Too often women’s joy is criticized and scrutinized. Why is it that women being joyful and happy are seen as annoying? Think about all the women who get excited when it’s Pumpkin Spice Latte season at Starbucks; why do people judge them? They are just excited that this drink, which brings them joy, is back.
A woman’s joy is constantly being judged: when she gets excited over “something stupid” like a sweet drink or told to “calm down” when she’s having a fun conversation on the phone with her girlfriends. Women, when we are judged and judge others who are overly joyful, why?
We are Taught Silence from a Young Age
I was a shy kid growing up. At least, it’s what I’m told. I was very quiet and well behaved and I know it’s simply because I hated getting in trouble. I remember each little time I ever got in “trouble” in grade school. It was just the teacher calling me out, and saying my name aloud because I was talking joyfully with my friends. Being called out made my heart sink and eyes well up, and I never wanted to be called out ever again. Along with being called out, because my mom was a teacher at my grade school, the teacher would share the incident with my mom.
I felt it was expected of me to always be well-behaved, and maybe it was a self-inflicted burden I put on myself. Nobody likes getting in trouble, but for me it always felt like the end of the world. Making mistakes never felt okay, messing up was not something I felt I was allowed to do. Because of this feeling, I always did as I was told and conformed to fit people’s liking just so I wouldn’t ever feel the weight of messing up.
This carried along with me as I grew up, especially through high school. I was constantly called annoying by my “friends” whenever I got too excited or loud. If I spoke my thoughts it was wrong or used against me. When I didn’t like certain “jokes” and felt bullied by them I just “couldn’t take a joke” and didn’t have the correct feelings.
In many of these instances throughout my schooling, I stayed quiet. Throughout this time I was unable to discover who I truly was out of fear of being ridiculed for it. Any joy I truly felt and wanted to exude was shot down if it was not what everyone else liked. It’s a high school kid’s dilemma when they find something enjoyable but it’s not popular amongst the majority.
One of my small regrets is never participating in the “Anime Club” during high school because it was where the “weird kids” hung out. Even though anime brought (and still brings) me so much joy, and I could’ve been able to share this joy amongst like minded peers and possibly have had a better group of friends.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t suffering throughout my whole high school experience. There are a few God-given revelations that helped show me the truth. For me, the revelations always happened before graduating. I would finally recognize that those I called friends never wanted me to be who I truly was, and God would gift me with a few good people to help me through these times.
Learning About My Joy
A big turning point in my life was when I realized this is my life. I was constantly conforming to fit people’s wants of me, when I never let me be myself, who God made me to be. I’ve had many ups and downs with figuring out the life long question of “who am I?” but through it all I’ve been able to find pieces of myself that all make up who I am today. I’m grateful to the Lord for every moment in my life, the good and the bad, because I have been able to learn and grow into who God made me to be.
Whenever I figure out another piece of myself and I feel joy, this is when I know it’s God given. For example, my love for creating stories and writing has brought me joy, and in pursuing it, the Lord shows me ways to use my gift for His will.
Overall, however, the biggest gift I have to give is my joy. This is not something I discovered on my own. It was through others that God’s shared His love for my joy.
I can share the handful of people in my life who have truly let me be myself and loved me for my joy. Those I hold close have told me things like “you inspire me to pursue my dreams,” “you are a sparkle of joy in God’s eyes,” “I see you frolicking joyfully through fields.” I wasn’t able to discover who I was without good people in my life, and learning from the bad ones.
God is funny when He throws people into our life who we believe are good in the moment, but who end up giving us a tough lesson to learn through. I keep thinking back to one of my old best friends. We loved, laughed, and enjoyed life together for 3 years. Slowly, feelings of jealousy and annoyance crept into our friendship, and her old wounds opened and were thrown onto me. I ended our friendship, and it felt like a rough breakup, followed with petty actions and hatred from her. However broken and nasty our friendship ended, I value those 3 years of pure friendship, of joy, and I learned from the rough end we went through.
This friendship and ending of it, I feel, was a huge moment in my life, and one of the moments I chose not to hide my joy for the sake of someone else’s insecurities and woundedness. It helped me to realize that we as women hide our joy often mostly for the sake of others. I decided I wanted to become a woman of joy, and a friend who other women can feel unashamed of their joy.
Becoming a Woman of Joy
At the time I decided to be a woman of joy, I was taking a communications class my senior year of college. Towards the end of the course, we were assigned the task of creating our own mantra/mission statement of who we aspire to be, not as professionals, but as human beings. I wrote down my few sentences and turned it in. On the last day of class, our teacher went above and beyond and printed out and framed, (yes framed) our statements to gift to each of us to remind us of our statements. She then proceeded to recognize the three seniors in the class, one of them being me, and gifted each of us a small desk decoration, each with different inspirational words on it.
Reminiscing on this now as write, I’m crying. I knew how inspirational this teacher was for me in helping me on my path, but didn’t realize how these two small gifts have been a continuous inspiration for me.
The little desk decoration (probably from the dollar store) I still keep on my desk today. She handed me one of three different decorations, and mine has the words “Write Your Own Story” written in gold.
My framed (probably from the dollar store, too) mission statement I also keep on my desk and will continue to keep there. These words, written back in my senior year of college, are evergreen in my life, and I continue to look at them for inspiration reminding me of my purpose.
It reads: “I will do all things through God who gives me strength. I will strive to make people smile, and give as much love as I would want to receive. I will always create, perform, wonder, discover, learn, and be kind, for myself and for others.”
I encourage you, women, don’t hide your God-given joy. Don’t let the rude people judge you for getting your delicious Starbucks drink, for laughing loud in a public space, or just being your true joyful self.