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Frightful Pleasure

According to the linguists at Merriam-Webster, a hedonist is someone who believes that pleasure is the most important goal in life. Often, when I discuss the importance of pleasure as a key to identifying personal and career purpose, folks mistakenly think I’m telling them to become hedonists. I am not.

The hedonist view, like that of most other extreme positions, is too simplistic for my vote.

But I do think that there is something revealing in the assumption that embracing pleasure must be an extreme act.

When I ask people what they fear about expressing pleasure in their daily lives, the most common responses I hear are these:

“People will be angry with me for being happy.”
“People won’t like me if I’m too indulgent.”
“People won’t take me seriously.”

And, on the surface, you could easily argue the veracity of these fears. After all, a glance at Facebook reveals that timelines are dominated by “stories” of everyone at their happiest, their most indulgent and their most humorous. And we all know of the numerous Facebook Syndrome studies that show how these Facebook presentations are making frequent users of the platform more depressed and self-loathing as they compare their lives to those portrayed in status updates.

But let’s remember the distinction between presentation and actuation — one is the creation of a facade while the other is the creation of movement, of living.

The Facebook timeline is not, in fact, a documentation of core feelings but of image. It captures not the taste of the meal but rather the name of the expensive restaurant.

Expressing pleasure is about validating your fundamental self.

And for some reason, that can be absolutely terrifying.

But if that scares other people — strangers and loved ones alike — and they respond with condemnation or envy or judgement, screw them! Do you really wan those mindsets to dictate how much of yourself you show the world?

And if it scares you, to let loose a more complete version of yourself, then that’s something with which you can work.

That’s when things get really interesting…


Emily Lewis

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Maisie October 16, 2014, 17:12

    Ahhhhh… love this, Emily! It reminds me of when I was a teenager and would tear through Seventeen magazine each month. I especially liked the quizzes that went something like this:
    It’s a Friday night. You are:
    A) Curled up on your bed with a heavy book, ready to get a head start on next week’s English assignment
    B) Beginning the seance in your parents’ garage
    C) Checking your mascara in the rear-view mirror before heading into the biggest party of the year

    I would go to the bottom of the page to see what the “good” answers were. All C’s? Congratulations… you’re popular! I’d then proceed to hastily circle C’s for all of my answers, thrilled beyond belief that I had finally cracked the code to fitting in.

    It only took me 20 years to realize that partying and wearing 5-inch heels and listening to Top 40 music was not bringing me any pleasure at all. I’m the kind of girl who thinks the best night ever is curled up on my sofa with my “muppet” blanket, a plate of cheese and a good book. It took 5 more years for me to show that real “me” to the world and stand confident in my own unique pleasures.

    • Emily Lewis October 16, 2014, 18:53

      Ah, such a lovely comment, Maisie. Thank you.

      My heart breaks for that young girl, and all the others so like her (and me) who thought crushing their unique voice was the way to (self)love.

      I’m so happy you claimed your voice and your pleasures!!

  • April Julson October 16, 2014, 17:21

    This is a great post! It’s so important to be unapologetically you. 🙂

    • Emily Lewis October 16, 2014, 18:55

      Exactly, April. And yet it’s often one of the most challenging acts we (particularly women) take.

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