We all like different things, so it only goes to follow that what’s fun for others isn’t necessarily fun for you. You can live more authentically when you discover what’s fun for you.
Living authentically means being true to yourself, having a strong sense of who you are, and behaving in ways that reflect your values, interests, and goals.
To live authentically, you have to know yourself well.
Who are you?
Without a clear sense of who you are, you can be more easily influenced by friends, family, advertising, the media, political or religious leaders, or anyone asserting their opinions. When you know yourself, you’re grounded and solid, you’re less susceptible to people-pleasing and less afraid of being judged, snubbed, or rejected. For example, part of why teens tend to succumb to peer pressure is because they’re still figuring out who they are (they’re also susceptible because the decision-making part of their brains isn’t fully developed).
What Do You Like to Do for Fun?
What you like to do for fun is only one aspect of who you are, of course. I chose to focus on fun because so many of us don’t prioritize fun, self-care, and relaxation. Those of us who struggle with codependency, over working, and perfectionism, find fun to be especially elusive. Work and service to others have been our focus, so it feels odd to consider that playing is an important part of adulthood and something we can all benefit from. Play is one type of self-care.
When I ask adults what they like to do for fun, they often say “I don’t know”. They’ve lost touch with this part of themselves. This might be because they didn’t get many opportunities to relax and play as a child, or they were told that hobbies are a waste of time and money, or that these things are selfish and they should be doing for others and not themselves. When I open up this topic, some people notice that they spend very little time on their hobbies and interests, and other people notice that the things they are doing for “fun” aren’t actually all that fun for them.
Are you forcing yourself to like things because others find them fun?
Tim forced himself to go on a beach vacation every summer with his wife’s family. He hated the sun and the sand. Everyone else seemed to love the family beach trip so much; he thought he’d surely grow to love it and kept pushing through year after year. It never turned out to be fun for Tim.
Marjorie played tennis every Saturday for five years. She had been flattered when her neighbor invited her to join her team. It filled a void in Marjorie’s life and she knew the exercise was good for her, but she no longer enjoyed playing tennis. She loved having lunch with her friends after their match and didn’t want to miss out on that part of her Saturday routine, so she continued to play tennis with her friends. It was a relief when her tendonitis got so bad that she had to quit.
Are there things you keep trying to make yourself enjoy? When all your friends or family are really excited about something, it’s hard to be the one that’s disinterested. You might feel separate and different, perhaps wondering what’s wrong with you. This is what happens to me when people start eagerly chatting about the new episode of Game of Thrones. I have no interest in it, which means I have nothing to add to conversations, I don’t get the memes or other Game of Thrones references. Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar when your interests were different than everyone else’s. Sometimes this can push you into doing things that really aren’t fun for you.
Trying new things
In general, trying new things is a good idea. As a therapist and personal development junkie, I know that we usually benefit when we stretch ourselves to do things that are just beyond our comfort zone. It’s true that sometimes, you don’t know if you like something unless you’ve tried it.
However, the more you know yourself, the clearer you become on what you like and don’t like. Sometimes you know what you’re going to like or not like before you’ve tried it. For example, I don’t have to try skydiving to know it’s not my idea of fun.
It’s OK to quit
One of the old beliefs I have from childhood is that I shouldn’t quit things. Quitting seemed like a failure or a cop-out. I thought I should just suffer through playing volleyball and ice skating; I’d signed-up so I expected myself to see it through. It turns out that sometimes quitting is good for us.
Why do we need to continue doing things that we hate (especially if it was intended to be fun)? I tried to make myself like board games. It’s taken me until well into my 40’s to accept that with a few exceptions, I don’t like playing board games. A lot of my family and friends really enjoy playing games so I kept trying to make myself like them. The idea of family game night seems like such a great source of wholesome family fun and bonding…and I’m sure it is for many, but not for me.
Trying to force yourself to do and be something that you’re not, isn’t healthy. It can damage your self-esteem, instead of improving it. So, I will no longer make myself play board games just because everyone else thinks they’re fun. Life is too short for that. I want to do things that are actually fun for me. Are there things that you’re ready to give up because they aren’t fun for you?
How to discover what’s fun for you
The easiest way to figure out what you like is to start a list.
- Brainstorm everything that sounds even remotely fun.
- Think about what was fun when you were a child or when you were a younger adult. Do any of those things still sound interesting?
- What have you always wanted to do?
- Make note of what you know is not fun for you.
- Ask your friends what they do for fun. This is just to give you more ideas to consider. Some of your friends’ hobbies will go on your list of things to try and some will go on your “not fun” list.
- Peruse local Groupon type deals and Meetup.com groups and see if anything catches your eye.
- Look at the class listing at your local community center, senior center, junior college, art or music studio, gym, yoga or dance studio.
- Explore what concerts, plays, musicals, dance performances, movies, speakers, authors, or other shows are coming to your town.
- Think about what you like to do at different times of year (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, when it’s cold, hot, raining, snowing, during the holidays).
- Do you like animals, children, adventure, sports, music, reading, creating, learning, art, cooking, traveling, or staying home? Do you like large groups, small groups, or solitary activities? Do you like to be active or sedentary, outside or indoors?
- My 26 Questions to Help You Know Yourself Better can also help you identify your interests.
Ultimately, figuring out what’s fun may take some experimenting. As you do “fun activities” notice your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. This can help you notice whether it feels good. As I mentioned earlier, you will need to find a balance between challenging yourself to try new things and honoring your feelings and accepting that some things aren’t enjoyable for you.
Why is it important to live authentically?
What’s wrong with going along with what everyone else wants to do? When you live authentically, you feel empowered and fulfilled. If you’ve ever done something that’s out of alignment with your values or interests, you know it can feel awful. You might experience feelings of guilt and regret that are hard to shake. Even something as small as enduring your sister’s book club or watching horror movies with your partner when you don’t like these activities can lead to resentments over time. Compromise is a part of happy relationships, but you can’t constantly minimize your need for fun and relaxation to please others.
Taking the time to learn about your interests and strengths is a way of taking care of yourself. It says “I deserve to have fun. My needs and interests are just as valid as everyone else’s”. Embracing your own idea of fun is a step away from people-pleasing and into your authentic self. We all have our own ideas about what’s fun and when we let go of the notion that we should find certain things fun, we free ourselves up to find and do what’s actually fun for us.
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.