinda. As I’m sitting in my room typing this post, next to me on my side table is a spoon rest that I saved from the garbage, with a plastic spoon in it. I use it to stir my tea when I bring a cup up stairs. At first, the sight of the plastic spoon felt trashy. I didn’t like the idea of having something disposable sitting at the ready to be used again. For me, I like the well polished look of a beautifully designed environment. But what changed my opinion about the spoon on my table are two very important people in my life.

Conviction is the New Sexy

I work as a baker at a local bakery. The owner of the bakery is one of the most driven, dedicated and practical people I’ve ever met. She works fifteen hour days and knows all of her regulars names and what’s happening in their lives. And she is also passionate about recycling.

I started working with her when they opened their business about two years ago. One of the things I remember from our first interactions was, that she used a disposable plastic cup for her coffee. This wasn’t so remarkable at first, but what really stuck out was, that she used that cup for about six months. That’s pretty impressive for a disposable cup! This made me think about the ways I use disposables in my life.

The other person is my step mother. She makes and brings her lunch to work with her everyday. And with her lunch, she has been using the same plastic utensils for as long as I can remember her going to work with a lunch. This is impressive, that she can make something “disposable” last so long.

I love sustainability and it brings me a great sense of joy, that’s for sure. But how sustainable am I really? When it comes down to it, am I ready to reuse that plastic cup I purchased a drink in? Does having a piece of “trash” around me make me feel cheap because it doesn’t fit in on the cover of one of my favorite design magazines? The answer to this question used to be a resounding yes. But I’ve come to change my opinion on this matter. Let me tell you what I’ve come up with.

The More Attention We Give to Something the More Special it Becomes

One day, I forgot my water bottle at my house when I went to work. So, I grabbed a plastic cup and in step with the owner of the bakery, I reused that cup. It’s actually still in use, and waiting for me the next time I go in to work. The same is true of the spoon I have on my side table. I can’t remember why I got it, but it’s been here ever since. Waiting to stir my tea.

What’s so strange about these items is, at first they were trash to me. I didn’t like the idea of reusing a piece of garbage. It made me feel cheap, like I was worth less for using them. But the more I used these items, the fonder I grew of them. It seems so strange to me now to think that I’m actually enjoying the plastic spoon that sits on my side table. But there is no denying, that that spoon now brings me joy.

I’m happy to be using something that would have gone into the garbage otherwise and it now feels like it belongs in my surroundings. The same with the plastic cup at work. Knowing that I’m reusing something that still has life left in it brings me joy. It also has my name with a little smiley face next to it, Adam : ). This also brings me joy : ) So my boss’s and step mother’s conviction for recycling has given me a new perspective on what I find to fit in with my image of beauty.

Tips & Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Your Garbage

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up in the area of living a more sustainable life. Most of these suggestions aren’t new ones. But maybe they are if you’re still in the frame of mind that single use plastic is garbage. The suggestions below focus on how to get the longest life from the items we use daily, making our habits a little more sustainable and maybe even creating some joy along the way : )

1 .Public Transit & Walking

Due to some early childhood trauma, I have a condition where I dissociate on occasion. It started happening about seven years ago, and since I haven’t been able to drive. So, I walk. I walk or I take public transportation. Luckily for me, I live in a suburb of Boston. So the public transit system is first class. At first, I disliked taking the T, as it’s referred to in Mass. But the more I use it, the more appreciative I am of it.

I also have had to walk a lot of places as well. I used to be pretty sedentary in my former life. Now, I don’t think twice about walking somewhere that’s two miles away. I enjoy the exercise I’m getting and feel good about lessening my carbon footprint. This is a win, win in my book.

What I’ve come to realize is, that even when I’m able to drive again, I think I’ll still be using public transportation and walking a lot of the time. It’s reliable, it’s keeping me in shape and I’m doing my part to keep emissions down. Sure, the convenience of having a car is nice, but maybe we can switch out some of our normal driving routine to public transportation instead. Or carpool with friends and coworkers. Cars are nice to have, but they are not always necessity.

2. Reusing Single Use Items & Replacing Them with More Permanent Solutions

I’ve already written about the cup and spoon I’m currently reusing, but there are also other things we can reuse. For example, I always bring my reusable shopping bags to the store with me. But I also get and use paper grocery bags once every so often to use as trash bags in my room. I like them because they are recyclable and compostable.

The other side to the reusable single use plastics coin is, replacing disposable options with more permanent solutions. One that would help immensely is, switching to a water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles. The bottle is a one time purchase, most places are happy to fill your bottle and you won’t be creating tons of waste. The same is true of portable coffee mugs. Brew your own or ask your barista to make your morning cup in your mug for you. Other swap outs include, woolen drier balls instead of drier sheets, making your own bandanas and handkerchiefs, if you use them, from old T-shirts. Here’s a link to The Good Trade and an article on making more sustainable swaps if you’re looking for more inspo.

3. Refusing Single Use Items

This one was a new concept for me. I was already concerned with reducing my plastic consumption, but what I was overlooking was, that you can refuse items as well. For example, when I’m out getting an iced tea, I will often times refuse the straw they offer. I don’t use one at home and it’s only when I’m given one that I feel compelled to use them. This is a no brainer now, but it took some time to come to this understanding.

Other items we can refuse are lids for cups if you’re eating in. Only take the napkins you need or use a handkerchief you’ve made yourself. Bring your own containers to the grocery store when buying bulk goods. Carry a backpack or tote with you when you go shopping for non-food items, so you don’t have to use the bag from the shop. Here’s a list of what’s polluting our oceans so you can steer clear of these top items.

4. Gardening & Composting

This is another tasty option to cultivate some joy. Especially if you love fresh food as much as I do. Starting a garden is a great way to cut back on food miles and eat fresher produce. You’ll also bee saving hundreds of dollars on veg. Not to mention how beautiful a vegetable garden is while it’s in full bloom. And if you don’t have a yard, not to worry. There are usually community gardens located in urban areas that allow access to land where you can grow your own. Usually for a small annual fee.

And if you do have the space, composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to recycle food waste. All while building your soil and adding extra nutrients to your harvest. another win for the planet. And if you really want to compost, but don’t have the space, there are companies that collect food scraps like garbage collection, to compost off site.

5. Visit Your Library

Your local library has so many resources, that it’s amazing more people don’t utilize it. You can loan books for sure, but also barrow movies, music, and there’s usually something going on that’s community focused too. Some libraries give tours of their facilities. Scheduling one may yield other hidden secrets that are just waiting for you to discover.

Remember it’s About What Brings You Joy

It seems funny to correlate joy with something as mundane as recycling. But if you enjoy the natural world, then taking care of it should definitely bring a sense of happiness. I know I feel better when my surrounding environment is at its best. So try working some of these sustainable habits into your daily routine. And hopefully, you’ll find a little joy along the way : ) Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “joy” by Ganesh K S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Selling Image, Selling Belonging

Buying Into Belonging

Finding Belonging isn’t always easy. So naturally there are many ways to take advantage of our not feeling belonging. For example, there’s a store nearby that sells all things home related. Bedding, mugs, kitchen wares, furniture and the like. And, as part of my evening routine I’ve been in the habit of burning candles. I find they set a relaxing tone with their ambient light and they help to ease some of the stress from the day. So off I went, to said local store, in search of some candles.

As I was looking through the candles on the shelf, opening them up to see if their scent was something I’d enjoy, I came to one that had “Namaste” written in playful cursive across the front. I enjoyed the scent so I picked it up and walked to the check-out line. I was feeling a little off buying the candle for some reason that I couldn’t place. The message seemed to be in line with my meditation and yoga practice, so it wasn’t the phrase. If anything the word should have brought me some peace of mind.

Image and Belonging

I bought the candle anyway, brought it home, unwrapped it and left it on my shelf next to some plants. I looked at it again and still found I had some aversion to the lettering and the word. It vaguely reminded me of something my sister would purchase. It was white, floral scented, nothing assumingly off about it. Then I understood what was bothering me about it.

The candle itself was fine, it was what it was trying to sell me that bothered me. The image of what it feels like to have the divine in me, recognize the divine in you, that had me feeling a bit off. I was being sold a gender specific version of how the world should be viewed according to the ethos of the company that made the candle. I was buying into the image of the store who was selling the candle and supporting the message with my purchase, all to feel belonging.

Gender Roles and Image Branding

If you’ve read my post on toxic masculinity, you’ll know that buying into gender specific roles such as self-care being a woman’s job, were the teachings I received from my early caregivers. And something I’ve been re-parenting myself around. Knowing that feelings and emotions are not gender specific, but part of the human experience. Also that self-care is just part of it, has not been easy.

And the feeling that this candle’s branding seemed to embody is that emotional peace and well-being are only available for a specific demographic. Most likely active, young and fresh smelling women. Who are probably successful, tan, wear a lot of white, and burned the types of candles I just purchased. Probably in an immaculate house, next to a freshly washed and folded stack of white linens. This all seems absurd to me. Or at very least, that I need someone who filled that description to provide for me the care I could not give myself. Which seems equally as absurd.

How We’re Raised and How That Effects Our Views

I recognize that I have a biased view considering my upbringing. And if someone finds peace of mind by burning that candle, I’m happy for them. But I feel there is a large gap in the yoga community, where men aren’t represented. This too can be a loaded topic. I’m sure women have found yoga to be a healing outlet. One to get in touch with their bodies in a healthy way. Especially after experiencing trauma or abuse. Most likely at the hands of men. But this still leaves men in my situation of not knowing whether or not they belong.

If we believe the gender specific ideas we are being sold by companies like the one who made the candle I bought, then yoga and that form of stress reduction belongs squarely in the realm of the feminine.

And I don’t mean to argue that the yoga community is gender bias. I’ve always felt welcome at every class I’ve attended. I’ve also had excellent instructors both male and female. But the idea that I somehow got a gender specific correlation with the candle I bought was unsettling. That I was sold a gender specific sense of belonging to a community where, according to the candle company’s sales team, I don’t belong.

Feeling Belonging is Important

I could be reading into this a bit. I have a minor in communications so the critical side of me comes to the forefront whenever I see advertising involved. Especially involving something I’m interested in. But I feel like this candle is part of a larger problem. If we hear time and again that something we’re interested in is exclusive to a certain demographic, we may begin to feel like an outsider. Like we’re not worthy of belonging.

The term “yoga pants” comes to mind as I’ve never heard them in reference to men, always how a woman looks in them. And if some of the joy we derive from our interests involves being a part of a community, then we could be missing out on the quality of our experiencing what brings us joy.

Repetitive Messaging and Our Belonging

And having a constant reminder on display is a good way to let a message settle in and get comfortable. Not to mention the advertising that we are inundated with day in and day out. While companies vy for our resources at the expense of excluding large groups of people. Their message being that you don’t belong. You’re not welcome here unless you fit our standards.

I could have just left the candle on the shelf. I could just chalk it up to not being in line with my personal taste. But it doesn’t feel right just to let it stand. The way I’m sure it doesn’t feel right the way some women may feel uncomfortable when they decide to put on a pair of yoga pants for fear of being ogled on there way to a yoga class or a coffee shop. The coercion of being corralled into thinking that you don’t belong to what you find enjoyable. That and feeling manipulated into unease around what usually sparks joy.

What We Can do About it

And I did like the candle. It was simple, white and had black lettering. I just didn’t like the implied image it was selling. So what’s the solution? How do we undo what advertisers and large corporations have successfully accomplished? Using an impressive amount of resources to brand their products to a target demographic? How do we shed our targets and live a little truer to our authenticity? Let’s look at some of the ways we may be taken advantage of, to understand better how to recognize and sidestep the trappings we often find ourselves in.

What’s Trending

Trends can be fun. It can feel nice to be part of something that is just for enjoyment. For instance, liking a new band for their hit song can be a pleasant way to remember a time and place. And the people you connected with at that time without going too deep. But there are a lot of ways that our wanting to feel belonging can be taken advantage of. Usually for someone else’s profit.

Trying to Buy Belonging

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was kind of obsessed with Pottery Barn. I liked the clean lines and muted tones they used while still feeling rustic. It was how I pictured my future home to look. Filled with a clean, conservative aesthetic. At the time I was planning to go to school for journalism. So I imagined I’d have a serious and important role to fill. Informing the masses of misdeeds and lapses in morality from those who held positions of power. And of course I needed a desk that would look as important as how I felt my duties would be.

So naturally I spent a large sum of money on a desk that held little more than a decanter of whiskey or scotch. Also don’t forget about the matching chess table which sat next to it. As though my desk was so important that it needed an assistant. I was just barely scraping by working as a social worker and had probably just enough money for groceries. More like beer actually. Buying an expensive desk from Pottery Barn that I barely used was definitely not in the budget. But there I was, with an expensive desk in an empty room. How did this happen? How was I so manipulated into feeling that this desk would not only help me to achieve my goals, but help conjure them into fruition? It starts with what we find value in.

Finding Value In Ourselves Not Our Things

What I didn’t realize at the time was, that the desk I purchased played to my perceived values. I thought that buying something that looked like those who had those values would have, would then thrust me into the mindset/mentality of the values that I wished to embody. Along with underlying currents of confusing taste and style with what I valued.

For example, I was a hippy in my late teens. Something I haven’t really shed. Mostly because of the feelings of when I was first introduced to the culture. Also the aesthetic was so positive, along with many of the values that most modern day hippies embody, are still in line with my current values. I.e. recycling, organic farming and living sustainably while fostering open and caring community. All aspects of the culture I value. Also values I wish to embody in my day to day life. Including my clothing and style.

Knowing When You Are Embodying Your Values and Not the Values of the Things You Own

There is also a serious side to me that very much likes order and to bring structure to chaos. So the rustic feel of the desk, looking as though it were made from reclaimed barn wood. Blended with the clean polished lines of the industrial, flat black, minimalist metal frame and the wood’s mirror finish, the desk appealed to both sides of me simultaneously. My enjoyment of a caring, natural community, represented by the look of reclaimed barn wood, mixed with the clean metal and highly glossed wood finish that filled my need for order. Both lead me to believe that this desk represented my values.

But it was not substitute for them. This is the trap that most people fall into when purchasing things they feel are in line with their values. The same ways I did with the desk. The wood was not reclaimed. In fact it was most likely harvested in a way that was environmentally unsound. Something not in line with my values.

You Can’t Buy Your Values

So it was no surprise that after buying the piece of furniture, I was left with my manipulated values sitting at my desk wondering, “why do I feel empty”. As though something didn’t add up. This was the other message that was being sold to me. That you could buy your values. Values from my experience are, something that you work to embody. Something practiced. Not something bought. In order to feel fulfilled from your values, you must first put the hours in.

But that takes work. Something I was not inclined to do in my twenties. And if I could buy a desk that looked the part, while allowing me to avoid the work I could have been putting in, then that was what my younger self would do. Of course at the time I was unaware of the dynamic at play. I was just trying to fill a part. One that looked most appealing and trendy at the time. Luckily for me there are plenty of stores willing to aid me in looking to avoid work.

So therein lies the danger. Being told that buying something that seems to embody your values is just as good as putting the work in to practice your values. And companies spend a lot of resources in order to sell you an image. Of what it feels and looks like, to embody your values by using their product.

The Perennial Problem

I’m not stating anything new here. And I hope I’m not blowing any minds. But I’m often surprised at how it feels like every generation finds another way of buying into this system of buying values. I feel a large part of this cycle is perpetuated by the feeling of a lack of belonging. If we’re trying to fill our sense of self worth with the values we hold closest but only have a desk to represent our values, then we’re left as I was. Behind a desk, feeling confused and a little empty.

Feeling confused and a little like a empty left me thinking “why do I feel this way?”. Which led to me feeling slightly guarded, not wanting people to see that I wasn’t confident in myself and the values I was trying to represent. The vulnerability of not knowing that the things I buy don’t guaranty my belonging, but also of not knowing what would if I couldn’t buy it.

Where Are We Learning These Lessons

These feelings and beliefs are deeply entrenched in our society. I know I’ve learned them not only from companies with assistance from large advertising firms, but also from my family. I mentioned this in my Search for a Blog page. When you question your own belonging to the people who are supposed to accept and love you unconditionally, there’s usually a fear that comes with the uncertainty.

“Who will or could love me now”, may take the place of love and belonging. And if we let it, it will dominate our thoughts and actions in our relationships. This is where I believe Brene Brown’s phrase, “hustling for worthiness”, may take control of our reasoning selves. If we feel we’ve been rejected by the people we love most, than the most important goal becomes how do I get back what I lost.

That’s when we turn to whatever feels good in the moment. Or somebodies “answer” to your feeling a lack of belonging. What Tara Brach refers to as “false refuges”. This could be anything from alcohol to shopping (as were the cases with me and my family). But also drugs or even using other people, are also examples of false refuges. And unsurprisingly, they aren’t sustainable and they usually cause harm to ourselves and others. Which is why they’re named false refuges.

Finding Our Way To Belonging

So how do we find our way out of these trappings of the false refuges or hustling for worthiness? One way is through acts of self-care. If you’ve read my post on why self-care is so important, you’ll know that it’s a way of dialoguing with our emotions. And also getting to know who we are and what we need to feel belonging. Most importantly to ourselves. Or as my dad likes to say, “be yourself, everyone else is already taken” -Oscar Wilde. Showing yourself that you care, you’re a priority, gives you the courage to find what your values are. The you without the “hustle”, or the “false refuges”.

Be Patient

Other ways to avoid the hustle is to be patient. After you know what your values are and you’re embodying those values by practicing them, dialogue with how something new makes you feel. After the excitement of something new subsides, is what you’re doing a way to practice your values? Or is it just novelty?

More often than not, the things that you do to bring joy to you practicing your values, won’t cost money. For instance, if you value spending time with friends, cooking a meal together can be more intimate and enjoyable than eating out. Or a rowdy night at the bar. But going to see a concert together can be a joyful experience as well. So it’s important to take a deeper look as to why you’re doing something. And ultimately it’s you that will know the answer. AKA, trust yourself.

Be Trusting and Forgiving

And sometimes we’ll make mistakes. After all, advertising is a large industry designed to make you spend your money. So be forgiving when you do stumble. Just because you’ve been fleeced, doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to feel unwanted or unloved. Stay true to and trust your values, they’ll guide the way.

I hope you’ve found this helpful in some way. It isn’t always easy, but don’t worry, the work becomes easier the more you do it :] Good luck and Peace.

Image Credits: “1960s Advertising – Magazine Ad – Campbell’s Soup (USA)” by ChowKaiDeng is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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