Thoughts On Fun, Play, And Jealousy

Vance and I go on walks just about every day, and I love them for so many reasons. One of those reasons is I use the time to listen to podcasts, which feels like such a little luxury each day! I’ve loved listening to Glennon Doyle’s new podcast lately, and the other day her latest episode on — one themed around the topic of fun — was my podcast of choice during my walk.

IT WAS SO GOOD and hit home in a big way. I immediately wanted to blog about it as a way to dig into some of the thoughts I had while listening.


The episode shared many parallels with the “play” section of a book I adore called Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Shulte. (You can listen to me chat with Brigid for an episode of my podcast here if you’re interested! It’s my favorite episode I’ve done so far.) When I read Brigid’s book, this section was particularly interesting to me. She dug into the theme of play and how it’s this lost thing for so many of us, and yet it’s so necessary for healthy, well-rounded humans to be able to lose yourself in an activity that doesn’t have an end goal. The point is to play — to do something you enjoy — just for the sake of it. She spoke with a play expert in the book who recommended thinking of an activity you’d loved as a child and thinking of its more grown up counterpart to help you discover some ways to bring play into your life. (For example, if you loved making mud pies as a kid, perhaps gardening could be a form of play and escape for you as an adult.)

That section of the book stuck with me because I found it hard to think of things I did just for the sake of enjoyment. A true enneagram three, I love setting goals, being productive, and using my energy to accomplish things. It was hard for me to think of ways play really fit into my life, and I’ve thought about it often since reading Brigid’s book.

So this episode of We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, during which Glennon, her sister, and her wife, Abby, chatted about this concept of fun (or play, really) made my ears perk up. In the episode, Abby talks about how play is an integral part of her life, while Glennon and her sister profess that they are terrible at play and have a hard time even picturing what that would look like in their lives.


It’s not that I have trouble buying into the notion of play. I fully believe in its power and importance. It’s just that for me (and for Glennon and her sister), it’s not something that feels all that accessible to me. I have to work at play (which feels like a big contradiction), and I also have to make sure my play doesn’t start to bleed into the productive category.

But here’s the thing — I LOVED play as a child. I remember losing myself for hours in play, whether it was exploring our neighborhood’s creek or creating imaginary worlds with my stuffed animals or climbing trees again and again. It’s sad to think that fizzled out as I got older.

As Glennon and team discussed in the podcast, this likely stems from a heightened awareness of appearances, which certainly was a reality for me. Once I realized it mattered (or I THOUGHT it mattered) what I looked like and it mattered (or I THOUGHT it mattered) whether I was good at something or not and it mattered (or I THOUGHT it mattered) what people thought of the way I was choosing to spend my time, my activities began to shift in a very big way. With that kind of mindset, there isn’t room for freedom in play. There isn’t room for freedom in your body or freedom in much of anything, since you’re making choices based on external factors instead of listening to yourself.

It’s so sad, isn’t it? And it makes me wonder how I can try to help my kids bypass that major roadblock — or at least minimize it so it’s not as big of a speed bump as it was for me. Glennon and her sister talked about using music as a small way to channel that internal child — a stepping stone back into play, so to speak. I liked that idea, and think I’m going to give it a try. After all, I think they’re onto something with the whole music thing, because when I think of moments in my current life where I feel like I’m letting loose and really having fun, dance parties in the kitchen with Kevin, Maggie, and Vance are at the top of the (not-so-long, unfortunately!) list.

What’s your relationship with play like right now?


Another theme they dug into during that podcast episode was one Glennon talked about in her book Untamed — one I found really compelling to think about. It’s this whole idea that women who are unabashedly happy and confident are harder to like than their male counterparts. They brought up this idea during the conversation around fun and play, too, mentioning that sometimes women don’t WANT to see other women lost in the joy of play. Instead, women want to see other women who are flawed, vulnerable, lacking, and in crisis of some sort. Glennon talked about losing tons of Instagram followers after posting a video of her singing with abandon, clearly completely lost in the moment and fully happy. It seems that other women didn’t like that. They prefer content where she shares about her struggle with anxiety, for example.

There’s a LOT to unpack with that topic. As women we need to do better at supporting one another. But we also need to do the internal work of examining why it might be hard for us to get behind a women who’s so completely joyful. If we have trouble with that (and I’m owning up to the fact that it’s absolutely a struggle of mine sometimes), it’s an indication of jealousy. Jealousy is usually a mirror, and if we use it in a productive way it can show us things we want to strive for in our own lives. When we use it in an unproductive way, it just leads to us having negative thoughts toward others and ourselves, to feeling less than, to feeling competitive, to feeling the opposite of supportive when it comes to other women.

Have you thought of jealousy from that perspective, letting it work as a lens to help us identify our own feelings of falling short? Just like no food is a bad food (and thinking of food that way only sets us up for food issues), no feeling is a bad feeling (and thinking of feelings as good and bad doesn’t bode well for our continued emotional development). Jealousy, then, isn’t a bad feeling. Instead, it can be a really helpful feeling in letting us see things we want to strive for. By that logic, jealousy is particularly helpful when it doesn’t just stop with the jealous feeling. (That can leave us feeling pretty deflated.) Consider what it would look like to dig deeper there. WHY are you feeling jealous? WHAT do you feel is missing in your life that this other person has? Is that “thing” valid, and would it be of value in your life? If so, what are some steps you can take to start to move toward that goal? Use jealousy as the very first step to making some positive changes in your life, and who knows where it might take you? (Bonus: In my experience, this practice will also result in you feeling jealous less overall, because you’ll be more focused on your own life, goals, taking action, etc.)

So aside from the jealousy thing (and harnessing it for good) what, then, can we women do to better support one another? How can we champion happiness in our own lives and in the lives of other women? How can we help one another see the amazing qualities that can go overlooked when it comes to our assessment of ourselves to help us GET to that happier, more fulfilled space?

Here’s one very small (but potentially powerful) thing: Tell other women how they shine. Share traits you see in them that bring sunshine to the world. Point out strengths that emanate from female friends and acquaintances. It’s a bit like the tactic to avoid feeling down on yourself: Focusing energy on others — and on ways to give back — instead. It leaves us feeling grateful and looking outward in a really helpful way. Let’s try that same thing here. Who can you reach out to today — right now! — to build up a little bit? Maybe challenge yourself to do that at least once a day and see where it takes you.

Change can start with one person, and change is even more likely to take place when lots of people get behind something. Let’s start to shift this whole idea that women need to see other women struggle in order to connect with them or cheer them on. After all, aren’t we all working toward lives full of MORE joy and LESS struggle? (Not perfection, of course, because that doesn’t exist. We still want to be able to be real and vulnerable with each other, but we also want to become the best, freest versions of ourselves and to be able to share that self with others.) I want that for me. That means I should also want that for other women. And just like everything in life, seeing other women achieve that uninhibited joy and confidence in themselves doesn’t mean there isn’t then room for me to get to that place, too. In fact, there’s room for all of us at that happy table, so pull up a chair!

Who are you going to reach out to first?

Did these topics feel resonant to you as well? Are these things you’ve also struggled with, either in the past or currently? What has helped you get better at play or dealing with jealousy? Please share some thoughts with me in the comments, as I’d love to get a conversation going around this!

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