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I was sitting down to have lunch with Andrea Scher at a cafe in Berkeley, California. “So what’s new with you?” she asked.
I leaned forward, a little giddy, feeling like I was about to tell a secret. “Well,” I began, “I’ve been really fucking happy, because I figured out this thing.”
“Oooooh, what’s that?” she asked.
“Pleasure, first!” I said, and then it all came out in a rush.
I Told Her
I told her about how I’d been starting my days with those most pleasurable activities, first, before I began to work.
I told her…
- How I’d never been happier in my entrepreneurial life, because pleasure first in the morning made every single aspect of my business, better.
- How I’d stopped checking email first thing, because it was a distraction from prioritizing my creative (pleasurable) work. Email is the linchpin!
- How I’d become wildly more productive in the afternoons, even though I was technically working fewer total hours.
- How I felt less resistance around taking care of those business and admin tasks that I’d always procrastinated on.
- How I looked forward to the start of each new day in a revitalized way.
- How I felt sexier and more sensual and feminine ever since I started writing fiction, again.
- How I felt more present as a wife and mother, less inclined to irritability when I had a lot going on.
- How I began to move forward on an idea that I’ve been turning over for a non-profit, after years of feeling tight and constricted around time, unable to bring any more to the table than I was already bringing. Pleasure was the doorway to feeling like I had ROOM to integrate more.
As I told her, I noticed myself trying to read her face, to see if she was happy for me or if she was feeling triggered by my happiness.
Being Andrea, she was happy for me. But the fact that I was trying to figure out her reaction and whether or not she was triggered by my declaration of sovereignty over my work, my art, my life, clued me in to the fear that I was holding under the surface.
What will people think if you are sovereign over your time?
What will people think if you aren’t seduced by the cult of busy?
What will people think if you’re not feeling run ragged by motherhood and you are finding time for your creative pursuits and you’re daring to make money doing work that you love?
Why People Don’t Prioritize Pleasure
We don’t prioritize our pleasure because we’re afraid of rejection when other people are triggered by our happiness–because your happiness is your power.
We don’t prioritize our pleasure because we don’t think pleasure is serious. If we did, we’d prioritize it.
Women in particular have trouble prioritizing pleasure, because the culture tells us that it’s trivial; because the culture is threatened by women who are fully in their power.
We, ourselves–not “the critics” that we like to blame for our hesitation to create pleasure in our lives–are the first people who demean pleasure, by not creating space for it.
We ask ourselves who we are to spend time on pleasure when there are so many “better” things to spend time on, so many people out there suffering. We forget that our happiness doesn’t cause others to suffer, but our personal suffering makes us tight and constricted and less open to help others.
We feel selfish for carving out time and space of our own. See above.
We immediately think of ten other competing priorities and then it’s hard to focus, so we give up and say, “What’s the point? I can’t even concentrate.”
We’re struggling to make ends meet or we’re navigating our way through a personal crisis–divorce, illness, death.
These are all reasons why people don’t prioritize their pleasure.
Some of them are hell. Being a being is hard. In particular, being a being who’s struggling to make ends meet or navigating a personal crisis, is really (really) tough. There will be times when you’re less able to reach for pleasure. Nonetheless, I think it’s what we need to do–for ourselves, for others, for our children, for a world that suffers.
You Are Sovereign Over Your Time
As I understand it, for most of human history, most women have not had as much power over their lives as they do, today (I say “most women” with full recognition that there are women who don’t have the kind of access that you and I do, reading this).
You are sovereign over your time. Your time is made up of your choices.
Make more of them.
Make more of them that bend your life gently in the direction of your pleasure.
These are not easy choices to make. They are threatening choices, to some. But I believe ardently that there is power in deciding to make any choice that steps in the direction of your power, your agency, your wholeness.
Pleasure is that unexpected choice that leads you to a happier life, and in turn gives you greater capacity to play a happier role in the lives of others.
Who are you, today? What has your growth and healing taught you? No one gets through life without experiencing painful things. That’s the no-b.s. truth. But the people who are happiest tend to look at their lives and “re-frame,” or, as I say it, “add the gold.” They look for how the tough circumstances that they walked through created a survivor. They ask themselves what they learned after a big disappointment. I’d never suggest that someone rush straight into this process. We need legitimate time to heal from old wounds. But growth and healing work best when we go back and decide that our past does not define what’s possible for us, moving forward.
1. Create more perspective around a life event and discover how you might reframe it
2. Stop stressing about what’s happened in the past, and start asking yourself how it has shaped you into the person you are today.
3. Learn how to claim all parts of your life.
People decide that they’ll start some sort of online business. They pull together a marketing plan.
A year later, they’re disappointed. They’ve had a proportionate amount of success to the consistency of their marketing plan–which is to say that the people who super-hustled are seeing moderate success, and they’re going, “For serious? I hustled that hard and I didn’t knock it out of the park?”
And the other thing they’re disappointed about? That they’re not internet famous.
Seriously. Let’s all just cop to this. Secretly, deep down, you’d basically kinda like to be internet famous. You’re not lame or abnormal for seeing the Marie Forleos of the world and thinking, “I want that.” Why aren’t you lame? Because damn, it looks cool.
You wish that you had the hair.
You wish that you had the following.
You wish that your posts went viral.
You wish that you had the connections.
You wish that you had the business.
You wish–c’mon, now!–that your mug was on Instagram next to Tony Robbins, Oprah, and every single Hay House author who might have landed a best-seller.
The Fate of Famous
I first started blogging more than a decade ago. I became a life coach in 2006. I used to think that becoming internet famous was an “if you really work hard” kind of thing.
Now, I think it’s an “if it’s meant to be” kind of thing.
As in, it’s fate. You’re either fated to be it, or you’re not. People try to sell ways to hack the system, and without a doubt the people who the masses wish to emulate understand them.
But really, the fork in the road between famous and “does good work but not famous” is something left up to the stars. It happens for some. It doesn’t, for others.
By the way? People do not like hearing this.
Nonetheless, here it is: I know a lot of great people who do great work–myself included, if I may be so bold. We’re not famous. We are just great people doing our great work.
And here’s the thing about that: it’s all totally fine.
Why Do You Need It?
People think life coaches help you get what you want. That’s only partially true. I, personally, seek to understand and help my clients understand why they want what they want, in the first place. I ask the tough questions, like, “Why do you feel you need it? What are you going to ‘get’ from that? Who will you be, if it happens?”
Questions like that help people get past the bullshit, and to the real shit.
People will tell you all kinds of things about why they feel they need to be internet famous. They want to be of service, they want women to live authentic lives, they have a message that’s important to bring to the world, etc., etc.
I hold the hypothesis that most people want to be internet famous because they want to fill some kind of emotional need.
And since we’re being real, here, I’ll go ahead and drop a little truth bomb right in the middle of this: I used to want to be internet famous. I was completely unaware of this fact. It was expressing itself more as a feeling in my body than a conscious thought. My work could get recognition, but it was never enough because it wasn’t hordes of people. It wasn’t all of the attention and social media shares that I knew the bigger names were getting. I hated that I was “just another life coach.”
Then, one day, it occurred to me that I was equating attention with validation, and internet famous was the ultimate validation. I perked up, kinda went, “Whoa. I didn’t know that about myself.” Then I questioned why I wanted (secretly, by the way) to be internet famous.
What I discovered was that I wanted to be wanted. In my head, hordes of people loving my work would equal feeling like I was truly wanted on this earth, truly needed.
I cried, the day that I discovered this pocket of myself that thought external validation would have her feeling wanted, needed, or having a right to exist.
So what do you do if you recognize yourself in these words? Here’s what I did.
I began cutting away anything that I was doing to try to build my platform that felt like striving.
I hunkered down.
I didn’t create anything for awhile.
I kept revisiting the truth that I’d stumbled upon: I just want to be wanted. I just want to be wanted. I just want to be wanted.
When you realize that there’s a deep pattern at work, a great first step is to get quiet with it. Observe it.
If you don’t work on the real, actual issue, it’ll just replicate itself in different ways in your life, over and over. I understood now, very clearly, that no number of followers was ever going to fill the hole of wanting to be wanted.
With time, with work, and with tools, I stopped needing to be wanted.
I’d still love to have Marie Forleo’s hair (who wouldn’t?), and sometimes when I’m having a crappy couple of weeks, I’ll find myself wistfully imagining how great it would be to have the hordes of people who can’t wait to read, use, buy, or otherwise engage with what I offer, without me even trying, because I was so internet famous.
But most of the time?
It was not fun to spend those years of my life, secretly wanting to be internet famous.
I’m a fan of fun; of pleasure that isn’t even slightly reigned in. I’m a fan of wholeheartedly wanting myself, always and without hesitation.
It’s what I choose, consciously. It feels good.
And if you feel ready to look at why you want to be internet famous and what that’s really about, you can feel good, too.