I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed this, but society seems to place self-denial on a rather strange pedestal.
If a person indulges in a food they enjoy, they feel like they have to confess about how “bad” they’re being.
If they take part in an activity that brings them joy, but isn’t particularly popular, then they either hide it, or apologize for how juvenile or ridiculous they’re being.
Does this sound familiar?
Do you ever hold yourself back from certain experiences?
Who would you be if you lived a truer version of yourself?
Let’s take a look at some of the things that many people deny themselves, and why this sort of denial needs to be kicked to the curb in favor of authenticity and joy.
1. Honesty About Your Own Needs
Whilst a lot of anxiety and depression is caused by chemical imbalances, PTSD, etc., many people also deal with these issues because they feel forced to live in ways that they don’t want.
Maintaining this type of masquerade is emotionally exhausting, and ultimately damaging.
People know what their needs are, and how awful it feels to not have those needs met.
The problem is that many are afraid to be honest about their soul-deep needs because they’re scared of losing what they have.
But, eventually, just about everyone reaches a point where fear of pain or failure takes a back seat to the pain of living an ill-fitting life.
And then a strange thing tends to happen: they thrive.
Being true to yourself gives you the opportunity to grow into the person you have the potential to be.
Yes, it won’t be easy at times.
Yes, you will have to struggle and persevere.
Yes, it takes courage.
But when you no longer deny your own needs and desires, a weight is lifted from your shoulders.
2. Radical Self-Love
We hear a lot about self-love these days, but few people seem to understand what it really means.
Self-love isn’t just feeling great about your latest Instagram post after you’ve spent hours taking the perfect selfie.
It’s about being kind to yourself, and loving yourself unconditionally exactly as you are, in this moment.
You. As you are right, now. Compassionately and completely.
Because you are a wonder.
3. Sincere Self-Expression
Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.
The lesson in this quote can be incredibly difficult to learn, but it goes along with #1, above.
Honest self-expression encompasses your needs, of course, but also your thoughts, emotions, and personal preferences.
This could mean anything from actually voicing opinions of yours that are different from your peers or family members, to dressing in a way that you actually love, instead of how you think you “should” dress.
Some people prefer to go with the flow because they’re afraid they’ll be mocked, criticized, or even hated for being true to themselves.
Others repress their emotions because they don’t want to upset another person.
Many of us might be so conditioned to repress our Truth in favor of maintaining the status quo that we don’t even truly know who we are anymore.
In cases like this, a journal with daily prompts and questions can be incredibly helpful.
There are ways to express yourself authentically in every situation, though some environments might need a little bit of adaptation.
(…like wearing really fabulous rainbow sequin underwear beneath your business suit. Or similar. You get the idea.)
When you express yourself honestly, you drop your protective walls.
You don’t have to be guarded, trying to keep your mask in place.
This allows you to be much more comfortable in your social interactions, because you’re being the best, most awesome flavor of YOU that there is.
And that’s spectacular!
4. Space To Heal
Most people are expected to be “on” and positive and outgoing literally all the time.
A person who goes back to work a couple of days after a divorce or a close family member’s death is lauded for their dedication…
…as though being able to brush off intense emotions is a huge mark of their morality and character.
That doesn’t really mean that they’re in a good place, does it?
Most of the time, it just means that they’ve put all their difficult emotions in a box and crammed it into a dark closet to be sorted out later.
The most important thing we can grant ourselves during this time is space to process everything we experience, so we can heal.
An injury or a bad cut needs to be tended to in order for it to heal properly, right?
It’s also vital to allow yourself time and gentle care to heal from emotional and psychological wounds as you would for physical ones.
When it comes to taking space to heal, express your needs to those who are close to you.
The people who truly care about you will understand, and be as supportive as possible.
Just make sure to express the boundaries that you need to maintain for your own well-being.
People might be overly eager to help you feel better, and as such, behave in a manner that makes them feel better, rather than adhering to your unique preferences.
Be honest and real, and take whatever time you need.
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5. “Ridiculous” Amusements
So many of us deny ourselves experiences that would delight and inspire us because we think they’re silly or juvenile.
When we’re playing, we’re utterly in the moment, and usually having an incredibly fun time while doing so.
Seriously, when you’re throwing a frisbee on the beach with your friends, or playing an atrociously hilarious card or board game, are you fretting about work?
Or are you fully engaged – body, mind, and soul – in an activity that’s inspiring laughter and total abandonment of “adulting” for a few minutes?
Think of the words shared by the great George Bernard Shaw:
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
Play alleviates stress and boosts endorphins. Those happy hormones can reduce pain, help us heal, and just help us appreciate life a little more, ye know?
Give yourself permission to do “ridiculous” things that make you happy.
Go ahead and spend the weekend playing video games. Paint your toenails with glitter polish. Do a Netflix marathon while filling in coloring books.
Even if you’re 60.
Or 25 and feel like you have to behave like you’re 80.
I’m in my early 40s. I work with clients from around the world, and am highly respected by my peers…
…most of whom are completely aware that I spend summer weekends sprawled out on a giant inflatable unicorn, bobbing around on the river.
Own the “ridiculous”, and be unapologetic about it. No “sorry, I know how silly this is, but….”
None of that.
You do you. Gloriously.
6. Little Luxuries
As mentioned earlier, depriving ourselves of things that we enjoy is often seen as a virtue.
Now, as with all things, it’s important to find a balance…
Denying yourself chocolate because you think it’s an unnecessary or sinful indulgence is heartbreaking.
Eating absolutely nothing but chocolate will break your heart in a different way, what with the potential for clogged arteries, obesity, and scurvy.
Enjoying a chocolate truffle with your afternoon coffee is delightful.
Think of Goldilocks here and find the equilibrium that’s just right for you.
What brings you joy?
Which indulgences make you happy that you’re inhabiting a body for a little while?
Long, sultry bubble baths?
Sushi in bed on a Friday night after work?
Going to see an opera?
Sipping coffee on your front porch as the sun sets?
Any number of experiences can make your heart sing, and it’s important to take part in them regularly.
7. A Chance To Pursue Your Passions
Upon growing older, how many people would say that if they could go back in time and do things differently, they would?
One of the most common things that people would choose to change is their careers.
Many of us were raised with the idea that if we enjoyed our work, it wouldn’t be “work.”
That what we love to do should be a hobby instead.
Now, that might suit some people just fine. Others might prefer to make a career out of their passion, and that’s okay too.
The key is to make sure that you spend at least part of your time pursuing something you’re passionate about.
If you have more than one passion, that’s great! Just determine which one is the greater priority, and figure out how much time you have to dedicate to each. Then you can schedule time for all of them accordingly.
This could be anything from miniature painting to animal rehabilitation, or rose gardening, or CrossFit.
Whatever it is, if you love it, make it happen.
8. Time To Just BE
I am a human being, not a human doing. – Kurt Vonnegut
Most of us are in constant output mode, with countless obligations draining us at every turn.
From the moment we wake up to the second we collapse into sleep, we have constant stresses and responsibilities hounding us.
Very few of us really take the time to replenish that energy, which is another reason why anxiety and nervous breakdowns are rampant.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in my many years of food gardening, it’s the need to replenish soil, and allow it to lie fallow now and then.
Seeds that are planted in new, nutrient-rich soil tend to thrive. They’ll grow into tall, strong plants that produce healthy, nutritious fruits.
If I keep planting seeds without replenishing that soil, they’ll eventually fail to germinate at all. The soil will just be crumbly and dry – utterly spent.
People are like that too. We can’t just give and give without taking time to recharge, and just “be.”
Try to take regular breaks: away from social responsibilities, electronics, and social media.
Get a solid 10 hours of sleep. Eat slowly, without distraction. Stretch. Meditate, and stay fully in the present moment.
Doing this regularly won’t just replenish your own energy, but might bestow some much-needed personal insights and inspiration as well.
9. The Opportunity To Love, And To Be Loved
Someone asked me recently if I am able to love.
I found this to be a rather startling question, so I asked others if they had any difficulty loving.
Their answers were quite surprising, and made me wonder just how many people deny themselves different kinds of love.
One person said that they do so easily, but they don’t feel comfortable being loved because they feel undeserving.
Another said that loving other people leaves them vulnerable to potential pain, so they shy away from anything except superficial physical intimacy.
It’s true that to love is to risk potential pain, especially if that love is unrequited, or when loss happens, but love itself is such a beautiful thing to experience.
If you’ve been hesitant to partake in one type of love because you’re afraid of getting hurt, perhaps you could take steps toward another kind?
As an example, you might not be comfortable with the idea of romantic love right now, but have a deep desire to serve your community.
As such, you could look into volunteering in a soup kitchen. Or, if you really love animals, you could volunteer at an animal shelter, or help to foster orphaned kittens.
Allowing oneself to be loved can be even more difficult, especially for children of narcissists, or those who have experienced other kinds of emotional, physical, or psychological abuse.
Many of these people can be mistrustful of love, because it’s been used to manipulate them in the past.
In cases like these, working with a therapist or coach can be of immense help, as can small steps in a safe environment.
Learning how to love unconditionally, without any expectation, can also teach you how to be loved in turn.
It can take time for this to happen, but love really is the most beautiful, most powerful force in the universe.
Are You Denying Yourself?
If you feel that you’ve been denying yourself any of these things, consider taking some time to figure out why that might be.
Grab your journal, and try to be really honest about where these feelings are coming from.
While you’re at it, make some pro/con lists, and consider the various ramifications about what would happen if you allowed yourself to enjoy what you’ve been avoiding and denying up until now.
What’s the worst thing that could happen, really?
You’ve been given a body for your journey through this lifetime, and countless opportunities to use it to experience wonder, joy, and love.
Please, try not to get trapped in other people’s thoughts or judgments.
Instead, strive to be the happiest, most authentic version of yourself you can possibly be.
There’s only one you, and you are MAGNIFICENT.