The Beauty of Giving Up a Part of Your Self

5 years ago

If you are anything like I am, then your picture of nirvana looks something like this: Only doing what you love, not having to do anything you don’t.

Or perhaps that’s just me.

Yet, real life isn’t nirvana. Frequently the people we love the most ask the most of us. They want us to do that which we would just rather not.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this phenomenon. Not long ago, my daughter was riding her bike for the first time on a makeshift BMX track, one complete with several very steep hills and impressive jumps. She fell in love with the experience right away, shouting, “This is awesome!” as she rode.

I watched and smiled. It’s delicious to watch one’s child having so much fun.

Then she said, “Mom! You do it!”

I told her that I would rather not. After all, I suffer from all of the following: A fear of heights, a fear of doing anything at high speeds, and a fear of doing anything that could potentially involve falling and breaking something. Let’s face it: riding a bike over one dirt jump after another is something that someone like me should not be doing.

Well, my daughter simply would not settle for anything less than me riding my bike on this track, and especially for riding my bike down the biggest dirt hill there. There would be no kiddie track for me if this kid got her way. Oh no, she wanted me to gird my loins and ride the adult track.

I told her I would do no such thing.

She begged.

I said no.

She begged some more.

Finally I said, “Fine. Once.”

I walked my bike to the top of that hill. I looked down the hill. I said, “I can’t do it.” She told me that I could.

I told her that she was seriously mistaken. She said that she wasn’t.

Then she said, “Come on mom. I did it and I’m only eight.”

So I did it.

She cheered and took photos of me the whole time. Most of those photos do not include my head or most of my body. The one that accompanies this post does.

Afterward, I can’t say that I enjoyed myself, but I beamed when I saw how happy she was.

This made me realize that there’s an unexpected reward for doing that which we’d rather not. It’s this: seeing the happiness that we create in others. I don’t know about you, but, for me, generating happiness in others is perhaps the most meaningful thing I can do while I am alive on this planet. And sure, there are times when we’d rather not do something for a rather good reason—one that we ought not to put aside. Many times, however, we shy away from certain experiences for reasons that only limit us—fear, unfamiliarity, laziness, hedonism, and so on. In those cases, I’ve found that there’s nothing more meaningful and exhilarating than leaving a piece of my reticent self behind and doing what I would rather not.

Perhaps you will come to the same conclusion.

Alisa Bowman is a journalist, book collaborator, and author of several books, including Project: Happily Ever After and the The 7 Day Slim Down. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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