I have a confession to make. In the past, I used to be very judgemental about what other people did for fun. When someone told me all about what a good time they had, I’m sure they could see it on my face as I thought, “What’s so fascinating about collecting antiques?” or “What a waste of time and money playing golf is.” Part of my judging them for their activities could have been jealousy due to the fact they were having fun and I wasn’t.
For years, I denied myself enjoyment. It either contributed to or was the result of my depression. I’ll never really know what happened first: my depression or my inability to have any fun whatsoever. It’s like the argument about the chicken or the egg.
Does any of this inner dialogue sound familiar?
Fun Me: “I think taking a photography class would be fun.”
Serious Me: “That has nothing to do with healthcare. You shouldn’t do it.”
Fun Me: “Dancing around the kitchen to music from the 80’s sounds like a blast.”
Serious Me: “You will look stupid.”
Fun Me: “I want to learn to sing. It would be cool to learn to control my breath and singing in the car would be so much more fun.”
Serious Me: “You’re tone-deaf. You shouldn’t be singing anywhere at any time.”
Fun Me: “I don’t want to hang out with friends tonight. I’m tired. I’d love to just stay home and read a book.”
Serious Me: “You made a promise. You can’t break promises. Your friends will dump you. You’ll be alone.”
Eventually, the lack of fun in my life wore me down. I quit trying to even find out what would be fun. What was the point? I didn’t deserve to have fun. I didn’t need to have fun. Fun is stupid and I’m stupid for wanting to enjoy myself.
The Turning Point
I don’t remember if there was a specific turning point or if I just got sick and tired of being “no fun.” But I do know that allowing myself to have fun was crucial to living with my depression. Having fun made me forget about the hopelessness and fear. Those fun times were like a lifeline during times when I was overwhelmed and desperate. I would remember the fun and then think maybe one day I’ll have fun again so maybe I’ll stick around another day to find out.
Now I don’t care what other people think about what I do. I don’t care what they think about things I take seriously, why should I care what other people think about what I do for fun? It’s about listening more to the fun voice and less to the serious voice. You can do that, too.
Flip the Script
Make a rule for yourself: no negative thoughts or judgments about what someone does for fun. If someone has a weird hobby, listen with curiosity. If someone does something for fun that you find dreadful, and you must comment, say something like, “Wow! You really do love to do that thing you do!”
Try to catch your inner fun-killer in the act and turn the dialogue around. Once you’ve turned the tide, consider doing the thing you think would be fun.
Suppose you used to love to sew as a kid and had the best time making pillows to decorate your room and dressing up your dolls in the clothes you fashioned. When you think about this, you have a fleeting feeling of joy. Then your inner joy-killer reminds you that getting out your sewing machine will be a hassle and it probably doesn’t work anyway. It’s simply not worth the effort.
Flip this around and say to yourself that you can always start with something small that doesn’t even require a machine. You can use a needle and thread to make something with fabric you have laying around. You can repurpose an article of clothing and have fun with smaller projects.
The act of catching your inner joy-killer in the act can be enough to break the pattern. Then take things one step further by turning the resistance into possibility is fun in and of itself. Create a new idea and take action. Maybe you want to take an old sweater and turn it into a pillow for your living room. You can absolutely do this. Call up a friend who you know does this kind of thing and ask for their input. Or watch a video on YouTube. Whatever you decide to do or make doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember, it’s fun.
Lastly, remember that whatever you think is fun is ok. It’s just for you anyway. You don’t need anyone’s approval to do something that you enjoy. We all need this reminder. Don’t be so judgemental about fun. The only test it must pass is: Is it fun? If the answer is yes, keep doing it wholeheartedly. If not, find something else that you enjoy.