One of my dearest friends in the world used to be afraid of flying. Like crazy afraid. We’d prep for weeks before a trip, and one spring break in college, she white knuckled my hand all the way to Florida. Did she overcome her fear by avoiding flights altogether? By only traveling as far as car or train would take her? Nope.
She became a flight attendant.
Y’all I’m not kidding. My sweet friend flew the friendly skies for several years, on smooth flights and turbulent ones, until she had mastered her fear.
Discontent is a lot like discomfort. The more we try to outrun, outperform, or outsmart our discontentment, the less likely we are to feel fulfilled, satisfied, or worthy. On last week’s post from The Contentment Series, I wrote that discontentment has roots that run deep. The phrases I don’t have enough, I don’t do enough, and I’m not loved enough are joy stealers. But by running from or leaping over the roots of discontentment instead of leaning in and beginning to untangle them, we become passive participants in our own lives and tell stories about ourselves that simply aren’t true.
Take the root that often wraps itself around my ankles: I don’t have enough. My family is on a smaller-than-normal budget right now leaving little room for the “extras” for our home and personal entertainment. If I’m being honest, I’m pretty discontent about that. I could:
Pretend the problem doesn’t exist and continue to purchase things for my home on credit.
List every project I’d like done in my home this year and complain about the money we don’t have in order for those to be completed. In the meantime, I’m creating Pinterest boards for my dream everything late into the night while my husband and children sleep.
Think about a certain space in the house that isn’t bringing me joy and allow myself to have all the thoughts and emotions associated with why the space feels off balance (ie the decor is outdated, the furniture is stained, the room is too small, etc). Then, in the privacy of my mind, imagine what it would be like to offer myself compassion instead of grief over the discontent. Go a step further and express gratitude for what we have, even that which is seemingly the source of the problem. The decor is outdated because we bought pieces when we were newlyweds—a marriage that has lasted for the better part of 15 years. The furniture is stained because little hands belong to children who still enjoy breathing the same air together. The space feels too small because we’ve added another baby to our family who brings us immense joy.
Do you feel the difference? In the first two examples, the story I tell myself is that I don’t have enough so I will get more or complain about the lack for the foreseeable future. In the last example, I allow myself to sit with the feeling of discontent, offer compassion, and speak gratitude over what it is I do have.
This week, I invite you to choose an area of life you find yourself to be the least content. It can be your health and wellness, body image, home, marriage, bank account, family size, career, lack of education, family role, etc. Practice leaning into the discontent. Write down whatever feelings or impulses arise. Courageously and mindfully offer gratitude for what you have. Find solutions within those parameters.
By leaning into your life experiences, you give yourself the gift of courageously pushing through the lack of contentment to the freedom beyond.
In the final installment of The Contentment Series, I’ll be writing next week on finding your people, saying your affirmations, and reclaiming your contentment.
Photography by Signe Clayton