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If only we’d stop trying to be happy we
could have a pretty good time.

Edith Wharton

Cheer Up. Don’t Worry, Be Happy! Put on a Happy Face! Smile, dammit! Dust yourself off and put a smile on that face of yours! Rah-rah-rah! Just reading this exhausts me.  And, it certainly doesn’t create a sense of joie de vivire. Yet, these are the cultural messages that we grow up with from a very young age.  And, this form of faux happiness is what I chased for many, many years!

Our society encourages the pursuit of happiness.  In fact, the phrase is written into our Declaration of Independence. Americans spend billions of dollars each year trying to reach eternal bliss.

Yet, are we any happier?

What if we stopped chasing happiness and accepted that moods, gloom and not so stellar days were not something to avoid but to allow?

What if we learned to feel our emotions and discover the nuggets of wisdom they offer?

What if we didn’t make a negative emotion, such as fear, sadness or melancholy, mean any more than we are a human being having an emotion?

What if we learned to actually feel our emotions instead of resist or react to them?

The French show that we would probably eat less, buy less and worry less.

In working with thousands of women, I’ve discovered that learning to process emotions, dig deeper into them and excavate their nuggets of wisdom is the key to a successful life.

Feeling and understanding our emotions is the secret sauce to abundance, creativity and all of our desires.

Before visiting France, I bought into the belief that if I wasn’t happy, something was terribly wrong with me or the world.

Any feeling other than mind blowing exuberance was unacceptable.  As a result, I chased down happiness like a dog hunts down the scent of deer, sniffing it out in men, money, careers, the perfect body.  However, chasing happiness is like the dog trying to chase a deer;  it will run from you!

When you’re so busy chasing happiness, you’re often abandoning yourself.

Let me give you an example:  for years, I’d jump on a plane at least once a month to go somewhere, anywhere other than where I was.  I wanted to feel happy.

However, there was a flaw in my approach.  As the saying goes,

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

Even in New York City or a lavender field in Provence, I was still with me.  Yes, I could distract myself for brief moments of time, but the nagging underlying issues could only be addressed when I stopped chasing happiness.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love the feeling of being joyful, and it’s a feeling I can create. But, it felt impossible when I was obsessed with chasing happiness.  I have created it by allowing whatever emotion that’s present come at sit at my table and teach me about myself.

By sitting with my emotions, I’ve discovered:

  • beliefs that are holding me back
  • patterns that keep showing up
  • how to feel an emotion (without reacting to it)
  • how to navigate my life towards deep fulfillment.

Yes, there are days when I don’t wake up feeling like I’m on top of the world.  And, I now realize that this is okay.  It’s not just okay; it’s normal and a part of life – the ebb and flow of emotions.

Yet, I still get dressed and put on my lipstick.  I still go for my workout.  I run errands and cook.  I still show up for my clients as a professional.  And, I still feel extreme gratitude for the experience of this wonderful thing called life.

With this attitude, the undue pressure to be a Pollyanna dissipates, and allows me to be, well…human!

Turns out that this perspective is very French.

Last year, while in Paris, I was sharing a glass of wine with a French friend of mine and told her my observation that French women seemed to be very melancholic, which often translates into a sexy, sultry pout and that je ne sais quoi that we often associate with them.

She explained that French women don’t have the pressure to be nice, pretty and happy all the time. For this reason, they can show up and be who they are in the moment, and they don’t really seem to care if you like it or not, adding even more intrigue to their already mysterious essence.

Another Parisian friend of mine told me about her first trip to the U.S.  “It was hard work trying to be cheerful all the time.  Everyone was always smiling at me, and I felt that I couldn’t keep us with the perpetual state of ecstasy.  I was miserable trying to be happy all the time.”

Let me be clear:  the French are not a miserable culture.  The term joie de vivre is French, after all.   However, contrary to the American take on the term, it does not mean 24 – 7 blissed out happy faces.

If you want more inspiration from the French lifestyle, I wrote an eBook with 15 nuggets of wisdom that have deeply elevated the quality of my life. 

Joie de vivre simply means an overall enjoyment of life and all that it has to offer – including heartbreaks, disappointments and failures.  Véronique Vienne, author of The Art of Being a Woman: A Simple Guide to Everyday Love and Laughter, describes joie de vivre as “a form of bliss triggered by the world at large, not by an internal reality.  Unlike happiness, which can be described as an inner state of contentment, joie de vivre is not self-involved.  You derive this kind of joy from acknowledging greatness outside yourself – in nature, in things, in others.”

In other words, joie de vivre requires that you take the focus off of you and begin focusing on all that’s around you, even when you’re feeling less than stellar.

I’ve trained myself to allow emotions to flow through me, not spiral me into a toxic, self-sabotaging pattern, by understanding 2 things:

1.  It’s normal to have a negative emotion (it only means the meaning you place upon it).

2.  When you stop resisting or reacting to your emotions, they are simply feelings in your body.  

With this understanding, I’ve also trained myself not be a drama queen when I’m having a bad day. (I’ll admit that I’m not perfect at this one yet, and that’s okay too.)

When I’m having a bad day, I still show up in my life — get dressed, run errands, show up for my clients, watch a movie.  In other words, I don’t stop the world to try and fix myself.

I’m not broken (and neither are you, m’friend).  We’re just normal people having normal emotions.

The reason so many people struggle with negative emotion is that they fight, resist and avoid them.  This is what leads to problems — overeating, shopping sprees, excessive drinking, etc.

What if you simply trained yourself to feel your emotions, understand them and still show up in your life?

You’d be a woman who lives with true joie de vivre.

You can still look outside of yourself and see the beauty in life, with tears or a smile.

You can also look within and become a beautiful friend to yourself by understanding what is causing every emotion that you experience, which will always be what’s going on in your own mind.  Don’t judge it; be fascinated by it.

So, go sit at a coffee shop and cry if you need to.  Then, pick up a book, the paper, anything that reminds you that there is a life outside of your internal reality.  Or, grab and pen and journal and get to know your internal landscape.

The point is this:

You can still live with joie de vivre without a happy face!

That, my love, is tres French!

Here’s the paradox in all of this:  My life has become much richer, abundant and charming when I stopped chasing happiness.

Yes, I’m happier than ever.  And, it’s okay when I’m not too!

Are you tired of the constant pressure to be happy?  Let’s discuss in the comments below.


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