back on my beat
April 14, 2019 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever, as an adult, dedicated a period of time to selfishness/understanding what you enjoy for your own sake/having fun for fun's sake? What was it like? What parameters did you keep in mind?

I'm at a point in my own healing/growing/whatever process that I've realized, oh, I'm only vaguely in touch with my own sense of enjoyment and fun and desires for their own sake. There's a more complicated backstory, and lots of therapy, but suffice to say I'd like to spend the rest of the year not doing things like:
* Radically rethinking my career, city, life plans, etc.
* Obsessively analyzing my own behaviors, or needing permission from others to feel certain actions are ok (this post is perhaps a bit of this..)
* Basing my actions around the principle that they have to in some way be valuable to others to have merit

And instead, I would like to:
* Have fun when I'm having fun! Graaah I want this so bad!
* Get to know myself better: my preferences/likes/desires, how I really feel about stuff.
* Warmly embrace the full spectrum of emotions and experiences

There's a lot of things wound in there, but the through-line is really to be accepting and affirming of how I'm actually experiencing and responding to the world, without this extra layer of inner valuation and management. And while I fully plan to continue being like an engaged and loving friend/family member/community member, I would like to make space for this other stuff too -- my instinct is that going through this process will make it easier to bring my full self to caring for and being with others as well.

SO! Is this you? Have you had a point where you needed to get to know yourself and readjusted in some way? What was it like? What helped make it successful? What would you avoid if you could do it again?

Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (12 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
* Basing my actions around the principle that they have to in some way be valuable to others to have merit

oof. this is familiar, and a common feature of a lot of people's psych stuff. Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can do for other people is care for yourself, so that you have more capacity to help later. Do you have intentional downtime, when you're trying to avoid paid and unpaid work? You don't have to do, like, Shabbat or anything, but explicitly saying "this is a time when work is not allowed, I should only be doing stuff that feels restful/nourishing/pleasant" might help you unplug more easily.

* Have fun when I'm having fun! Graaah I want this so bad!

If nothing feels good or pleasurable, that's called anhedonia, and it's worth bringing to a therapist or other mental health care provider if you haven't yet, or if it's gotten notably worse lately.

If things sometimes feel nice, but not "fun," exactly, you might want to approach them differently. It's super helpful to try to "leave when you're having an okay time." If you're getting bored/tired/stressed, it's way better to ditch an event when you no longer feel good, but before you truly feel bad. If you find yourself wanting to go home fifteen minutes into spin class, Betty's parties, etc. every time you go, maybe stop going. You don't have to have the same hobbies or attend the same social functions indefinitely, if you're no longer feeling it, take a break. Personally, I still struggle to be self-aware enough to "know when to quit" when I haven't found joy in something for a long time.
posted by bagel at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I approached these questions in various ways.

For the emotions and knowing my own views part, I picked up non-fiction books and started marking passages with highlighters: red = disagree; green = agree; yellow = strong, but mixed feelings. That was helpful to just make me aware of my underlying views. I really didn’t analyze it or explain it. I did, over time, get to where I could say during actual conversations, “I like that idea because...” or “I don’t like that idea because..” or “I have mixed feelings about that idea because...” Super helpful result!

Then as for fun, one year, I made it a resolution for a year to go someplace new every week - my choice. Sometimes I went alone and sometimes I went with company. I felt like I was in a rut of just going where others wanted to go.

I like the movie “Runaway Bride” because it deals with this theme too.

Good luck!
posted by rw at 1:09 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I loved doing this and saw it as both a process of reparenting and self-awareness and half-jokingly, dating myself.

Exercise really helped me as it gave me multiple experiences to contrast of mild discomfort but helpful vs steady effort vs pushing myself vs working at my edge so could also be aware of how I felt during and after that. That helped me understand a lot more nuance in my feelings.

I did the same thing for more positive feelings by er, dating myself. Asking what would my perfect morning be, planning and having that and then trying to improve it. Taking myself to a gallery. Going to pick flowers. Favourite breakfast. Yours will vary of course. Then picked something else.

If I was doing it again, i’d try not to be perfectionist about it, but the stuff that comes up/resistance by doing this is in itself fascinating. So check-ins with someone you can process with recommended.

Other suggestion is ask people about their hobbies - the diversity of what humans can enjoy is both eye-opening and delightful.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 2:07 PM on April 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

1) Yes.

2) For really new things, it was vaguely dislocating, and not 100% fun. For things that I know I like, and am revisiting, I often feel a little guilty, because there is some crap that I should be doing for someone else, somewhere else.

3) My parameters are pretty much the same as the ones I use in every day life: Try to finish on time. Try not to hurt myself. Try not to hurt other people. Try not to worry my beloved. Try not to leave a stain, or spoil a commons. It's not really that short a leash.

There are symptoms that I manifest when I am not having enough fun, or diverse enough fun. When I notice them I try to compensate with stuff that is done just for me.
This means that fun supply usually falls behind demand for fun, but that's all right: one ice cream mochi has 85% the pleasure of an entire pint of ice cream.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

I do this a lot! In fact going out and looking for new fun things to do is one of my favourite hobbies, so I feel uniquely qualified to answer this question.

My parameters are basically along these lines:

1. I do this in short frequent chunks of time, like Saturday or Sunday afternoon every couple of weeks rather than taking ten days off to do a thing. This also helps me not make a Big Deal out of it, and also makes it okay to spend one of those afternoons literally just lazing on the couch on the internet. Because whatever, that's my time.

2. In order to discover what you really like, I find I have to go out and try it - like, I can read about knitting on the internet for hours but I won't know if it's fun until I get myself knitting needles and some yarn. There's often a balance between time spent researching and the amount of money you spend to get started, so your personal "eff it I'll spend $x just to see how it goes" will basically be your own personal tolerance for that. Mine is at about $40.

3. It's also ok to not like a new thing even if I've spent a lot of time/money on it. That said, there's a difference between "I don't like this because I'm just not interested" and "I don't like this because it's hard and I'm bummed out that I'm bad at it" - the latter will improve as you stick with it and get better but the former will not. Figuring out the difference for yourself takes some experience.

4. Avoid things that come with a blast radius if it doesn't work out - think more like container gardening, rather than getting a pet hamster.

5. This is YMMV, but when I'm doing something just for myself, I don't necessarily tell anyone about it - like I don't hide it, but I find this helps make sure that I really am doing something for me and not out of social pressure. Plus sometimes I have slightly harebrained ideas (like for example I once spent a couple of weekends learning butterfly knife tricks off YouTube) and my more sensible friends try to talk me out of it.
posted by Xany at 4:08 PM on April 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

After my divorce I spent some time getting to know myself again. For me, it involved a lot of gut checking, and learning how to trust myself again.

When making a decision, or testing out something new, I often took into account my initial reaction, but trusted the one that came after sitting with it for a while.

It helps to have family and friends who support you in this time period. I have one who still reminds me from time to time to put my own feelings first.

I love that someone else mentioned runaway bride. The reference in that movie to egg preferences seems so mundane, but it really came down to, asking the question and listening to the answer, do you like something because others like it, or because you like it.
posted by Sequined Ballet Flats at 4:32 PM on April 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Gosh. This is... heart breaking. My friend, I feel for you. I wish I could reach through the internet and give you a big hug.

In answer to your basic question: yes, I do things that are fun all the time. Because you (and I, and every reading this) deserves to have nice things. It's that simple. You deserve nice things.

How to approach giving yourself nice things, or learning what you would enjoy. Well a lot of that depends on your personality, which we strangers on the internet don't know. But my sense is you are also struggling to understand yourself, hence why you are asking this question and having the therapy (which, btw, is fantastic. Keep doing that). So here's my tips, based on my experience of how to have fun, that you might be able to adapt.

1) Do small things at random times of the week that are sensory.
Like, maybe once a week, get yourself something that has no purpose other than to bring pleasure and happiness. It should be cheap enough you're not tempted to feel guilty.

Examples: Get some flowers and put them in a place you'll see them every morning. Buy a small tube of something that smells good and that you'll catch a whiff of through the day (hand cream, perfume, etc). Choose a physical magazine that's mostly images rather than words (i.e., a fashion mag or National Geographic), or an art book from the library, and sit for half an hour looking at nice pictures with your phone turned off and no other distractions. Listen to some music while doodling.

2) Figure out whether you would prefer trying things that you are good at, or things you are not good at.
When I was writing my PhD dissertation, I loved taking dance classes. Partly because they were sociable and physical. But mostly because I relished the fact it didn't matter that I wasn't particularly good at it. At a point in my life when ten years of work was coming to a head, it was immensely refreshing to have one thing that was totally low stakes. It was also good to be using a totally different part of myself (i.e., my body rather than my head).

Is low stakes mediocrity something you might enjoy? If this sounds weird and shame-inducing, you might be more like my buddy C, who loves to be good at random stuff. She gets immense pleasure from choosing new hobbies that have no relation to her work-life (rock climbing, beer making, upholstery) and completely immersing herself in them until she is really good. We are complete opposites: both approaches are totally valid for the people we are. Before you pick a new hobby to try, maybe figure out which kind of person you are at the moment.

3) Every now and then, take a day off during the work week.
Playing hooky from work is always fun. Call in sick. Fake a kids health emergency. Take PTO if you have it.
If you have kids, choose a day when they are at school/daycare, and if you have a partner, a day they are at work. Then do a Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

My other half likes to take a day in the summer to go sit in a multiplex movie theater and sneak into a string of back-to-back movies. That's his jam. Mine is to stay home and spend the entire day from 8:30am to 5pm on the sofa reading a novel in one sitting. (ahhh.... that really is my 100% favorite thing in the world. I should do that next week. hmm....)

Not making too many plans is advance is half the fun -- just roll with the punches and see what you feel like. But having said that, there have also been times in my life when I'm so stressed out I start stressing out about what I am going to do on my day off... So a tried and true combo for a fun day would be: brunch/coffee/lunch somewhere you've always wanted to try (take a book or magazine), something cultural (art gallery, movie, theater, a talk or activity at a local library), and a walk outside to get fresh air and a bit of nature.

Rules for all these things:
- You deserve nice things. Everyone does. Keep repeating until you start to believe it.
- Leave the laptop at home and don't look at your phone. Take a physical book or magazine instead.
- If you are not having fun, try not to feel guilty about the fact you think ought to be having fun. It's ok. It's all low stakes.
- You can always make arrangements with your partner/other people, if you need them to cover for you. Asking for an hour at the weekend or for a day once a month is not unreasonable.
- Go by yourself. Being on your own relieves the pressure of worrying if the other person is also having enough fun. It sounds like you need to learn how to give yourself permission to not worry about other people, and only please yourself. (Which is a totally valid thing, presuming you a not a raging narcissist in other areas of your life.)

One last time: you deserve nice things.
posted by EllaEm at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2019 [17 favorites]

8 months off from anxiously feeling like you have to constantly be “getting ahead” (whatever that means) is so small in the grand scheme of things and ironically when you relax from that pressure then opportunities show up. Go for it. ❤️ Yourself as you are.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Mindfulness" or "meditation" get thrown around a lot, but the most progress I ever made in this area was after attending a silent retreat (just 3 days, but I've gone back every year and I wish they were longer and longer). The retreat experience is so wonderful--your only job there is just to be, and to do your assigned portion of housekeeping/gardening/whatever, and you get to experience a like, divine boredom that I haven't yet figured out how to replicate in the rest of my life.

I also, in an attempt to replicate that retreat/divine boredom vibe, will do a solo trip to an Airbnb in a rural area once a year. That is a weekend of me and a sketchbook and a hiking trail and my dog, and it frees up so much of my energy and mental capacity that it feels restorative for a long time after I return to home/kids/work.
posted by witchen at 7:29 PM on April 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have found that literal sex, drugs, and rock and roll can help. Go to a festival, go to some concerts, eat some great food. Party like a rock star. Indulge in the finest teas, go to a spa. Get a hotel room in your home town and stay up all night with four or five friends.

For some folks that stuff is escapism, but others find themselves there.

You know that friend you have who is a little wild and crazy and always seems to be living a little extra fun? Ask them point blank to take you on an adventure.

You officially have my permission to rock it 'til the doors come off.
posted by poe at 10:02 AM on April 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Last weekend I saw some beautiful green hills a bit off the highway and thought it would be nice to climb on one. So I pulled off the next exit, found a hill without a fence around it, and walked up it. Spent a few minutes at the top looking over the horizon, climbed back down, and went on my way.

What are some of the things that you've told yourself you shouldn't do, but actually there aren't really any rules about them?

Where can you find ways to add something interesting to the mundane?

For example, what could you do that's a little fun and different on your lunch break?
Could you find a nice place for a nap? Grab a martini? Go on a walk? Get a quick round of bowling in? Lounge in a bookstore?
posted by jander03 at 11:32 AM on April 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hi - I've been on this journey, and I still am. I have been anxious / second-guessing myself for most of my life, and it's really taken the last few years to begin to learn what I want and begin to not be as afraid of going after what I want.

Here are some things that have helped:

1) Doing this year compass exercise - to think in a more holistic way about your own goals / desires
2) More self care -- semi-regular exercise (personal trainer, YouTube fitness videos - I like Fitness Blender and HasFit), yoga (Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube), moisturizing, lighting a scented candle, listening to music, painting my nails, getting a massage (mmmmmm), drinking wine and eating cheese boards, having boba tea, getting that fancy latte
3) Reading exploration/choice-affirming books by women authors on topics I'm interested in, like Come As You Are [i.e., yeah, go buy that vibrator] and The Baby Decision [i.e., you can have a baby or not, both are fine options]
4) Meditating -- I got started with Headspace, but I actually really like Insight Timer for their variety of voices (I particularly like Sarah Blondin for her guided meditations - start with "I Would Like to Give You Permission" which has totally made me cry and feel like it's OK to just be myself w/o the burden of my entire life's worth of judgment/narratives/expectations imposed on me by me/by my family/by society). Plus also reading this book with a weird title and this lovely casually pragmatic/loving book about meditation / mindfulness. It sounds like a lot of "woo" but really, it is much more about realizing that you are not just your thoughts or emotions; you can let your thoughts/emotions pass by like the weather
5) Trying new stuff and not getting too hung up if I don't keep at it -- looking at you pottery, water colors, mindfulness coloring books. Sometimes the act of just exploring can feel wonderfully self-indulgent.

I hope some of this might help. I wish you all the luck. You are embarking on a worthwhile journey of self-kindness. I promise you, this is worth it, you are worth it!
posted by ellerhodes at 9:17 PM on April 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

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