Choosing Light and Joy
If you’ve spent any time on the internet or social media over the last few months, you probably haven’t been able to escape lengthy conversations about Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing expert and author of the majorly successful book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. She’s an international sensation, and has recently become a household name after landing her own Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
I have only read parts of her supposedly-life-changing book while standing in bookstores, debating whether or not to purchase it. I’ve read plenty of reviews, tweets, and articles about her teachings, and the funniest one was a review my best friend sent me a few years back. It’s a lengthy review, but I guarantee knee slaps and giggles. The ending is my personal favorite:
I hate the word joy now. I’m sleep deprived. My possessions call out to me for help but I don’t know if they want me to summon joy or if they want to leave. The other day my husband heard me thanking my underwear for staying up all day. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be married.
– Diana Yannick
Kondo’s philosophy, known as the KonMari method, makes a lot of sense of paper, but as Diana Yannick’s review clearly states above, it requires a lot of effort. Kondo believes you ought only keep items in your life that spark joy and discard the rest. While I haven’t adopted her method with my personal belongings, save a few closet purges here and there, her teachings eerily mirror the changes I’ve made in my personal relationships.
Three years ago, I started becoming more aware of how my relationships affected me and my happiness. I realized, most of the people in my life brought me little return and made me feel heavy. I started to take emotional stock of who made me feel small, and tried to focus on spending time with people who made me feel joyful. Basically, I Marie-Kondo’ed people out of my life. It sounds incredibly harsh, but as a self-proclaimed lifelong people pleaser, it was necessary. For the first time ever, I started prioritizing my own happiness over others’.
A couple of summers ago, during a wedding season from hell, I felt completely burnt out from my social obligations. If I wasn’t attending a wedding, I was traveling for a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, or worse, a joint bridal bash. My boss at the time, who was a 43-year-old self-prescribed Alpha male, asked me why I spent so much of my time on other people.
“By the time you’re my age, you’ll be attending their second or third wedding. Trust me, start living life for you,” he confidently advised me.
Though I never speak of divorce, as a matter of fact I call it the D-word, I had never considered that statistically half of the weddings I was attending, and spending a lot of money on, would end in divorce. More importantly, I had never considered not living for other people.
I began researching characteristics of people-pleasers as a way to better understand myself, and I was shocked by how much the internet described my inner thoughts that I’d never shared with anyone:
You have a hard time saying no. You apologize often. You go to great lengths to avoid conflict. You don’t admit when your feelings are hurt. You’re addicted to the approval of others. Your fear of rejection is incredibly high.
I quickly became obsessed with understanding my origins of being a people-pleaser. “Why is my best friend, who I have so much in common with, not a people-pleaser? Why can she say no, and on occasion, tell people to fuck off? Why do I avoid conflict at all costs?” I thought. While scrolling through endless pages on the interweb, I found the sentence that made my brain explode, the sentence that explained the behavior I had developed in childhood: People pleasers start off as parent-pleasers.
As a child of divorced parents, with a lot of yelling and screaming in both households, I learned very quickly how to minimize conflict: Don’t ask questions, nod, stay quiet, and under no circumstances tell your parents how you really feel.
As an adult, I realized that I was operating my life, specifically within my personal relationships, from the perspective of my inner child. It made me realize how much I allowed people into my life that made me feel similar to how my parents made me feel: Devalued. Ignored. Heavy.
People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
As an effort to empower myself, I started practicing saying no. What felt so uncomfortable at first made me evaluate my deep discomfort with conflict. Over time, as it became easier, I became comfortable voicing my concerns. I was comfortable confronting conflict. I remember feeling incredibly proud when I told a friend how ungrateful she seemed when her friends and I helped plan her wedding festivities. I refused to be an emotional doormat.
Gradually, I adopted a pretty cut-throat, but effective, philosophy when it came to my relationships: Do you make me feel light or do you make me feel heavy? Do you add joy to my life or do you make me feel drained?
To my surprise, when I assessed each individual relationship in my life, it was incredibly easy to answer those questions. As I stopped investing my time in people that made me feel heavy, I found room for joy-filled relationships and new friends. One particular new friend shared some incredible advice, “Friendships aren’t supposed to be demanding. If anything, these are the relationships that should feel easy, effortless even.”
Marie Kondo teaches that nostalgia is not your friend. How often do we excuse misbehaviors and mistreatments because of the history we’ve shared with people? The relationships that were the hardest for me to discard were often the longest ones, the ones filled with nostalgia. Kondo sagely advises, “No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
I’m now three years into living unapologetically, and I’ve gained new friends and deeper, more meaningful relationships with old ones. I’ve allowed more room for more self-love. I have an easier time saying no. I consider my own happiness over other people’s. I’m a recovering people-pleaser. I feel joy, but more importantly, I no longer feel heavy.
From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change.”